Five things to watch: #21 Ole Miss at #1 Alabama


The other big-time game between ranked opponents this weekend is Ole Miss-Alabama. It may not be as sexy as LSU-Georgia, but this will turn into one of the most underrated matchups in the SEC for 2013.

The Tide opened as 16.5-point favorites over Ole Miss, and that’s a big number based on how the Tide’s offense sputtered in two of three games this season.

Here’s what to watch for Saturday:

The running game: Ole Miss’ rushing attack is much better than Alabama’s through four weeks. In fact, the Rebels are averaging 250 yards per game, while the Tide sit dead last in the SEC, averaging just 132 yards per game. The Tide’s offensive struggles come back to the offensive line and their struggle to run block early in the season. The Rebels have rushed on average 12 more times per game than Alabama, and the Rebels have run nearly 80 plays per game, compared to Alabama’s 58.6.

Related: See how Alabama and Ole Miss’ running game compares to the SEC

Bo Wallace: Beating Alabama all comes back to the quarterback play, and it has to be dynamic. Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow come to mind, but the one who doesn’t who also accomplished this feat was Stephen Garcia. Garcia had the ‘game of his life’, as Steve Spurrier so eloquently puts it, in a win. Wallace has taken his game to the next level and is playing much better than 2012. He’s thrown four TDs, compared to zero INTs, after throwing 22 TDs and 17 INTs last season. The evolution of Bo Wallace continues. He’s making faster reads; he’s learning not to force the ball in tight windows. But it’s going to take Wallace’s best game to beat Alabama, and the vertical passing game will have to be great, not good.

Related: Why Bo Wallace has improved

Interesting matchups: The biggest area the Rebels have an advantage is the receivers against the Tide’s secondary. Alabama’s best corner, Deion Belue, is suffering from turf toe, and Cyrus Jones, Eddie Jackson, Bradley Sylve, John Fulton and Geno Smith, among others, haven’t exactly been world-beaters. Safety HaHa Clinton-Dix is a star in the making, and Vinnie Sunseri is playing very well, but losing Robert Lester and Dee Milliner has been obvious. Rebels receivers Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell are just as talented as Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, but will they produce? The Rebels will try to exploit the secondary much like Aggies did.

Related: Bo Wallace is confident the Rebels can move the ball

Special teams play: Alabama’s offense may not be firing on all cylinders, but in two games where the offense has struggled, special teams have picked it up. Returner Christion Jones returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns against Virginia Tech, while the Tide blocked a punt for a touchdown last week. And not to be outdone, Ole Miss returner Jeff Scott housed a 73-yard punt return against Texas. Special teams will be critical, as will field position, and any help either team gets from special teams will be a huge asset Saturday.

Related: Watch Christion Jones torch Virginia Tech’s defense

Turnovers: Turnovers are crucial for beating Nick Saban and Alabama. Alabama failed to win the turnover battle in their seven losses over the last five years. The Tide and Rebels are both +1 heading into Saturday’s contest.



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  • I can’t wait for this game. We’ve got nothing to lose which makes us dangerous.

  • I’m having to work really hard not to be optimistic about this game.

    I’m fine with hope, but the Rebels have burned me too many times for optimism.

  • It seems like Alabama’s offense has played just well enough to get by their opponents so far this year. Against Virginia Tech and Colorado State they were far from explosive, but in the win over A&M AJ McCarron showed that he is a true winner and a disciple of Saban. I think that is the one key to Alabama’s success over the past three years, the leadership of McCarron. Ole Miss is no longer a team to look past and, frankly, everyone in crimson and white should definitely be nervous.

  • Ole Miss does have a lot to look forward too in this game. I don’t believe this will be a runaway game by any means unless Bama shows me a lot more than what they have shown in the first three weeks. I do realize we played with a lot of freshman against Colorado State and mixing some personnel up but Ole Miss has always played us tough and they are a good SEC team. Certainly the best team in Mississippi by far. Hugh Freeze is doing a really good job there and bringing in a new attitude in Oxford that carries over to the players. They are starting to believe they can be contenders in the SEC West although I don’t think they are quite there yet. But Alabama will certainly not be able to take the Rebels lightly or Ole Miss will be going back to Oxford with a win.

  • Well, another article in which we’re led to believe that Bama should lose. Will this be the week???!!!! Does every game have to have a hype train hitched up to it?
    Ole Miss has been better than their usual terrible this year so we’re supposed to believe that makes them a real threat. Was it their nail biter against dominant Vandy? Was it that huge win against top-ranked SE Missouri St? Or was it that win against the Texas team that is on the verge of firing Mack Brown?
    Alabama beat Texas A&M, remember that? Remember when we all wanted to believe that A&M was the greatest team on earth? Bama beat them. But, who cares. Ole Miss, yeah, they can do it.
    In college football anything can happen, of course. I’m just tired of sports writers trying to drum up fake big-time show-downs every week.

      • I’d like to read articles about SEC football based upon reality instead of constant hype. I thought if I brought that up enough it might change something, but yeah, it probably won’t because fake drama sells.

        • What do you mean based upon actual football? Just because BAMA isn’t the only clear cut favorite in the SEC, how is that fake drama? You BAMA fans are clowns. All hail Bama. If anyone is thought to be even close to Bama you’ll revolt. It’s hilarious. OM gonna take it to y’all, and I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

    • @AlaTide Unfortunately with your CAKE schedule, there are ONLY 3 showdowns Alabama has the ENTIRE year. Texas A&M, which you barely escaped, Ole Miss and LSU. You’re going to lose against LSU, and Ole Miss isn’t a given like you state. The arrogance is overwhelming. How dare any sports writer say there’s a chink in the armor for the Tide, right? Give me a break.

      • I didn’t say Ole Miss was a given. I said writers selectively use stats to hype games. Bama beat A&M IN College Station (and by the way it wasn’t as close as the final score; Bama had a 2 – 3 touchdown lead the majority of the game and scored 35 unanswered). That one game is miles beyond any match-up Ole Miss has had so far, but they left that part out. Instead, we’re just supposed to think that Ole Miss has a better run game, regardless of the defenses they faced.
        I don’t mind folks criticizing Bama, but writers have become bored with all their success and are always trying to look past them to the next big thing and that is annoying. If your team was winning as much as Bama has the past 4 years, you would want it covered instead of always hearing about how they are about to get upset.

        • I have a stat for ya…66 rushing yards against Colorado State. You can’t tell me that, um, isn’t a worry. BAMA is last in the league. There are concerns, and that’s not just ‘hyping stats’.

        • I don’t know if you remember a guy by the name of Tim Tebow or not, but we never heard anything from the media but hate about him. So don’t start barking about all that. And bama is 13th in the SEC in total offense and 14th in rushing. That is a statistic. Not an assumption or some hyped up story. It’s a fact. Another fact would be that A&M’s defense is dead last in the SEC. So you take the 13th ranked offense and put them up against the 14th ranked defense and it sounds like a 7 point victory is pretty fitting. Nobody is saying bama isn’t a good team. But they haven’t looked as impressive as they have in years past up to this point. Ole Miss is 5th in defense and 4th in offense. It will be a good match up

        • @Wes10jones – That’s my point again, you’re talking about Ole Miss rankings being so high on defense and offense, but they haven’t played a ranked opponent. That’s why it’s misleading to cite stats like that going into this game. Same with Bama. Are you suggesting that Colorado St. defense is better than A&M’s? The more likely explanation is that Bama took the game lightly coming off the emotional A&M game, not to mention the fact that they rested several key starters the whole game. When it’s this early in the season, you can’t judge by stats, you have to look at opponents and clearly Bama is miles ahead having beaten A&M on the road, while Ole Miss did what?

        • BTW: That Texas A&M defense you guys piled points on is ranked 110 in the nation. How about that stat.

    • Ummmm, calm down dude. Is it not OK for other teams to be capable of beating Bama?

      • I honestly don’t mind if Alabama fails to win another NC this year because, good lord, they have won so many lately it would just be ridiculous if it continued. But the job of writers or media personnel is to remain grounded in reality while covering events, and it’s these sensationalist hacks that piss me off.

        • I’m indicating that if Alabama is as mighty as you proclaim, they should have been able to rush for over 100 yards against a colorado state defense. I dont care who they rested. The band should be able to move it against them.

        • And Colorado State’s defense may very well be better than A&M’s. A&M gave up over 500 yards to rice!! That’s shameful

        • Texas A&M D is Ranked 110. Colorado St. D is Ranked 75.

  • Ole Miss could be this year’s A&M. I’m not saying that they’ll upset Bama, but they are confident right now and very dangerous. With a bye week to prepare too, it could be a good matchup. Honestly, I think Bama wins, but I think they’ll have their hands full as well. The offense if very similar to A&M’s, and I think Ole Miss can play better defense than A&M. If it were in Oxford, it would really make it dangerous.

  • TAMU gave Bama they’re best shot @ home, the offense played AWFUL against VA Tech and both side failed to show up against Colorado St. But Bama is still 3-0 and Ole Miss is still Ole Miss!!

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