No. 21 Ole Miss has surprised so far this season, but do the Rebels have enough to upset No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa?
Hugh Freeze's Rebels have gone 3-0 this season, including a 44-23 beatdown of Texas in Austin two weeks ago.
In the victory over the Longhorns, Ole Miss posted 449 yards of total offense, while Texas converted a measly four of 15 third downs. Senior running back Jeff Scott was phenomenal, rushing for 164 yards and a touchdown while also taking a punt 73 yards to the house.
The Crimson Tide have performed as expected through their first three games—defeating Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and Colorado State—but the 42 points allowed against the Aggies has some wondering whether Nick Saban's squad can be beat this season.
Here's a breakdown of the SEC clash on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
*Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com
When: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line (via Covers.com): Alabama -15
Ole Miss Injuries (via USA Today)
Out: LB Denzel Nkemdiche (Knee), WR Korvic Neat (Knee)
Alabama Injuries (via USA Today)
Questionable: WR Kevin Norwood (Undisclosed), G Anthony Steen (Undisclosed), RB Alvin Kamara (Knee), DT Wilson Love (Concussion), CB Deion Belue (Toe)
Top Storyline: Should Alabama Be Worried?
Alabama hasn't looked as dominant as it was last season, at least early in the 2013 campaign.
The Crimson Tide averaged just over 250 total yards in wins over Virginia Tech and Colorado State. When they posted 568 yards and 49 points against Texas A&M in Week 3, they also allowed 628 yards and 42 points.
After the win over the Rams, Saban said, via ESPN.com:
We obviously have a difficult game coming up, and we need to get it right. We didn't do a very good job on third down. We couldn't run the ball, couldn't finish a lot of drives, and consequently (Colorado State) stayed in the game and we could never put them away.
Ole Miss is coming off a season-high 44 points. This is a young squad, but it brims with talent, aided by the arrival of Freeze and his recruiting success. The Rebels rank 38th in the nation and sixth in the SEC in points per game, just behind Alabama.
The Crimson Tide have yet to struggle on both sides of the ball in a single game, but they have shown they aren't perfect on the offensive and defensive ends.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Ole Miss 24
Asking a young, developing team to come into Tuscaloosa and uproot Alabama is asking a bit too much, no matter the level of talent.
Also, the Rebels have allowed 35 points to Vanderbilt and 23 points to Texas this season. They aren't on par with Alabama, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ole Miss made some big plays on offense in Tuscaloosa, but the gap between the two teams defensively—combined with Alabama's home-field advantage—figures to be too much for the Rebels to overcome.
Nick Saban's squad rolls along, while Hugh Freeze's team shows promise.