Ole Miss vs. Alabama: What Rebels Must Do to Upset Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa
If Ole Miss expects to shock No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, there are a few things Hugh Freeze's squad must do.
First and foremost, be a Rebel.
This is the top team in the country we are talking about—a team that has won three of the last four national championships, including the last two. In short, this is a dynasty. Even if you are a young, up-and-coming team, you need to be more than, well, a young, up-and-coming team.
Alabama isn't invincible, of course. Texas A&M proved that last season. And the Crimson Tide may not be as dominant as they were last season, either.
Nick Saban's squad is 3-0 so far, but every team has its weaknesses. The Crimson Tide are not perfect, and they've already shown this in some instances.
Here is what Ole Miss must do to conquer Alabama on Saturday.
*Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com
Attack the Offensive Line
With three new starters on the offensive line, Alabama's unit hasn't jelled as quickly as expected.
The Crimson Tide have allowed six sacks and 18 tackles for loss. They rank 74th and 72nd in sacks per game and tackles for loss per game, respectively. Quarterback A.J. McCarron has struggled when blitzed.
On top of that, the lack of push from the offensive line has made it tough for the Crimson Tide to move the ball on the ground. They rank 80th in the nation in yards per carry this season.
As a result, third downs have been longer and more challenging. The Crimson Tide have converted only one-third of their third-down attempts, good for 100th in the country. It's basic knowledge that longer third-down attempts make for more difficult conversions.
Ole Miss hasn't sacked the quarterback much this season, but the Rebels do rank 44th in tackles for loss. Also, just because you don't sack the quarterback, it doesn't mean you can't pressure him into incompletions and mistakes.
Spread Out the Offense
Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan, slot receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram are all talented pass-catchers.
In that regard, it makes no sense to focus on just a couple of targets throughout the game, especially given the struggles of the Alabama secondary this season.
Deion Belue is Alabama's most talented defensive back, but even he has struggled with injuries. Beyond him, both John Fulton and Cyrus Jones have been picked on early in the season. Fulton was at the mercy of Texas A&M's Mike Evans two weeks ago.
Spread out your offense and Alabama's defense, and allow your playmakers to make plays. Ole Miss needs to trust its talent in the receiving corps against a spotty Alabama secondary.
Run to Set Up the Pass
Will Ole Miss upset Alabama in Week 5?
Ole Miss ranks 21st in the nation in rushing yards per game. Alabama ranks 59th in yards allowed per carry. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the Rebels must stick with their run-heavy approach.
Senior running back Jeff Scott has been tremendous thus far for the Rebels. He's rushed for 330 yards and two touchdowns on 9.4 yards per carry. That includes scampering for 138 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt and posting 164 yards and a touchdown against Texas two weeks ago. He ranks seventh in the SEC in rushing yards and first in yards per carry.
If Scott can have success early against the Crimson Tide, it not only makes third-down conversions easier for the Rebels, it also opens up passing plays on first and second down.
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