Instant Analysis: Alabama 25, Miss State 20

    E-mail Pete Fiutak Follow me … @PeteFiutak  All this did was set the stage for what’s next. Everyone was waiting to see what Mississippi State would do

    November 15, 2014

    E-mail Pete Fiutak
    Follow me … @PeteFiutak 

    All this did was set the stage for what’s next.

    Everyone was waiting to see what Mississippi State would do when it had to deal with the really, really hard part of the really, really hard division schedule, and it played well in the 25-20 loss to Alabama, but it was still a predictable loss.

    Now the SEC West season really begins.

    Get ready for the potential for the big theoretical discussion about whether or not two SEC teams should get into the playoff. No matter what happens in the Auburn-Alabama showdown, if Mississippi State beats Vanderbilt and Ole Miss to finish 11-1, should it be in the big four over a Big Ten or Big 12 champion? Maybe, making this, potentially, Round 1 between the Tide and the Bulldogs.

    Of course, if Alabama loses to Auburn, MSU is in the College Football Playoff if it wins out – including a win in the SEC West championship – and there’s still a shot at a massive pile-up up top …

    But that’s getting ahead of the game. Had Mississippi State beaten Alabama, this would’ve been over and the Bulldogs – save for a shocking upset loss to Vanderbilt – would’ve taken the West. But Alabama’s defense got the job done, and now it’s all there for the taking for Nick Saban’s club.

    Alabama, win the next three games, get into the playoff.

    So for all of the fun the Mississippi schools have had, at the moment, it’s Alabama’s SEC West.

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello 
    Follow me … @RichCirminiello 
    Earn a Ph.D. in college football … class is in session at Campus Insiders

    Been there, done that.

    There’s no substitute for big-game experience. And no program has more of it than Alabama, which makes toppling this program in November twice as hard. Nick Saban and his staff have played with their championship hopes on the line about a million times before. And the Crimson Tide roster is littered with veterans who’ve been in this spot countless times. For Mississippi State, on the other hand, a game of today’s magnitude was an all-new experience, an intangible that trumps the various matchups that actually take place between the hash marks.

    ‘Bama’s future is crystal clear. Beat Auburn on Nov. 29 and handle whoever comes out of the SEC East, and it’s off to a semifinal playoff game at either the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl. Mississippi State? Now, this is where the discussion gets downright fascinating.

    With only two remaining unbeaten Power Five programs, how far can you drop the school with arguably the best one-loss resume? Behind TCU, which narrowly escaped the clutches of lowly Kansas this afternoon? The Bulldogs are still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth, which could have SEC haters out on a ledge when the committee’s rankings are released on Tuesday night. Oh, and don’t think that the final touchdown from Dak Prescott to Jameon Lewis wasn’t significant in terms of the optics. Losing by five, instead of 12, in Tuscaloosa is a lot easier to sell if the committee is in a position to do so three weeks from now.

    E-mail Phil Harrison
    Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFB

    It’s still Alabama’s division and conference until further notice.

    Mississippi State’s body of work was all fine and good and deserved to be praised, but we all knew the big elephant awaiting in mid-November. Nick Saban’s Alabama program has been the clear cut king of the SEC since 2008, and while the Bulldogs came in with an unblemished record and number one ranking, they needed to beat the bully on the playground for everyone to believe.

    Hang with ‘em.

    Instead, Alabama, knowing the gravity of the situation, and tired of hearing and seeing Mississippi State as the new money, showed that it wasn’t ready to relinquish the title-belt just yet. The Tide jumped on the Bulldogs early with tough defense and enough big plays to cease control of the game early on.

    MSU tried to fight back, but the Crimson Tide finished things off and restored order in the division and league. Now, things get real interesting heading down the stretch. Alabama owns the tiebreaker with the Bulldogs now, but there’s still big games on tap for both. After a day at the spa against West Carolina next week, the Iron Bowl looms at home for ‘Bama.

    For Mississippi State, there’s at least a league game against Vanderbilt at home before heading to Ole Miss for the annual Egg Bowl. If Alabama wins out, things are simple. It would head to Atlanta. If however, it stumbles against Auburn and MSU loses to Ole Miss to leave four teams with two losses in the SEC West, get your charts, algorithms, and protractors out because there’ll be more tiebreakers than a paper, rock, scissors convention.

    I can’t think of a better way to close out 2014 in the SEC West. Can you? Bring on the chaos, please.

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