Alabama has been thoroughly dominant through its first seven games of the season, but it will need its key players to be at their best this coming Saturday as they face an extremely tough Mississippi State team.
The Bulldogs, like the Crimson Tide, are 7-0 on the season. Alabama is 4-0 in the SEC while MSU is 3-0 against conference opponents, and both teams have relied on their defenses for success this season.
This will be Alabama’s most difficult game of the season, and the team will be looking to build momentum to take into an even tougher matchup the following week against LSU.
Here are the players who will be key to the Crimson Tide’s success in this crucial contest.
A.J. McCarron, Quarterback
Mississippi State has an extremely aggressive and opportunistic secondary, and it will be vastly important for A.J. McCarron to continue taking care of the football.
Bulldogs cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay have combined for eight interceptions and 15 passes defended this year, and they will make it extremely difficult for McCarron to complete passes.
But the Alabama quarterback has proven to be a remarkably efficient and mature player, completing 68.8 percent of his passes while throwing 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
McCarron’s impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio is in more danger than it has been in thus far in 2012. But if he continues to make wise decisions and avoids turnovers, Alabama will remain undefeated.
Dee Milliner, Cornerback
While McCarron’s efficient play has received praise, Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell also deserves to be commended for his performances this season.
Russell has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just one interception this season, but he now has to face the best defense in the nation.
While Mississippi St. has a significant amount of talent in their secondary, Dee Milliner has a chance to prove that he is the best defensive back on the field in this game.
If Milliner, who has two interceptions and 14 passes defended this year, can force a turnover in this game, it will be the spark the Tide need to get a victory.
Ed Stinson, Defensive End
What will happen in this game?
While Milliner will certainly be lurking throughout the game, waiting to take advantage of any of Russell’s mistakes, it will be up to Ed Stinson and the Alabama defensive line to force the Bulldogs QB to force throws.
Stinson has three sacks and seven tackles for a loss this season, and he will be a constant presence in the trenches.
His ability to put pressure on the quarterback as a down lineman has helped the Crimson Tide allow fewer points per game than any team in the country through the first eight weeks.
If Stinson continues to wreak havoc in the backfield, Alabama will improve to 8-0 this Saturday.