A team needs a target to aim at and a goal to strive for.
When early expectations are extinguished, players need to light a fire elsewhere.
For Mississippi State, third ranked Alabama may provide that spark.
The Bulldogs began 2011 with promise and a hope to challenge in a dogged SEC West, but instead find themselves staggering into this late season match with a 5-4 record and bowl game aspirations near life support.
Would a victory over Alabama, even with the Tide’s loss to LSU, provide Dan Mullen’s squad a place to hang their hat this season?
The term “trap game” is used often in college football, but appears to be appropriate for this weekend’s clash between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs.
Alabama heads into Starkville attempting to rebound from a bitter, hard-fought defeat to the Tigers. They may be a bit banged up, but after only falling to No. 3 in the BCS still have plenty to play for.
Mississippi State enters this game with a 55-17 win over Tennessee Martin. They dropped 570 yards on the Skyhawks, but this is an Ohio Valley Conference team we’re talking about, not exactly up to the standards of the Alabama defense.
The Bulldogs did yield a disturbing 454 yards to UTM with a staggering 269 of that on the ground. Last time I checked, the Skyhawks didn’t have Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy in their backfield.
What makes that stat a bit bewildering is the fact that at one point this season MSU held Marcus Lattimore to 39 yards in a 14-12 loss to South Carolina.
I’d expect to see Tyler Russell at quarterback for the Bulldogs, with an appearance by Chris Relf at some point. Russell made his third straight start against UTM, but this season neither he or Relf have been all that stellar.
You have to wonder what the Mississippi State offense can muster to try and crack the Alabama defense which looked as good as advertised in “the game of the century” with LSU.
As for the Tide offense, they will be looking to get back on track after being limited against the Tigers. Nothing is a given in the SEC, but one would like to think the sailing will be a tad easier against the Bulldogs than it was in Bryant Denny Stadium Saturday night.
Of course, there won’t be an adoring crowd to support the Crimson Tide this time. Instead, there will be that welcoming drone of non-stop cowbells in Davis Wade Stadium.