It doesn't happen too often, but Alabama enters this week's game in search of a way to atone for a regular-season loss.
One hundred consecutive wins against unranked opponents: That's what Alabama saw come to an end last week against a Texas A&M team that finally found its passing game after sputtering along all year as a one-dimensional running team. This week, Alabama wants to start a new winning streak, and it hopes to do so against a one-dimensional passing team. Whether a passing offense proves easier to defend than a rushing offense, that's yet to be seen.
Mississippi State enters this game with a 3-2 record. Its last win? Texas A&M, two weeks ago, by a 26-22 score. That immediately becomes the Bulldogs' best win of the year, to go along with victories over Louisiana Tech and North Carolina State in the first two weeks of the season. In between, MSU lost consecutive games to Memphis and LSU.
MSU head coach Mike Leach is one of the most colorful head coaches in the business today, and he doesn't even pretend to try to run the football. Mississippi State has no tight end on its roster; why have one when you don't need a blocker that can sometimes slip out into the pass patterns? But make no mistake, Leach is innovative, and to underestimate him is to invite yet another upset.
Alabama can't afford such if it intends to rebound and eventually play for a national championship. This game might come down to Alabama's mindset, and whether Nick Saban can refocus his team rather than watching it poor-mouth itself into a second loss.
Alabama's 18th national championship is in the books, and with it, the depletion of talent across the Tide's depth chart. While Alabama certainly brings in more elite talent than most other schools, it also loses more, primarily to the NFL Draft but also to the NCAA transfer portal.
For a program accustomed to leading the recruiting rankings and setting records year after year for average class strength, the 2020 class for Alabama was about as ho-hum as top-three/top-four classes can get (TideFans.com/NARCAS ranked Alabama's class in a tie for third with Ohio State, behind No. 2 Clemson and No. 1 Georgia).
The U.S. Supreme Court – not a federal district court, not a state circuit court, not a municipal judge hearing traffic ticket cases in Russellville – ruled, by a 9-0 count, that the NCAA basically cannot maintain its stranglehold on eligibility and tie it to money received for the use of name, image or likeness (NIL for short).