Ole Miss football: 5 reasons Rebels will beat Alabama
Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels have the chance to become a national storyline on Saturday afternoon if they can conquer the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
It’s no small feat. and the first real test for this group in Year 2 of the Kiffin era. Perhaps the greatest indicator of the mounting success Kiffin has built in his short time in Oxford is simply the belief that this game will be competitive, and that the Rebels have a shot at all. Let’s look at 5 reasons why Ole Miss will win on Saturday.
5. Matt Corral has his Heisman moment
Even Corral’s harshest skeptic would admit his decision-making looks remarkably better in Year 2 of Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s scheme. It’s the first time in his career he has had any sort of continuity from 1 year to another. Corral looks more confident and decisive; even against inferior competition, the unflappable nature about him shines. He has yet to turn the ball over this year through 3 games. Whether that streak continues on Saturday remains to be seen, but if Ole Miss is going to win, Corral has to put on an all-time performance that will litter his highlight reel in New York in December if he does indeed get there.
4. The defense gets 2 stops per half
You might think this is an oddly specific number, but with the way Ole Miss has performed offensively, if the Rebels can get 2 stops per half, don’t you like their chances to win the game? That would’ve been enough to beat Alabama last year, and that defense was remarkably worse and the offense wasn’t as good. Ole Miss looks faster on defense, and this newly implemented 3-2-6 scheme seems to fit the personnel better than the multiple looks it showed last year. The game will come down to just how improved this group actually is, and whether it is able to generate enough stops to give Ole Miss a chance. I think 2 stops per half is enough in a game that will likely end up in a shootout.
3. Ole Miss rushes for 200-plus yards
As much as is made about Corral, this prolific passing attack and Lebby’s newly-coined term “score from far,” the core of this offense is a running game manned by a deep and diverse backfield. I think Ole Miss is good enough offensively to put up 28 points on Alabama by simply throwing the ball. I do not think that is enough to win the game, and I do not believe the Rebels will be able to sustain drives solely through the air.
Look at the formula Florida used to have success against the Crimson Tide: The Gators ran the ball all over this Alabama defense, which opened up what was perceived to be a fairly limited passing game. This feat will fall more on Ole Miss’ offensive line than the running backs. Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish Jr. and Snoop Conner are a dynamic trio. If the guys in front of them can block adequately, the Rebels will reach this mark.
2. Sam Williams has multiple sacks
Williams is the most athletic and talented player on Ole Miss’ defense. He’s a 1st-round draft pick in terms of sheer raw talent. He has struggled with consistency in the past and having a consistent motor on every play. This coaching staff has challenged him in that regard and is adamant he has been up to the task. What better time to showcase it than on this stage? Alabama’s weakness on offense is its inability to protect Bryce Young in longer dropback situations. Williams coming off the edge is the Rebels’ fiercest bullet from a pass rushing standpoint. If he can bring Young to the ground at least twice, Ole Miss’ chances of winning will go up astronomically.
1. Ole Miss forces multiple takeaways
This one can piggyback off the above bullet, but clearly, the recipe to beating Alabama has been winning the turnover battle and taking the football away from its offense. That’s something this Ole Miss defense has yet to do at a consistent rate under D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge. If the Rebels force a couple of turnovers and get their offense in advantageous situations in plus-territory, even the mighty Crimson Tide should fear getting behind against this offense. If the Rebels can induce Young into a couple of mistakes or force an early fumble, the dynamic of the game will alter drastically.