In case this week’s epic Alabama vs. Ole Miss showdown needed any more fuel, Rebels safety Cody Prewitt just gave it some more.
After Ole Miss’ 24-3 scrap with Memphis that assured the Rebels would be undefeated when they face Alabama, Prewitt said this, according to Fox Sports’ Brandon Speck:
"We understand that we haven't played a team that's going to be as good as Bama. But we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been. And we're better than we have been. We're looking forward to getting to the game plan and really nailing down all the tweaks and stuff that we're going to have to put into Bama."
Confidence is never a bad thing. And this isn’t exactly a massive dig at Alabama. But it’s still not what Ole Miss needed.
One of its players called out Alabama last year, and it didn’t work out too well. Now the Crimson Tide will have similar motivation and could get a similar result in the end.
Last season, it was Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace.
"Yeah, I think we can put points on them," Wallace said, according to AL.com’s Michael Casagrande. "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."
Wallace was wrong, in a big way.
The Alabama defense held the Rebels off the board completely in a 25-0 shutout in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The defense even sacked Wallace in the end zone for a safety late in the game just for good measure.
Alabama avoided discussing Wallace’s comments before the game, sticking to the party line of we-only-focus-on-ourselves.
But afterward, it was clear it heard Wallace’s message loud and clear.
There was junior defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan: “After hearing all the trash they were talking in the media, it just really played a big role for us to come out and dominate these guys.”
And cornerback Deion Belue: “Just the fact that [Ole Miss] came at us like that because of a bad game, we had a chip on our shoulder.”
And the normally soft-spoken C.J. Mosley, heart of that 2013 defense: “They called us out. And we answered the bell.”
So you can be sure that this year’s Alabama team will see what Prewitt said, even if Prewitt didn’t intend it to be seen that way, and even if Crimson Tide players don’t acknowledge it this week.
Is Prewitt right, though? Is Alabama really not as good as it has been in the past? Through four games, it’s hard to see it like that.
On defense, he may be right.
Alabama is giving up 4.51 yards per play so far, per CFBStats.com. That’s a little bit more than in championship years of 2012 (4.18), 2011 (3.32) and 2009 (4.08).
The Crimson Tide is facing offenses that put up more and more yards every year, especially when compared to 2009 and even 2011. It also, though, hasn’t seen a lot of those offenses yet this year, as it’s only faced one SEC team so far: Florida, which is 10th in the conference in yards per game.
But where there is assuredly no basis for Prewitt’s claims, it’s on offense, where new coordinator Lane Kiffin has largely maximized the offense’s skill-position players, turned Blake Sims into one of the conference’s best quarterbacks and made Alabama an offensive juggernaut.
|Alabama's 2014 offense vs. championship teams under Saban|
|Statistic||2014 (through four games)||2012||2011||2009|
|Points per game||42||38.7||34.8||32.1|
|Yards per game||594.25||445.5||429.6||403|
Those numbers don’t look anything like the Alabama of the past. They look a lot better.
And it’s the side of the ball that Prewitt will be tasked with stopping.
Ole Miss might have the best secondary Alabama has faced so far and will face this year. Prewitt, Tony Conner and Trae Elston make up one of the best safety groups in the SEC.
That secondary has so far made life miserable for the quarterbacks it has faced, racking up nine interceptions through four games to lead the conference. It will be a big road test for the first-year quarterback Sims.
But Prewitt’s words will surely hit the ears of Sims, wide receiver Amari Cooper, running back T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the Crimson Tide offense.
Last year, Alabama’s defense got called out. This year, it was a defensive player delivering those words.
It’s likely going to be a recipe for more of the same.
Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.