Top-ranked Alabama plays host to No. 21 Ole Miss on Saturday, one of just two ranked opponents left on its regular-season schedule.
Accordingly, fans of either a) another SEC team, b) another BCS title contender or c) watching Nick Saban lose have tried to talk themselves into the possibility of an upset. And more often than not, the crux of that wishful logic has been the fact that Ole Miss is coming off a bye.
That layoff, in conjunction with the Rebels' young, talented roster, has many hoping they can walk into Tuscaloosa—not unlike Texas A&M last year—and catch Alabama sleeping. The Tide have looked far from unbeatable this year.
But in truth, though the bye week will help Ole Miss, it won't help enough to catalyze an upset. If there's an upset to be had, the time off won't be primarily responsible.
The bye week obviously won't hurt Ole Miss' chances against Alabama. The notion of rust accruing in less than 14 days is absurd, and the extra time spent game-planning, resting up and mentally preparing is fortuitous.
But if last year—Hugh Freeze's first as an FBS head coach—is any indication, the Rebels' head man is hardly a maestro at rallying his team off the bye:
|Opponent||Result||Yards Per Play||Opp. Yards Per Play|
|vs. Texas A&M||L 27-30||5.87||6.87|
|vs. Auburn||W 41-20||6.94||3.61|
|at Arkansas||W 30-27||4.80||5.80|
|at Georgia||L 10-37||4.11||7.30|
Ole Miss played one good team and one bad team right before the bye, then one good team and one bad team right after the bye.
Before the bye, the Rebels almost (and should have) upset Texas A&M and destroyed Auburn; after it, they were almost (and should have been) upset at Arkansas and got drilled by Georgia.
Hardly comforting stuff.
And yes, I realize both games before the bye were at home and both games after were on the road. That definitely had something to do with it.
But one week after the Georgia game, back in Oxford, Ole Miss lost to a Vanderbilt team that, while decent, it probably should have beaten. Then, the following week, it went into hostile Baton Rogue and played a four-quarter slugfest with LSU.
Home-road splits didn't affect the Rebs most of last season. Why should it be chalked up as the primary reason for their post-bye struggles?
Again, just to be clear: The week off will help Ole Miss on Saturday. As bad as Texas and Vanderbilt have looked this year, those are still two opponents loaded with FBS talent. Getting extra time to heal and rest up will have the Rebels in better shape to play Alabama.
But it won't be the godsend factor some are predicting. Certain coaches can take a bye week and transform it into a huge schematic advantage, but Hugh Freeze (going up against Nick Saban) is not one of those guys—at least not yet.
Ole Miss' best bet to win the game lies with high-upside personnel.
Will Ole Miss (+16.0) Cover the Spread at Alabama?
Alabama's offensive line has looked shaky: enter Robert Nkemdiche. Alabama's cornerbacks can be had: enter Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell. Alabama has struggled with reckless, gun-slinging quarterbacks: enter Bo Wallace.
The relative inexperience of that group might doom the Rebels to a blowout loss. But it also might propel them to a surprising bit of contention; they might not know any better than to be unafraid.
Don't count Ole Miss out when it takes the field in Tuscaloosa. It stands a chance of making this a game.
And if it does, dear Alabama fans, please be reasonable and don't blame the bye week.