Even For Winners Stats Can Be Significant

We’ve all heard it: “Statistics are for losers.” But what if we’re talking about the statistics after three-fourths of the season for the top two winners in the Southeastern Conference? At this point, statistics probably do have some significance.

Alabama is in the unusual place of being second in winning in a football game. The Crimson Tide, 8-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC games, hosts Mississippi State, which is number one in the nation with a 9-0 record and number one in the SEC with a 5-0 record, at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday. CBS will be in Bryant-Denny Stadium to televise the game and ESPN’s Game Day is outside the stadium.

So it’s a big game. Ever since Alabama lost to Ole Miss in Oxford in its second SEC game of the year, every week has been an elimination game for the Crimson Tide. Saturday’s game is the toughest challenge yet.

Here’s a look at where Bama and the Bulldogs stand statistically.

Mississippi State has scored 40 or more points in five of its nine games and 30 or more in three of the other four, failing to reach high numbers in every game except a 17-10 win over Arkansas. That’s why the Bulldogs rank second in the SEC scoring at 39.8 points per game. Alabama is seventh at 34.7 points per game. In defense against scoring, Bama is second, allowing 13.9 points per game, while the Bulldogs are fifth, giving up 19.7 per game.

MSU is rushing the ball better than the Tide. State is third in the SEC, running for 254.9 yards per game, and Alabama is seventh at 206.1. Defensively, Bama is number one against the rush, surrendering 89.8 yards per game, with the Buldogs third, allowing 126.7.

Alabama is third in both passing offense (281.2 yards per game) and passing defense (giving up 185.4). State is fifth in passing offense (267.2), but last in the league in pass defense giving up 300.6 yards per game. In passing efficiency, though, Mississippi State is second and Alabama fourth, and on defense Bama third and MSU sixth.

In total offense, Mississippi State is first with 522.1 yards per game and Alabama is third at 487.3. In total defense, Bama is first allowing 275.2 and MSU is 12th giving up 427.2.

According to many coaches, the Big Three of statistics are third down success, turnover margin, and red zone efficiency. Frankly, Mississippi State looks a bit better in those important areas.

On third downs, Alabama is second in success making 77-135 for 53.3 per cent and MSU is fifth, 61-131 for 46.6 per cent. But on defense, the Bulldogs are third, allowing only 50-149 for 33.6 per cent third down success and Bama is eighth, allowing 49-137 for 35.8 per cent.

In turnover margin, Mississippi is tied for eighth with an even number of turnovers and takeaways. The Bulldogs have six fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions and have lost 10 fumbles and six interceptions. Alabama is 11th at minus two. Bama has six fumble recoveries and six interceptions and has lost 11 fumbles and three interceptions.

In the Red Zone (between the 20 yard line and the goalline), State is ninth in scoring success with 33 scores (27 touchdowns and 6-7 field goals) in 39 opportunities for 84.6 per cent. The Tide is 11th scoring 31-37 for 83.6 per cent with 24 touchdowns and 7-9 field goals. On defense, State is first, allowing only 18-31 scores, 56.1 per cent, on 10 TDs and 8-12 field goals. Alabama is seventh, giving up 17-20 for 85 per cent, 8 touchdowns and 9-10 field goals.

The teams rank second and third in penalties, State flagged 43 times for an average of 36.4 yards per game, Alabama 48 times for 41.7 yards per game.

Bama is third in the league in time of possession, 31:53, MSU 11th, 28:58.

The Bulldogs are tied for first in sacks with 32 and Alabama is tied for fifth with 23. The Tide is second in not being sacked, allowing only 9, while State is seventh, giving up 16.

In special teams categories, Bama leads in punting, kickoff returns, and punt returns, while Mississippi State leads in kickoff coverage.

In individual statistics, Tide quarterback Blake Sims is first among starters in passing efficiency, Bama wide receiver Amari Cooper leads in pass receptions and receiving yardage per game, and Alabama freshman J.K. Scott leads the league in punting. State’s Dak Prescott leads the league in scoring.

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