Could Ole Miss actually beat Alabama? It's not as far-fetched as you might think. After years of bringing up the rear in the SEC, the Rebels are 3-0 and are filled with young talent.
Their freshman class is incredible. Led by defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss, the Rebels defense is giving up only 23.7 points per game.
It's on offense, however, where the Rebels really shine. They average 38 points per game, and they are led by a number of really talented players who could all play in the NFL. Quarterback Bo Wallace has been efficient, throwing for 648 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. It helps that he has plenty of toys to play with.
Running back Jeff Scott is an electric runner who has gained 330 yards. The passing attack is explosive. The trio of Donte Moncrief, Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram have combined for 502 yards. Treadwell, a freshman, is sixth in the SEC with 5.3 catches per game.
How can the Rebels translate this talent into an upset? It's actually pretty simple.
Alabama has struggled on defense, particularly with speed. They gave up 42 points to Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel had 562 yards of total offense. Obviously, the Rebels don't have Manziel, but they have a lot of players who can break down a defense with their legs. Scott is a shifty and elusive back, while Barry Brunetti, the backup quarterback, has rushed for 117 yards and could be used as a Wildcat or read-option quarterback.
The Alabama secondary is good, but they are not as good as last year. Vinnie Sunseri is a ballhawk at safety, but their corners were shredded by Mike Evans of Texas A&M. Evans had a remarkable 279 yards receiving on just seven receptions, a gaudy 39.9 average per catch. Mike Evans might be the best receiver in college football not named Marqise Lee, but the point remains: Alabama's defense, so good and so reliable for the past few years, is not the same. Quite simply, their defense is shaky, and until they can prove that they can stop big-time players, the unit must be questioned.
Moncrief, Treadwell and Engram should have huge games. Jeff Scott should have a big game. Bo Wallace should have a big game.
The big question for Ole Miss is on defense. The Rebels are pretty solid defensively, but they did give up 35 points to Vanderbilt. Alabama has put up 38.3 points per game this season, including 49 against Texas A&M. AJ McCarron has been terrific this season, throwing for 702 yards and six touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon has rushed 273 yards.
This game, in all likelihood, will be a shootout. Ole Miss has a good defense, but not a great one. AJ McCarron could have a big game. Alabama's defense was exposed against Texas A&M. They have struggled against speedy teams, and Ole Miss might be faster than the Aggies.
Can Ole Miss actually do it? Can they go into Bryant-Denny Stadium and knock off the No. 1 team in college football, the defending national champions?
Admittedly, it's a longshot. Yes, Alabama did struggle against Texas A&M but they found a way to win, at Kyle Field, no less. There's a reason why the Tide are ranked first in the nation.
That said, there's a lot of talent on the Rebels roster and their offensive profile matches up nicely against the Tide, who have a surprising amount of holes on defense.
Will it happen? It's certainly possible. The Rebels are a team on the rise, and in two years, they will be contending for a national championship. This game will go down to the wire, and the winner could end up kicking a field goal in the waning seconds.
I predict that Alabama will win, but barely. They will win 24-23, hitting a field goal as time expires. It should prove to be the best game of the weekend and will bring Ole Miss into the national consciousness.