Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ole Miss Rebels Complete Game Preview
After a less-than-stellar performance against Colorado State last week, the Alabama Crimson Tide will host the Ole Miss Rebels in their SEC home opener on Saturday.
The Rebels have proven to be a dangerous team offensively in their first three games and will face an Alabama defense that has looked suspect at times.
Can the Crimson Tide put it all together this week and get their national title hopes back on track? Or will Ole Miss send shock waves through the SEC and the rest of the country?
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 5:30 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Ole Miss Network
Spread: Alabama by 16 points, according to Vegas Insider
Alabama Keys to Victory
Slow down the Ole Miss offense
Last year, Alabama was caught off guard by Ole Miss' tempo and the Rebels handed Alabama its first deficit of the season (which it quickly answered with a Christion Jones kick return for a touchdown). But this week, Alabama won't be taken by surprise.
Put it all together
Over the first three weeks of the season, it's seemed like either the offense or the defense has been clicking—but not both at the same time. It's probably easier said than done, but the Crimson Tide need to have everything going at the same time to show the country that they can compete for a national championship.
Alabama can win the game with average performances from both sides, but this season is about much more than one game. It's about making history.
Ole Miss Keys to Victory
Keep your foot on the gas
Alabama has shown this year and last that it can be vulnerable to the hurry-up offense at times. Hugh Freeze is as good as any coach in the country at running that system and should be able to have some success against Alabama.
Force Alabama into 3rd-and-longs
Last week, Alabama didn't convert its first third down until late in the fourth quarter. The main reason was that the Crimson Tide were forced into 3rd-and-long more often than not and couldn't get the ball past the sticks. And getting Alabama off the field means more time for the Rebels offense to try to do damage against the Alabama defense.
Players to Watch for Alabama
Mosley is the point man for an Alabama defense tasked with stopping a versatile Ole Miss offense. Mosley succeeded for the most part as a spy on Johnny Manziel two weeks ago and should have a similar role against Bo Wallace.
McCarron cited communication issues after last week's Colorado State game as a reason for the offense struggling. He seemed more upbeat Monday and is in line for a bounceback performance.
The Alabama secondary
With Deion Belue and Jarrick Williams expected to return from injury, Alabama's secondary will be back at full strength after the two starters sat out the game Saturday. Getting those veterans back will be key to shutting down the Ole Miss passing attack.
Players to Watch for Ole Miss
Ole Miss' quarterback has the talent to threaten the Alabama defense, which hasn't exactly been impenetrable through three games. Wallace will coordinate the attack that could potentially upset the two-time defending national champions.
Laquon Treadwell and Donte Moncrief
Moncrief is the returning veteran, but the stud freshman Treadwell has lived up to the hype so far. In Treadwell and Moncrief, the Rebels have one of the most explosive receiving duos in the SEC. Deion Belue has established himself as a solid No. 1 corner for Alabama, but the Crimson Tide have yet to find a dependable No. 2. That could mean good news for the Rebels.
The freshman pass-rusher has shown that he could be a star in this league. He's tied for third in the SEC in tackles for loss per game (1.33), which ranks first among freshmen.
What They're Saying
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace thinks that the Rebels will put up points on Alabama, via Michael Casagrande of AL.com:
"I think we have better receivers than A&M," Wallace said. "They want to talk about Mike Evans being so good, but we have Donte (Moncrief) and I think Laquon (Treadwell) is going to be that way. We have better players on the outside than A&M does."
Evans had seven catches and 279 yards against Alabama in the Tide's 49-42 win on Sept. 14. Alabama hadn't allowed that many points since Nick Saban arrived in 2007.
"Yeah, I think we can put points on them," Wallace said. "I think we can put points on anybody. We just have to show up and play. It's the same thing every week, let's stay on schedule, control the tempo and don't have any turnovers."
Donte Moncrief has been studying Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, via Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger:
"I just watch the things that he did to win," Moncrief said. "And once you do that you learn what the DBs want to do when they press or play off. You just got to watch film and take in everything that you can.
"He was just being physical. Coming off the line and beating the press, and going up and getting the ball when it was in the air."
C.J. Mosley addressed the team after Alabama's win over Colorado State, via Andrew Gribble of AL.com:
"I was pretty upset, especially with the defense," Mosley said after Tuesday's practice. "The things we gave up were mental errors, just little things, just fundamental errors, so I felt like we're about to play Ole Miss next week and about to start getting into SEC play and those little things will get us beat bad, get us embarrassed so we've got to make sure everyone's doing their job."
Mosley wasn't alone. Senior quarterback AJ McCarron and junior safety Vinnie Sunseri followed with words of their own.
"We didn't play to the best of our ability," right tackle Austin Shepherd said. "We should have and I felt like the leaders just stepped up and said 'Look, we've got to do what we got to do. If we want to win it all again, we've got to be perfect.'"
The Alabama run game is struggling, via Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star:
Through three games, top-ranked Alabama ranks last in the SEC and 90th in the nation with an average of 132 rushing yards a game. This is the lowest total through three games during Nick Saban’s tenure. The previous low came in 2012 at 186.67.
Sophomore T.J. Yeldon has carried the load with 273 of the Tide’s 396 rushing yards and has more than half the carries. Alabama currently has four rushing touchdowns. By this point last season, the Tide had nine.
The three teams the Tide has faced currently rank 15th (Virginia Tech), 105th (Texas A&M) and 55th (Colorado State) in rush defense.
Alabama 38, Ole Miss 14
Alabama will put together a complete performance and look like a team that could win three national championships in a row.
The offense will be clicking on all cylinders, with the dominant run game setting up the play action. The defense will give up the occasional big play but be suffocating otherwise.
The Crimson Tide will give their fans a lot to cheer about and head into the meat of their SEC schedule as the favorites in the conference.