Alabama Crimson Tide at Ole Miss Rebels Game Day

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Forums College Football Alabama Crimson Tide at Ole Miss Rebels Game Day

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    The top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide hit the road to take on the suddenly improving Ole Miss Rebels in a key SEC battle.
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    Alabama is the No. 1 team in the country, at least according to the latest coaches’ poll.

    Forget Jake Coker and forget being a game manager, Blake Sims has developed into one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks. The hiring of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator hasn’t signaled the end times, it’s brought about a renaissance replete with screen passes, misdirection and even the use of the hurry-up, no-huddle.

    After fumbling about against West Virginia in the season opener, Alabama’s defense has returned to form. If it weren’t for four turnovers, Florida wouldn’t have scored a single point in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago. Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart made the Gators look inept as Jeff Driskel struggled to complete 9 of his 28 pass attempts.

    Alabama has developed into a complete football team these past few weeks. Even the punting and place kicking have been better than expected.

    But now comes the real fun.

    Now comes Ole Miss.

    Whatever we think we know about Alabama will be challenged Saturday when the Crimson Tide have their first true road test against the No. 11-ranked team in the country. Oxford, Mississippi, may be a picturesque college town that prides itself on never losing the party, but what awaits Alabama inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium won’t be so friendly. Bo Wallace, Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche want to knock off the No. 1 team in the land, not serve it sweet tea and barbecue.

    How will Sims hold up under that type of pressure? He’s played well so far, tossing eight touchdowns to two interceptions. Among quarterbacks with at least two starts, he ranks third nationally with an adjusted QBR of 89.4. But he hasn’t played in a raucous road environment yet, and he hasn’t faced a defense that’s as good top to bottom as Ole Miss’. The Nkemdiche brothers can get after you. So can C.J. Johnson and D.T. Shackelford. And if you try throwing into that secondary, don’t expect the ball back. Senquez Golson leads the SEC with three interceptions this season and Cody Prewitt led the league with six picks last season.

    Speaking of defense, what do we really know about Alabama’s? The Crimson Tide barely survived West Virginia Week 1, and in subsequent games they haven’t really been put to the test. Florida was supposed to be a measuring stick, but we saw how that played out.

    Ole Miss, on the other hand, should give Alabama everything it can handle. Wallace may be up and down as a passer, but when he’s hot, he can really sling it. He’s elusive in the pocket and knows Hugh Freeze’s offense like the back of his hand. Plus, he’s protected by an offensive line that stars one of the best tackles in the SEC in Laremy Tunsil.

    Alabama’s secondary won’t be able to sleepwalk by the Rebs. Treadwell is one of the most productive receivers in the country and Evan Engram is a constant mismatch at tight end. And that’s not to mention Cody Core and Vince Sanders, who are difficult to account for in their own right. If you’re Saban, you’re worried because your top cornerback is generously listed at 5-foot-10, your second-best cornerback, Eddie Jackson, has health concerns, and your third-best cornerback, Tony Brown, is a true freshman.

    And all that goes without saying how Alabama has continued to struggle against the hurry-up, no-huddle. Go back and look at Texas A&M, Auburn, Oklahoma and West Virginia; it hasn’t been pretty.

    Meanwhile, Freeze just so happens to be one of the leading experts on uptempo offense. And unlike last season’s game, he’s probably going to make sure his signals aren’t so obvious.

    If Alabama wants to remain the No. 1 team in the country, it will have to prove it against Ole Miss.

    From the play of Sims to the offensive line to the secondary to the defense as a whole, there won’t be one phase of the game where the Crimson Tide won’t be tested on Saturday.


    • Author

    The line in this game opened with Alabama as a four-point favorite, which seemed awfully low, even if the Tide is on the road. It’s since grown to six points, and to be honest, it still looks like too small of a number. But is it?

    Ole Miss isn’t ranked No. 11 in the country by accident, it’s been very impressive to start the season. In fact, since struggling out of the gate in the first three quarters of its season opener against Boise State, Ole Miss has outscored its opponents 149-28. The Rebels defense is ranked atop the SEC in total defense (248 yards per game), yards allowed per play (3.74), defensive pass efficiency (74.20), and points allowed (8.5 per game).

    Of course, the caveat here is that Ole Miss has played Boise State, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis. It hasn’t played a team anywhere near the caliber of Alabama, and this Saturday will be a much taller mountain to climb. So can the Rebels get there? Or, more importantly, can they cover?

    Ole Miss is 4-0 against the spread so far this season, and 21-9 overall under Hugh Freeze. Alabama, on the other hand, has never been a spread-shredding juggernaut and is off to a 1-3 start. And while it hasn’t played a true road game yet this season, the Tide is 2-5 ATS when favored on the road or at a neutral site the last two years. So the numbers would indicate that you should take Ole Miss +6, and maybe you should, but I’m not.

    I’m sorry, while I think this Ole Miss defense is legit, I just can’t allow myself to put faith in Bo Wallace against the Alabama defense. He’s already thrown six interceptions on the season, and I can’t help but envision him throwing a huge pick at a terrible time against Alabama on Saturday.

    The Tide put an end to a five-game losing streak ATS with a 42-21 win as 14-point favorites over Florida in Week 4. Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last five against the Rebels, including a 25-0 victory last season. However, the Crimson Tide have been a betting disappointment when facing Ole Miss, covering in just three of their last nine meetings.


    • Author

    Ole Miss is off to the start that it hoped for, winning its first four games, going 3-0-1 against the spread. The Rebels now get a chance to make some big noise when they host the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday night in Oxford.

    The Rebels have lost 10 in a row to Alabama. Can they snap that streak this week?

    Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 4.5-point favorites at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

    – Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

    The Tide is also 4-0 on the season, and while they’re just 1-3 ATS, part of that has to do with the big spreads with which they’ve been burdened. Alabama outgained West Virginia by 145 yards but couldn’t cover at minus-22; it outgained Southern Miss by 284 yards but couldn’t cover at minus-47.

    Finally, last time out, the Tide beat Florida 42-21, covering at minus-14. Alabama then had last week off. Alabama has beaten Ole Miss 10 times in a row, allowing an average of just 12 points per game, and has won the last three meetings by an average of 30 points per game.

    – Why the Mississippi Rebels can cover the spread

    The Rebs just held Memphis to 104 total yards in a 24-3 victory, pushing the spread at minus-21. Ole Miss knew it would be pretty good on defense this year, with nine starters back on that unit from last season, and so far the Rebs have allowed just 34 points through four games.

    Ole Miss is also averaging 496 yards per game on offense. The Rebs are 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games, and even though they’ve lost 10 in a row to Alabama, they’ve covered the spread in six of the last nine meetings.

    – Smart Pick

    Ole Miss will have the home-field advantage for the biggest game in Oxford in a decade, but sometimes raucous emotion can actually work against a home team. How many times have we seen a team get sky-high for a big game at home on national TV only to fall flat on its face?

    On the other side of this equation is Alabama, a national title contender, favored by less than a touchdown. That’s where the smart money resides in this matchup.

    – Trends
    •Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last five games when playing Mississippi.
    •Mississippi is 5-0 SU in its last five games.


    • Author

    The Line: Alabama -6, Total: 51

    Line movement and notes: Alabama opened as a 4-point road favorite at The Wynn on Sunday and jumped to -6 there and at many other shops around Las Vegas. By Wednesday, though, some venues had moved to -6.5. For updated spreads and totals from around Las Vegas, visit our live odds page.

    Trends that matter: Ole Miss is 6-3 ATS in its last nine meetings with Alabama. Ole Miss is 6-2 ATS in its last eight home games. Ole Miss is 4-0-1 ATS in its last five games overall. Alabama is 1-4 ATS in its last five road games. The OVER is 9-3 in Alabama’s last 12 road games. The UNDER is 5-1 in the last six meetings.

    Can Ole Miss walk the walk to end skid? Two weeks ago, another SEC team from Mississippi was looking to end a long series losing streak against one of the power teams in the conference, and Mississippi State did just that in upsetting LSU for the first time in 15 years as a 7-point underdog, 34-29. Now, fans of Ole Miss hope the Rebels will follow suit and beat Alabama for the first time since Eli Manning was under center in 2003.

    Current Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is chasing many of Manning’s school records this season, and he also would like be known as the one who helped end the 10-game series skid against the Crimson Tide. Unfortunately, last year Wallace talked a little too much before the game, giving Alabama bulletin board material that was used as motivation in a 25-0 victory.

    This year, one of Wallace’s teammates did not learn from that costly mistake. Rebels safety Cody Prewitt spoke out about the Tide following last week’s 24-3 home win over Memphis as 21-point favorites.

    “We understand that we haven’t played a team that’s going to be as good as Bama,” Prewitt said. “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.”

    Sims recovering from shoulder injury: Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims suffered a bruised AC joint in the third quarter of their 42-21 win over Florida before their bye week. But the senior later returned to action and finished with 445 passing yards – the second-highest total in school history – and four touchdowns to help Alabama cover as a 14-point favorite.

    “It’s very fine,” Sims said after the game. “Just a little bruised. I’m going to get with the training staff and try to get better and let the team know I’m good. I’m going to come out against Ole Miss and try to win the game.”

    Fortunately for the Tide, their bye could not have come at a better time. Sims got an opportunity to recover and should be ready to go on Saturday. However, Alabama has failed to cover three of its last four road games off a bye despite winning three of them straight-up.

    Weather: The forecast calls for cool temperatures, around 65 degrees, with mostly clear skies with winds 7 to 12 mph. Visit Weather Underground for the latest forecast.


    • Author

    Lane Kiffin has opened up the once-vanilla Alabama offense and the first-year offensive coordinator has the Crimson Tide piling up passing yards and points.

    Slowing down Alabama has become even tougher.

    No. 11 Mississippi (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) will see if it is up to the challenge when the Rebels host the third-ranked Tide (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday. Alabama is averaging 42 points and 335.8 passing yards per game and features one of the nation’s best receivers in Amari Cooper.

    The Rebels – at least statistically – have the best defense in the SEC. They’re giving up just 8.5 points and 248 total yards per game.

    ”Something’s got to give at some point,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. ”At the end of the day it’ll be about players making plays.”

    A talented Ole Miss recruiting class from last year has matured into its sophomore season, with guys like defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Tony Connor turning into bona fide stars.

    Last week against Memphis, the Rebels’ defense was nearly flawless, giving up just 104 total yards in a 24-3 victory. Freeze, in his third season at the helm, said it was the best effort he’d seen from the group since he arrived.

    But that was Memphis. This is Alabama – a team that has beaten Ole Miss 10 times in a row.

    The last time the Rebels won in this rivalry, Eli Manning was flinging passes around the field. This time, the key to an Ole Miss victory likely relies on the defense.

    ”Guys have got to embrace this any way we can,” Nkemdiche said. ”We’ve got to be focused in practice and do what we’ve been doing every week. If we execute and do what we should, we’ll be good.”

    Freeze said Kiffin’s arrival in Tuscaloosa has made the Tide even more of a handful, combining offensive innovation with five-star talent all over the roster. Alabama quarterback Blake Sims completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Florida on Sept. 20.

    Cooper caught 10 of Sims’ passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. And then there is the Tide’s three-man backfield of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake.

    ”Having the kids they have makes their schemes even better,” Freeze said. ”I know coach Saban is getting out of his kids what he wants to, and they, under Lane, have changed a bit offensively that has made them more difficult to defend.”

    Alabama’s offense may look different. But the Tide say the Ole Miss defense does, too.

    ”They like to do a lot of movement, so we’re gonna have to be able to adjust,” Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler said. ”They’ve got some quickness off the edge. Got a big man in Nkemdiche right there in the middle. So we’re gonna have to out physical this game.”

    There will be one more added wrinkle to the Ole Miss defense vs. Alabama offense matchup on Saturday. Kiffin’s brother, Chris, is the defensive line coach at Ole Miss.

    Freeze said it makes for some fun talk around the locker room, but probably won’t make much of a difference at game time.

    ”Chris will want to win and Lane will want to win,” Freeze said. ”At end of the day, it’s not about Lane or Chris or Nick (Saban) or Hugh. It’s about these kids who will have to win the battles.”



    Saturday may bring the largest crowd the Ole Miss campus has ever seen and the loudest crowd Vaught-Hemingway Stadium has ever heard.

    So the Rebels have that going for them, which is nice, but then there’s this. No one in the SEC, maybe no one in college football, travels as well as Alabama.

    By turning road games into business trips, Nick Saban and company have taken care of business better than anyone in a league that’s overcrowded with the most intimidating environments in the sport.

    Saturday night in Death Valley? Auburn’s Jungle after dark? Texas A&M with the actual, physical structure of Kyle Field actually swaying?

    Alabama has been there, done that and won there and beyond.

    You can make a case that Alabama’s become a better road team than home team under Saban. Throw out 2007, his one-and-only rebuilding year, and 2008 and 2009, when the Crimson Tide ran the table home and away for two straight regular seasons, and do the math.

    Since the start of the 2010 season, Alabama is 14-3 in SEC games in Bryant-Denny Stadium – and it’s 13-3 in SEC games in hostile stadiums. During that same time period, Alabama’s enjoyed a perfect home record only once in 2013. It put together perfect road records in 2011 and 2012.

    The home-field advantage tends to evaporate when the Crimson Tide is the visiting team.

    Since losing 24-21 at LSU on Nov. 6, 2010, Alabama had won 12 straight true road games before it traveled to Auburn last season. To stop that streak, the Tigers had to stage a fourth-quarter comeback capped by the most amazing ending in college football history.

    Alabama’s longest home winning streak in that time? Its current 12-game run in Tuscaloosa.

    The trip to Ole Miss will be Alabama’s first true road game since the Mother of All Iron Bowls, and it’ll be the first truly hostile environment faced by starting quarterback Blake Sims. He and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin made their debut together in the loud but friendly Georgia Dome, but they haven’t tried to communicate yet in a place whose goal will be to shout them down and drown them out.

    Throw in the raw emotion of a packed house in Oxford yearning to witness history, along with the best defense Alabama has faced this season, and the Crimson Tide’s well-earned rep as a road warrior – which took a hit last Nov. 30 in Auburn – will be tested again.

    Alabama’s lost consecutive road games only once under Saban, at Mississippi State and at Auburn in 2007, his first season in Tuscaloosa. That happened before he built up the talent to handle tough opponents and the temperament to deal with tough environments.

    Good teams win at home. Great teams get it done on the road, too. Now’s the time and Oxford is the place for this Alabama team to take the next step from good to great.



    Thanks Ryan


    • Author

    Nick Saban’s teams are known for their defense, but Alabama’s offense has stolen the show in the early part of the season.

    It’s making for an even more complete Crimson Tide squad that No. 11 Ole Miss will see Saturday afternoon inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in a clash of Southeastern Conference West division unbeatens.

    Under first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin, the third-ranked Crimson Tide’s offense ranks among the SEC’s top five units in scoring offense (42 points), rushing offense (258 yards), passing offense (335 yards) and total offense (594 yards). Only Texas A&M is accumulating more total yards and throwing for more yards among league teams on a weekly basis.

    “They’re really starting to open it up now,” Ole Miss cornerback Mike Hilton said. “They’ve got some playmakers on the outside. They still want to be able to pound it, but they go to tempo and get the defense a little tired. They’re going to run it downhill and then take some shots.”

    The passing game has been prolific for the Tide (4-0), even with a first-year starting quarterback. Blake Sims beat out Florida State transfer Jacob Coker in the race to replace A.J. McCarron and hasn’t missed a beat, accounting for 308 yards of offense per game. His last time out, the fifth-year senior threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-21 victory over Florida. He was on a “pitch count” last week and the coaching staff said this week Sims in throwing a good ball after resting.

    Junior wideout Amari Cooper has been Sims’ go-to target. The 6-foot-1 speedster leads the SEC in receptions (43), yards (655) and touchdowns (5). He’s catching a whopping 163 yards worth of passes per game.

    With running backs T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake continuing to give Alabama the production it’s accustomed to on the ground, the Crimson Tide will provide the stiffest test yet for Ole Miss’ revamped defense.

    “They have a top 10 pick in T.J. Yeldon, who’s a really good running back,” defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. “They have Amari Cooper and other weapons. Blake Sims is doing really good. Nick Saban is behind it all, so you’ve just got to respect it.”

    Not that Alabama is expecting things to come easy against the Rebels (4-0).

    Ole Miss has been one of country’s more dominating defenses in the first month of the season. The Rebels are the SEC’s best in total defense (248 yards) and scoring defense (8.5 points) while trailing only LSU in pass defense (133 yards). They’ve pulled down nine interceptions, which is tied for second-best nationally, and have forced a turnover in 27 straight games.

    “Their defense is really, really aggressive and very fast,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It’s the best defensive team we’ve played all year. This is the best team we’ve played all year.”

    Ole Miss needs the same kind of defensive production this week if it wants a real shot to end a 10-game losing streak to Alabama.

    “If we go in there like we do every week and stay focused and keep our minds right and come out there and execute, we’ll be fine,” Nkemdiche said.

    NOTES: Alabama QB Blake Sims said he was helped by the bye week after injuring his shoulder against Florida and is ready to go. … Ole Miss starting CB Senquez Golson suffered a tight hamstring against Memphis and sat out most of the second half. His status for this weekend is uncertain. … Ole Miss Starting G Aaron Morris, RB Mark Dodson and LB Deterrian Shackelford suffered mild ankle sprains against the Tigers, but Freeze said he expects all three to be ready to go Saturday. … Ole Miss S Anthony Alford has left the team to pursue a career in pro baseball. Alford, a third-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012, was splitting punt return duties with freshman WR Markell Pack. Alford returned two punts for eight yards.

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