July 4, 2018 11:53:46 AM
Every day from 99 days out (May 25) until kickoff, I'll put up a post telling you how many days until kickoff and breaking down something about the upcoming season related to that number.
Today, since we are 59 days away from kickoff, we take a look at: MSU has beaten Alabama on the road all of twice in the last 59 years. What can MSU do to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa this year?
(For those of that are curious, those two road wins against Alabama came in 2006 and 1997.)
There's no better way to answer this question than to take from the teams that have done it. So let's list the teams that have beaten Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium since that epic Game of the Century in 2011.
- 2015 Ole Miss
- 2012 Texas A&M
When you run over the things those teams have in common, you can see why that list is so short:
- Strong defensive line play. Ole Miss the Robert Nkemdiche, Breeland Speaks, Marquis Haynes, D.J. Jones; Texas A&M had Damontre Moore, Spencer Nealy, Julian Obioha, Jonathan Mathis. Alabama will dominate the line of scrimmage and win the game from there if you let it, so stopping that is the first step.
- They bomb. The 2015 Rebels were 6th in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more and top 20 in plays of 30 yards or more; the 2012 Aggies were 1st in plays of 20 yards or more and 2nd in plays of 30 yards or more. You have to make Alabama defend the entire field to beat them at home.
- You need big-time wide receivers. Ole Miss had Laquon Treadwell, Quincy Adeboyejo, Evan Engram and Demore'ea Stringfellow; Texas A&M had Mike Evans and Ryan Swope.
- You need the turnover margin. Ole Miss was +5 in its win and Texas A&M was +3.
- You need a really good kickoff coverage unit. The 2015 Rebels were top 30 in the nation in average kickoff return yards allowed and the 2012 Texas A&M team was 15th.
I feel like three things on this list are more or less guaranteed. I'm supremely confident MSU will have excellent defensive line play, I'm pretty sure they will test teams down the field and the athleticism on the roster (plus the mind of new special teams coordinator Joey Jones) suggests it will be pretty good at kick coverage. Turnover margin is a game-by-game coin flip more times than not, so we'll see when the time comes on that.
The big-time wide receiver thing is the obvious question here: it's undeniable, MSU needs one or more to beat Alabama. Yes, the Moorhead system is bigger than any individual person and that will have a huge role in possibly toppling the Tide in November, but there have been plenty of similarly constructed programs that still needed big-time wide receiver performances to beat Alabama. Clemson needed Hunter Renfroe to go for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the national championship game; Ohio State needed 87 yards and a score from Devin Smith in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Can MSU find one or two between now and Nov. 10?
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson