THAT: Alabama vs. Ole Miss
WHEN: 2:30 pm CT Saturday
WHERE: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
SERIE: Alabama leads, 56-10-2
LINE: Alabama by 14.5
THIS GAME WILL DETERMINE
How difficult will Alabama’s road be to win SEC West and return to the SEC championship game in December. Four of Alabama’s six divisional opponents are currently in the top 25: Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Auburn, but the combination of Lane Kiffin and Heisman favorite quarterback Matt Corral could make the Rebels the most. hard of the group. A loss on Saturday would put Alabama’s back against the wall for the remainder of the season to qualify for the conference championship and, quite possibly, the college football playoff.
THREE THINGS TO LOOK FOR
1. Ole Miss’s running game: Despite all the attention Ole Miss has received for its fast-paced offense at No. 1 in the country, both Kiffin and Nick Saban emphasized this week that the Rebels’ running game is the engine of what they do. Ole Miss led the SEC in rushing yards per game last season and rushed for 247 against Alabama. This year they are second behind Florida with an average of 299 per game. The Gators rushed for 245 yards two weeks ago against Alabama, so Tide should show improvement in that area.
2. A different Ole Miss defense: The Rebels were disappointed last season by a defense that allowed 38 points per game, the worst in the conference. Kiffin kept his coordinators, but they changed their scheme to one that largely features three players running and eight falling in coverage. Saban compared it to the Iowa State defense and said that preparing for this week’s offense has been challenging due to the unusual appearance they expect. Saban praised his players this week for their focus and focus on practice.
3. What offense appears? Alabama was able to win a 63-48 shootout at Oxford last season in part because it scored touchdowns on its last eight possessions. This season’s offense has shown flashes of that brilliance, but it has been far less consistent, especially in its only other conference game this season at Gainesville. Alabama should have Brian Robinson back after missing last week’s game with bruised ribs, but a key player who could produce more is John Metchie. The junior wide receiver is averaging just 60 receiving yards per game, something Bryce Young attributed this week to defenses focusing on stopping him and giving him different coverage appearances.
HC Lane Kiffin / OC Jeff Lebby vs. DC Pete Golding / ILB Henry To’o To’o – The speed at which Ole Miss runs plays is designed to put stress on defenses and prevent them from lining up properly, something Saban pointed out to the rebels. They were successful in doing so last year against a younger Alabama defense. Saban has praised To’o To’o’s communication skills this year, the new defensive signal caller, but Ole Miss is sure to add wrinkles that could make it even more difficult for defensive coordinator Pete Golding and To’o To ‘. or get the defense set up within seconds between plays.
BY THE NUMBERS
53 – Alabama’s number of consecutive quarters has not dropped, dating back to a win over Georgia last October. According to the Elias Sports Office via ESPN, that’s the longest streak of any FBS team since 1950.
OLE MISS PLAYER TO SEE
Quarterback Matt Corral – The current betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy, enters the country eighth on Saturday with an average of 332.3 passing yards per game. Corral also leads Ole Miss in rushing attempts this season and ran 13 times against Alabama last October. “He’s as athletic as anyone you’re going to play in that position,” Saban said this week.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.