Posted by Jerry Hinnen
ALABAMA WON: It was in many ways the Tide's unprettiest win of the year, one marked by much of the same questionable quarterbacking, kicking woes, and missed opportunities that plagued them against LSU. But when you have the Trent Richardson-Eddie Lacy tag team at running back and a defense that holds your opponent to just 131 total yards, it takes a lot more unpretty than that to drop one against Mississippi State. Richardson and Lacy combined for 223 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
WHY ALABAMA WON: As good as Richardson and Lacy were, this win wasn't much about the Tide offense; by going an even-quieter-than-the-numbers-sugge
st 14-of-24 for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception, AJ McCarron reduced the Tide offense to one dimension for much of the night. (One very, very good dimension, but still.) Two more missed field goals (one a makeable 31-yarder that Jeremy Shelley usually converts without much drama) put an even bigger onus on the Tide defense to come up big.
Which they did, of course. The numbers tell most of the tale -- those 131 total yards for the Bulldogs, the 12 rushing yards given up on 29 carries, the 4 yards allowed per Mississippi State passing attempt -- but they don't quite explain how well the Tide stiffened the few times the offense put them in a bad position ... for instance, when McCarron's inexplicable second-quarter interception set MSU up at the Tide 4. First down: blanketed receiver, incomplete. Second: Vick Ballard rush, loss of 3. Third: under-pressure incompletion. And then, just to make the Tide defense feel really good about itself, the missed chip shot field goal on fourth. Spread that kind of domination out over four quarters, and it seems somewhat strange State even got on the board.
WHEN ALABAMA WON: The Tide took over on their own 27 up 17-7 in the fourth quarter with 6:26 remaining, and we suppose weirder things have happened than teams -- even great teams like Alabama -- losing in that situation. Nothing weirder has ever happened, though, than a hypothetical State win once the Tide plowed downfield for an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive -- every inch of it coming on the ground via Richardson and Lacy -- that took up all but the final 78 seconds.
WHAT ALABAMA WON: Nothing where the SEC West is concerned, but thanks to Oregon (and TCU, to a lesser extent), the Tide finished the day in better shape for a second shot at LSU than ever. Ugly win in Starkville or not, they'll take it.
WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: a shot at bowl eligibility, technically speaking, and we're not sure the Bulldogs are going to get it at Arkansas next week, either. But with Ole Miss coming in two weeks and apparently having given up on the season for good, a competitive loss to a potential national champion isn't the worst thing in the world.