When the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its new rankings on Tuesday, No. 5 Alabama found itself not only on the outside of the top four, but ranked second among the one-loss teams behind No. 4 Georgia.
The Bulldogs are tracking towards clinching the SEC East and earning a spot in the SEC Championship Game against LSU. So how in the world are the Tide going to make it back into the top four? The only thing Alabama can control is what’s left on the schedule, and that’s why every remaining game takes on a heightened importance for the one program that’s been a participant in every College Football Playoff.
Alabama: Three weeks after undergoing surgery on his ankle, Tua Tagovailoa threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns with an interception against LSU. Some soreness from the game kept Tagovailoa limited at practice this week and “day-to-day” officially, according to Nick Saban. Assuming Alabama has its starting quarterback in the lineup against Mississippi State, this game is all about flexing muscles and making a case to the selection committee that one of the four best teams in the country resides in Tuscaloosa. The loss to LSU has nearly eliminated the Tide’s chance to compete for an SEC Championship, so these last two conference games — Saturday against Mississippi State and Nov. 30 at Auburn — are the last chances to leave a lasting impression with the committee.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs set school records for total offensive yards and rushing yards in an SEC game the last time out, rolling up Arkansas in a 54-24 road win. Joe Moorhead’s team was off last week, looking to build on what was one of the Bulldogs’ best wins of the season. Star running back Kylin Hill ran for a career-high 234 yards and three touchdowns en route to SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, and the offensive line did not allow a sack or even a quarterback hurry. This is a young Mississippi State team and is not expected to win against an angry Alabama squad looking to get right after the LSU loss, but the late-season improvement is an encouraging sign as the Bulldogs look to win two of their final three to reach bowl eligibility.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Davis Wade Stadium — Starkville, Mississippi
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
I fully expect Tagovailoa not only to play, but play well against a Mississippi State defense that ranks near the bottom of the conference in yards allowed per play. The Bulldogs’ offense may have turned a corner against Arkansas two weeks ago, but it’s not going to find that kind of success against the Tide. Alabama knows it needs to run it up, and I think it will. Pick: Alabama (-20.5)
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