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Mississippi State vs Alabama: Three Bulldogs Players to Watch

Turn your attention to these three players as the Bulldogs take on the Crimson Tide on Saturday.

1. QB Will Rogers

Throughout his two seasons with Mississippi State, Rogers has put up impressive numbers, broken records and earned many awards. With nearly an 80% completion rate this season, he is a key component in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. The sophomore leads the SEC in passing yards with 1,862 total yards, completing 215 passes out of 284 attempts. He most recently went 46-of-59 passing against Texas A&M, helping lead his team to their most recent win 26-22 against then-ranked No. 15 team. 

Rogers is a player who has shown great improvement compared to last season. He has had 14 touchdowns in 2021 compared to last year's total of 11 touchdowns and his completion percentage has improved almost 7% since his debut as a freshman. Last season he threw seven interceptions, but has only thrown two total since the season-opener against LA Tech this year. 

Rogers earned plenty of recognition following his standout performance against the Aggies. He threw for over 400 yards for the second time this season and as a result, the SEC announced Rogers as co-offensive player of the week and was one of eight quarterbacks named a Manning Award Star of the Week. Although the young quarterback replaced starting QB KJ Costello last year and now holds the record at Mississippi State for most yards thrown as a true freshman, he has received his fair share of criticism for holding the ball too long and looking scattered on some occasions. However, after his performance against Texas A&M, Rogers showed the makings of a true SEC quarterback, improving not only in just releasing the ball quicker, but all around. 

Rogers' leadership, decision-making, accuracy and his ability to read the field well was on full display. If he shows these things in Saturday's matchup against Alabama, it will be an interesting quarterback matchup against U of A's starting Quarterback Bryce Young, a sophomore who is behind Rogers in total passing yards in the SEC. 

2. WR Austin Williams

One player who has started to stand out among Mississippi State's wide receivers is 6-foot-3, 200-pound redshirt senior Austin Williams. Alongside Malik Heath, Jaden Walley and Makai Polk, Williams is on a streak of 14 consecutive games with a catch. Out of his career total of 877 receiving yards, 249 of those belong to this season. He is well on his way to surpassing his career-high of 372 receiving yards he planted last season. 

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In last year's game against Alabama, Williams caught three passes for 32 yards and Jaden Walley added three grabs for 18 yards. Against LSU this season, he had six receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown and followed the next week with four receptions for 38 yards against Texas A&M. Catching 24 of the 26 passes thrown his way this season, Williams has proven dependable. He is an all-around athlete, playing both wide receiver and also performing in punt returns. Williams currently has a total of 66 yards off of 11 career punt returns. The wideout has shown great speed and agility and has practiced good ball security without a single fumble throughout his career at Mississippi State. He's a player who can be counted on who will play a role in the team's passing game against the Crimson Tide.

3. CB Emmanuel Forbes

One of the most vital pieces of Mississippi State's defense is none other than 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. Forbes gained immediate media attention the minute he stepped onto the field at Mississippi State. In his debut season last year, he played in 11 games with nine starts and finished the season with 24 solo tackles, 20 assisted tackles, 11 pass deflections and had a whopping five interceptions as a true freshman. I

n the 2020 season he was the first MSU defender with two interceptions in a game since Mark McLaurin (2; vs. Louisville) in 2017, the first MSU defender with multiple interception returns for a touchdown since Corey Broomfield (2) in 2009, one of nine MSU true freshmen to debut in 2020, one of 26 Bulldogs to make their first career start in 2020, and one of 27 student-athletes to make their Mississippi State debut in 2020. His true freshman season he was named to the Associated Press All-Bowl Team, garnered True Freshman All-America Honors from 247Sports, tabbed Freshman All-SEC by the conference coaches and was named to the Football Writers' Association of America's Freshman All-America midseason watch list. He led the NCAA in defensive touchdowns scored (3), ranked tied for No. 3 nationally and led the SEC in interceptions (5), had the most interceptions in the NCAA among true freshmen and was one of eight true freshmen nationally with multiple interceptions on the season. Forbes also set the MSU and Armed Forces Bowl record with a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown. 

Needless to say, he made a statement right out the gate. As for this season, he leads all active FBS student-athletes in interception return touchdowns (3), Tied for No. 2 nationally in defensive touchdowns, ranks tied for No. 8 in non-offensive touchdowns (3) and interception return yards (183). He has played in five games this season and so far as 20 solo tackles, seven assisted tackles and out of his 27 total tackles, one has been for a sack and 3.5 of them for loss. He has four total pass deflections and one forced fumble so far this season. He had 11 total tackles against NC State and 5 total tackles in their last game against Texas A&M. As for Saturday's game, Saban's spread offense will definitely need to keep an eye on Forbes. His speed, aggressive approach and interception ability could be dangerous for Alabama. 

Kickoff for Mississippi State's matchup with Alabama is set for 6 p.m. CT on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN.