Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Alabama Crimson Tide Pick
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (2-1) at Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0)
When: Saturday, September 21, Noon EDT
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Point Spread: ALA -39 (Bookmaker)
Total: O/U 61
Outlook For Week 4
Alabama opened its SEC slate last week by cruising past South Carolina for a 47-23 win and now returns to its pillow-soft non-conference schedule. Nick Saban has complained about criticism of Alabama’s schedule, but the reality is that the Crimson Tide’s best non-conference game this year is Duke, a great thing to boast in the winter but not exactly something to brag about during the fall.
That’s not going to change against Southern Mississippi. A credible member of Conference USA; but not a squad that’s likely to provide much resistance to the Tide. USM has already played one SEC opponent, losing by 23 to Mississippi State, but it bounced back nicely by beating Troy 47-42 last week. This marks the Golden Eagles’ third consecutive road game, as they scheduled just one home game in the non-conference.
How the Public is Betting the Southern Mississippi/Alabama Game
The line has held steady at Alabama -39, but the over/under has increased slightly from 60 to 61 since its opening.
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Running back Trivenskey Mosley is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
Defensive lineman LaBryan Ray is out with a foot injury, while defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe is questionable. Offensive lineman Chris Owens is questionable with concussion-like symptoms.
When Southern Mississippi Has the Ball
There’s no other way to say it: the Golden Eagles are pass-happy. Jack Abraham slung the ball around for 463 yards against Troy, and the junior has proven himself a quality decision-maker and an accurate passer. When he’s got time to throw, his top targets are Jordan Mitchell and Jaylond Adams, both of whom are already over 250 receiving yards for the season.
However, Southern Mississippi is a pretty one-dimensional squad. Stop Abraham, and you stop the Golden Eagles cold. Kevin Perkins and Steven Anderson have failed to break 100 yards for the season, and two of Southern Mississippi’s three rushing touchdowns this year belong to Abraham. Expect Alabama to focus almost entirely on stopping the pass, either by sending extra pressure to get to Abraham or by dropping defensive backs into coverage to take away his windows. Abraham is a pocket passer, so if his receivers are covered, he’s not a threat to win the game with his legs.
When Alabama Has the Ball
Full disclosure: when I pulled up Alabama’s stats to research this piece, the Tide’s page actually gave me the stats for the New Orleans Saints. Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t been quite that dominant; it’s just felt like he has. He’s already over 1,000 passing yards for the season and has shown much of the same form he displayed last year when Alabama destroyed every opponent it faced until it met Clemson.
However, Alabama has to be concerned about its ground game. The Tide haven’t established any of their running backs in any of their three wins this year. Part of that could be because Alabama hasn’t had to do that so far, but there will come a game in which Najee Harris has to be more than window dressing for the Tide offense. So far, he hasn’t looked that dominant. This might be where the Tide changes that, as they need to get the running game established in soon.
Bet on Bama at your own risk. The Tide get such ridiculously large spreads that it’s often not worth taking Alabama because the game is long over before it even gets a chance to approach the spread. By the time Alabama gets close, Saban is usually pulling the starters, giving the underdog an ATS win. It shows up in the Tide’s history: Alabama is 1-5 ATS in its past six games and 1-6 in its previous seven games against Conference USA. On the other side of the coin, Southern Mississippi has been an almost certain cover in September games. Over their past 21 games in the season’s first month, the Golden Eagles are 15-5-1 ATS. The over has also been pretty reliable, as the over is 4-0 in Southern Mississippi’s past four road games and 4-0 in Alabama’s previous four September games.
Saban continued his complaints about the start time of the game because of the high heat in Tuscaloosa at 11 a.m., an understandable gripe given that the temperature has hit triple digits in Tuscaloosa this week. It’s expected to be a little better on Saturday, but not by much, as the mercury should hit 90 degrees at kickoff.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
Southern Mississippi can’t hang with Alabama, but 39 points is a lot to give, especially considering that New Mexico State was at least able to put up ten on the Tide. The Golden Eagles are a much better squad than the Aggies, and they should be able to put up some points on Alabama. They won’t come close to putting up enough to win, but they should be able to stay in the game and keep things interesting for at least two quarters.
Most likely, Alabama will put up a substantial amount of points in the first 40 minutes and then send Tagovailoa to the showers, allowing the Golden Eagles to leave Tuscaloosa with some of their pride intact after “holding” Alabama to a margin of about 30 points. The Tide are just giving too many points, and they have a horrible history of covering these types of game, so the pick has to be Southern Mississippi.
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