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Instant analysis: Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7
October, 28, 2012
By David Helman | ESPN.com
Another week, another lopsided win for No. 1 Alabama. It didn't matter that Mississippi State brought a No. 11 ranking or an undefeated record to Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide did what they've done all season -- and for much of the past four years -- and applied a python-like vise grip on their opponent en route to an easy 38-7 win.
Here's the skinny:
It was over when: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron hit wide receiver Kenny Bell on a wide-open go route for a 57-yard touchdown at the tail end of the first quarter. Sure, there was still plenty of football left to play, but the score gave Alabama a 14-0 lead, and double-digit deficits are hard things to overcome against Alabama squads. The Tide's defense forced a Bulldogs punt on the next possession, and Alabama scored again moments later to make it 21-0.
Game ball goes to: McCarron was his usual efficient, mistake-free self against Mississippi State. He completed 16 of 23 passes -- 69 percent -- for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He has now gone eight weeks without throwing an interception. The junior bruised his back when he took a sack toward the end of the third quarter, and he didn't return to the game. That was probably more of a precautionary measure, but it's sure to be a storyline leading up to next week's trip to LSU.
Key play: The Bulldogs threatened to claw back into a 24-0 game with a 97-yard drive that ate up 8:23 of the third quarter. Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell led his offense all the way to the Alabama 1-yard line, but the Crimson Tide stiffened and came away with an end zone interception to maintain the shutout.
Key stat: The Crimson Tide forced three Mississippi State turnovers while committing none of their own, which pushes their season turnover margin to plus-17. Alabama scored touchdowns off two of those three turnovers -- a 27-yard screen pass from backup quarterback Phillip Ely to running back Eddie Lacy and a 3-yard touchdown run from third-string running back Kenyan Drake.
Key stat, part II: Alabama narrowly missed out on its third shutout of the season, but it was the fifth time this year the defense has allowed 10 points or fewer. The Tide are allowing just 8.1 points per game.
What it means: On a day when three top-10 teams suffered a loss, Alabama maintained its death grip on the No. 1 spot in college football. "College GameDay" has already announced it will be in Baton Rouge, La., for the Tide's showdown with No. 6 LSU -- the teams' third titanic meeting in the past year. The winner will grab the inside track to the SEC West championship.
The road doesn't get any easier for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs must bounce back quickly from this setback, as they host No. 20 Texas A&M next week before traveling to LSU on Nov. 10.