No. 5 Alabama Hosts No. 1 Mississippi State in Title Eliminator

Can Dak Prescott and Mississippi State keep their undefeated season alive?

Can Dak Prescott and Mississippi State keep their undefeated season alive?

The 2014 College Football Playoff picture could get a radical makeover Saturday as No. 5 Alabama hosts No. 1 Mississippi State in what is the biggest game of the season so far.

Kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The Saturday afternoon showdown will also go a long way to determining the Southeastern Conference’s West Division champions, with both teams looking to book a trip to Atlanta next month.

The Story So Far

Having dispatching the FCS’ UT-Martin last weekend, Mississippi State (9-0, 5-0 SEC) retained top spot when the College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs’ surprising season now sees the team undefeated through nine games, with quality wins over Louisiana State, Texas A&M and Auburn. Saturday’s opponent represents the toughest challenge yet for Dan Mullen’s side.

Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) earned an overtime victory over LSU a week ago to ensure Saturday’s showdown in Tuscaloosa would be for all the SEC marbles.

The Crimson Tide now has quality wins over West Virginia, Texas A&M and LSU.

An October 4 loss to Mississippi is currently keeping the Tide out of the College Football Playoff committee’s top four, despite it being a quality loss. That will change if Nick Saban’s side can defeat the Bulldogs.

The past three weeks have pitted Mississippi State against inferior opposition while Alabama has been involved in high-profile contests with contenders. Could the difference in the quality of recent opponents give Alabama an edge heading into this one?

The Championship Picture

Saturday’s game is for all intents and purposes the de facto division championship game.

While Mississippi State still has a showdown with Ole Miss on the schedule and Alabama still has to face Auburn in the Iron Bowl, the winner of this game will have a tough time losing the division title between Sunday and the end of the month.

A division title sets up a trip to the SEC Championship Game, the winner of which is all but assured of a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff (can you imagine the SEC champion being left out?).

It’s unlikely, although not improbable, that the committee won’t pick a pair of SEC teams, but both Alabama and Mississippi State would have a good shout if the committee does decide two conference representatives are feasible.

For the state of argument though, Saturday’s game is a make-or-break game for both schools, which could be bad news for Mississippi State.

Head-to-Head

In a rivalry that dates back to 1902, Alabama leads the all-time head-to-head series 75-16-3.

The Crimson Tide is 46-10-2 when playing at home against the Bulldogs.

Alabama has won six straight head-to-head contests, and 11 of the last 13.

Mississippi State’s last win over Alabama came on November 10, 2007.

Since 1959, the Crimson Tide is 27-2 when playing at home against the Bulldogs.

Alabama has won three straight at home against Mississippi State.

Mississippi State’s last win in Tuscaloosa came on November 4, 2006.

Injury Report

Mississippi State tackle Damien Robinson is out for the season with a knee injury.

Alabama will be without running back Kenyan Drake (ankle) and linebackers Ronnie Clark (Achilles) and Denzel Devall (ankle), all out for the season.

Check out the full injury list

Will Amari Cooper and the Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs yet again?

Will Amari Cooper and the Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs yet again?

Betting Report

Below you’ll find Betting Sports’ breakdown of odds and betting trends.

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide odds for 11/15/2014

Moneyline: Alabama (-260) opened as the favorite over Mississippi State (+226) on the moneyline.

The Crimson Tide is 4-0 at home this season while the Bulldogs are 3-0 on the road.

Mississippi State is 3-0 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 on game day, while Alabama is 2-1.

Alabama’s historical dominance in the head-to-head series, in particular at home, makes it very hard not to take the Crimson Tide in this one.

Spread: The spread opened at 6.5 in favor of Alabama but that number has risen as high as 10 with some sportsbooks.

Mississippi State (5-4-0 ATS) has fared better against the spread than Alabama (2-6-1 ATS) this season.

The Bulldogs are 2-1-0 ATS on the road and 2-0-0 ATS when playing as the underdog.

The Crimson Tide is 2-2-0 ATS at home and 2-6-1 ATS when playing as the favorite.

Alabama is 4-2-0 ATS in the last six head-to-head contests, while the last 10 meetings between the sides have seen each school cover the spread five times.

Total: The total opened at 51.5 and has climbed slightly since.

Mississippi State (5-4-0 O/U) has marginally favored the over while Alabama (4-5-0 O/U) has marginally favored the under.

Four of Alabama’s last five games have seen the under pay out, while Mississippi State has flip-flopped the over/under across the last five weeks.

The total has gone under in six of the last seven head-to-head matchups.

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