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Five keys for UA to defeat Mississippi State


1. Limit/affect QB Dak Prescott

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is the heart and soul of this year’s group.

He’s improved as a passer, accounting for 18 touchdowns to one interception. Alabama’s defense is ninth in the nation in sacks with 30. Batted balls, quarterback hurries and sacks are all a must this week at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.

Having a linebacker spy on him will also be imperative. Prescott leads the team in rushing with 418 yards and seven touchdowns.

2. Alabama’s secondary: Face the football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has not shied away from complimenting Mississippi State receiving corps this week. De’Runnya Wilson anchors the group with 37 catches for 626 yards and eight touchdowns. Fred Ross leads the team in receptions (51) and has 548 yards with two touchdowns. Cornerback Cyrus Jones will be matched up on Wilson.

Jones collected one of three interceptions off Prescott last season. The senior must face the football and keep his body in position to battle with Wilson. Redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey continues to improve. He will either face Ross or Wilson, depending upon where Alabama wants Jones. Humphrey played well against Georgia, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

The Crimson Tide’s secondary has totaled 12 of its 13 interceptions.

3. Alabama’s offensive line: Build off LSU game

Center Ryan Kelly was awarded offensive lineman of the week Monday by the Southeastern Conference, but Alabama’s entire group up front was exceptional against LSU last week.

Sophomore Cameron Robinson had his best game at left tackle, and the line blocked for 250 rushing yards with three touchdowns. Mississippi State’s run defense is inconsistent, allowing 167.7 yards a game. Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry averages 139.3 yards per contest.

The Bulldogs do have 25 sacks this season, posting almost three per game (2.78). If Alabama can continue having success in the run game and protect Jacob Coker, it should emerge with a win.

4. Jacob Coker: Success on the road must continue

Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker continues to improve as a passer, and is starting to come into his own as a leader. Coker has completed 72.1 percent of his throws on the road, with his best game coming against Texas A&M. He completed 19 of 25 (76 percent) passes against the Aggies. Coker has only one touchdown pass; however, he has no turnovers on the road.

Mississippi State’s defensive backfield has collected 10 interceptions this season.

Attention to details, accuracy in the pocket and awareness under pressure are three things he must keep in mind.

Coker cannot afford to take a lot of unnecessary sacks against the Bulldogs.

5. Efficiency on third down (offense)

Alabama found success on third down last week, converting seven of 15 attempts. It has to sustain drives and control the clock, regardless if it generates points or not. The Bulldogs have a talented offense, but it will not matter if Alabama limits its opportunities on the field.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama MagazineYou can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.



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Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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