Position-by-position edge: Ole Miss-Alabama
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of what to expect for Saturday’s big showdown in Tuscaloosa, Ala.:
QUARTERBACKS – Alabama: Both teams have already combined to use five QBs in their first two games: Jacob Coker and Cooper Bateman for Alabama, and Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade for Ole Miss. The collective numbers for both teams’ signal-callers so far are impressive as well: 45-of-65 passing for 716 yards, nine TDs and two INTs for the Rebels’ trio; 48-of-72 passing for three TDs and two INTs for Alabama’s duo. What hurts Ole Miss’ case is that those numbers have come against Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State. Coker and Bateman were especially impressive against Wisconsin – currently a Top 25 team – combining to finish 22-of-29 for 264 yards, a touchdown and most importantly no picks in Alabama’s season-opening win.
RUNNING BACKS – Alabama: The Crimson Tide shredded Wisconsin for 238 yards on 37 carries – with Derrick Henry rushing just 13 times for 147 yards and three TDs against the Badgers. Including last week’s win over Middle Tennessee State, Henry and Kenyan Drake are averaging more than seven yards a carry. Meanwhile, D.K. Buford (12.7), Jaylen Walton (11.4) and Eugene Brazley (10.2) are all averaging more than 10 yards per carry for Ole Miss, but those numbers are inflated because of the Rebels’ first two opponents.
WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS – Push: ArDarius Stewart has a team-high 10 catches for Alabama, but only for 65 yards. Drake leads the Tide with 139 receiving yards out of the backfield. Tight end O.J. Howard also has more than 100 receiving yards while Robert Foster leads Bama with two TD receptions. The Rebels’ Quincy Adeboyejo leads both teams’ receiving corps with four touchdowns, and he and Cody Core (eight catches, 176 yards and two TDs) have served as excellent complements to Laquon Treadwell (nine receptions, 117 yards) who has looked impressive since returning from his season-ending injury of a year ago.
OFFENSIVE LINE – Push: Both teams’ running games have been outstanding so far, with Alabama’s backs averaging 6.0 yards per carry and Ole Miss’ backfield rushing for 7.8 yards per attempt. The Crimson Tide has surrendered two sacks for minus-24 yards — both against Wisconsin — while the Rebels have yielded just one sack for eight yards.
DEFENSIVE LINE – Ole Miss: A’Shawn Robinson, Johnathan Allen, Jarran Reed and Darren Lake make up a fine set of defensive linemen, but surprisingly, the Crimson Tide did not record a sack against Middle Tennessee State last week. Meanwhile, the Rebels have returned their entire defensive line from last year, including Robert Nkemdiche – who has already blocked a field goal in addition to catching a touchdown pass and rushing for a TD. Fellow returnee Marquis Haynes already has a half-sack and four total tackles, including one for loss. Channing Ward has been impressive so far as well, though Issac Gross is out for the season.
LINEBACKERS – Alabama: Reggie Ragland (21 total tackles – including three for as loss – one forced fumble and one quarterback hurry) has been outstanding for the Crimson Tide. Teammates Reuben Foster (10 total tackles, two for loss), and Denzel Devall (seven total tackles, one for loss) have been solid. DeMarquis Gates and Christian Russell lead the Rebel LBs with eight total tackles each, while Tayler Polk is right behind them with seven.
SECONDARY – Push: These units for both teams have already contributed in major ways. The Rebels’ Tre Elston already has two interception returns for touchdowns, while Chief Brown has also returned an interception for a TD to go along with eight total tackles. Tony Bridges (nine total tackles) and A.J. Moore (six total tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble) and C.J. Moore (six total tackles, one pass defensed) have also been standouts. For Alabama, Eddie Jackson (nine total tackles, one interception and a forced fumble) has led a backfield that has also received significant contributions from Minkah Fitzpatrick (eight total tackles, including one for loss) and Marlon Humphrey (seven total tackles and two passes defensed).