Nick Saban teaser

Alabama head coach Nick Saban instructs players before the Alabama vs. Arkansas game in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday October 6, 2018.

Pregame analysis of Alabama's home game against Mississippi State:

The game

What: Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-3, 2-3 SEC) at Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC)

When: Saturday, 2:40 p.m. Central time

Rankings: Alabama is No. 1 in the Associated Press, coaches and College Football Playoff rankings, while Mississippi State is No. 16 in the CFP rankings, No. 18 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the coaches rankings.

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa

Line: Alabama by 24

TV/radio: TV: CBS; radio: WHMA-FM 95.5 (Anniston), SiriusXM 191 (Streaming 961)

Four-down territory

1. Any more FitzMagic?: Mississippi State senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has seemingly been a thorn in the side of SEC defenses for the better part of the last three years, all except against Alabama. In their two previous matchups, the Crimson Tide have limited Fitzgerald to just 40 percent passing (23-of-57 combined) for 303 yards and zero touchdowns through the air. He hasn’t fared much better on the ground, averaging just 2.5 yards a carry and just one touchdown combined.

2. Williams wunderkind: Alabama redshirt sophomore nose guard Quinnen Williams has been called a human highlight reel by some NFL scouts for what he’s done this season, his first as a full-time starter. The barely 300-pound interior lineman continues to dominate wherever he is on the field, including last weekend against LSU, after his career-best game with 10 tackles, 2½ sacks and 3½ tackles for loss.

3. Sweatin' it out: Bulldogs senior defensive end Montez Sweat is hailed as college football’s most feared pass rusher in the MSU weekly game notes, and the title might just be accurate. Sweat ranks third nationally and second in the SEC with 9½ sacks this season, and leads all Power Five players with 20 sacks since 2017.

4. No takedown Tua: Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa is widely considered the runaway favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. While his overall stats have certainly been impressive, he’s been just as good under pressure, ranking as the nation’s seventh-best passer when blitzed, according to Pro Football Focus. Tagovailoa has completed 58.8 percent (40-of-68) for 781 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception when pressured, producing an NCAA quarterback rating of 186.33 per PFF.

Key matchup

Alabama defensive ends Isaiah Buggs and Raekwon Davis vs. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald: As the case with most athletically-gifted/running quarterbacks, the key to slowing down Fitzgerald is keeping him contained. That's why it’ll be important for the Crimson Tide defense to maintain pocket integrity and sort of smother Fitzgerald, even if it means sacrificing sacks. Fitzgerald has proven an effective passer on the move, but is dynamic when he pulls the ball down and runs on his own. Buggs ranks third in the SEC with 8½ sacks through nine games, while Davis has been more of a run-stuffer, space-eater this season.

Player of the week

Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, sophomore, 6-foot-1, 192 pounds: While Tagovailoa has managed to spread the ball around more than in previous years, fellow sophomore Jeudy has still found ways to assert himself as the alpha within the Tide’s talented receiving corps. A big-play threat no matter where on the field he is, Jeudy is third nationally and second in the SEC averaging 22.56 yards a catch this season. Jeudy’s 10 touchdowns lead the conference. Against Mississippi State, Jeudy will face one of the SEC’s most experienced secondaries, including 220-pound senior cornerback Jamal Peters.

By the numbers

9: The total number of touchdowns Mississippi State’s defense under coordinator Bob Shoop has allowed this season, which is fewest in the nation.

23: Alabama has won its last 23 straight games inside Bryant-Denny Stadium to rank as the program’s second-longest home win streak in school history. The Tide won 24 straight home games at Bryant-Denny and Legion Field combined between Sept. 18, 1971 and Nov. 9, 1974.

900: Alabama’s 29-0 win at LSU last Saturday was the program’s 900th all-time victory, making it just the fourth program in FBS history to record 900 wins. Alabama actually has 929 wins on the field, but the NCAA vacated 29 wins in 1993, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

3,325: Fitzgerald’s career rushing mark to rank first all-time in the SEC among quarterbacks after surpassing former Florida great Tim Tebow’s career mark of 2,947 earlier this season.

Prediction

Given the way Alabama has dominated this season, it’s hard to see this one being close, no matter how sound Mississippi State’s defense has been. It’s been elite, limiting opposing offenses to just 12.3 points per game this season to rank second nationally in scoring defense, but Tagovailoa has proven he can carve up even great defenses, and the Bulldogs haven’t faced a quarterback of his talents this season. Expect another somewhat lopsided Alabama win Saturday, the 11th straight in their long-running series.

Alabama 35, Mississippi State 14

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