Photo courtesy of Alabama athletics
Two top contenders in the SEC West meet for a game with massive College Football Playoff implications on Saturday.
On top of that, both teams are led by Heisman Trophy contenders at quarterback. All eyes will be on Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday as No. 12 Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa to take on top-ranked Alabama.
If you like a lot of offense, this is a must-see game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET. The contest airs nationally on CBS.
Outside of a few brief stretches, this is a series that has been dominated by the Crimson Tide.
Ole Miss had recent success against the Tide with back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015.
Since then, the Tide have dominated the series. Alabama has won five straight and scored at least 59 points in each of the last four meetings.
Last year’s game was a shootout with the Crimson Tide winning, 63-48. This year’s contest has the potential to be even more competitive.
A year removed from another national championship, Alabama is shaping up to be one of the more dominant teams in the SEC.
Many were concerned about the quarterback production after Mac Jones left for the NFL. So far, Bryce Young has addressed those concerns. Through four games, Young has completed 88 of 122 passes for 1,124 yards.
He has also added 15 touchdowns compared to just one interception. Young has already emerged as an early Heisman candidate.
Alabama has been as dominant as anyone over the past two years. In fact, it has won 18 consecutive games and been mostly unchallenged. This is the best Ole Miss team since at least 2016.
We talked about Young and his performance so far, but Ole Miss’ Matt Corral has been just as efficient.
In three games, Corral has thrown for 997 yards and nine touchdowns. Corral has been the engine for the Rebels, but the rest of the offense has been elite when it comes making plays.
Jerrion Ealy and the Ole Miss running game have been one of the best in the country so far, averaging just under 300 yards per game. Pair that with elite wideouts like Dontario Drummond and Jonathan Mingo and Ole Miss has a potent offensive attack.
Head coach Lane Kiffin has the Rebels playing at a level not seen in Oxford in years. They’ll have a chance to shock the world on Saturday.
Keys to Victory
Alabama will be able to make plays through the air, but it will need more out of its running game to outscore the Rebels. The Crimson Tide will need guys like Brian Robinson and Jase McClellan to step up and take pressure off Young. Putting pressure on the young quarterback down the stretch would be huge for Ole Miss.
On defense, it is about containment. No matter what you scheme up, the Rebels will find a way to move the ball.
So what do the Crimson Tide need to do?
They need to keep the ball in front of them and force Corral and company to be methodical. As long as it is not get beat over the top, Alabama will have a chance in a game like this.
For Ole Miss, it needs to take care of the ball. So far, the Rebels have not dealt with many turnovers, but they’ll have a chance as long as they can protect the ball.
As said earlier, the Rebels are going to move the ball on Alabama. They just have to maximize possessions and take advantage of scoring opportunities.
Defensively, Ole Miss will have a chance if it can make Alabama 1-dimensional and force Young into long yardage situations. The one advantage that Ole Miss has over the Crimson Tide is that it is more balanced on offense. The Rebels need to keep it that way.
Most are picking the Crimson Tide and that is understandable. After all, Alabama has won 18 games in a row and is the reigning national champion.
Still, Ole Miss is a better team than usual. We knew coming into the season what the Rebels were capable of and so far, they have blown those expectations out of the water.
Alabama is a different monster, however. Young is putting up Heisman numbers and the Crimson Tide have rolled through almost everyone they have played. Still, this is a beatable team, and we saw that when Florida came dangerously close to knocking them off two weeks ago.
Ole Miss has what it takes to beat Alabama. In fact, don’t be shocked if it happens. Still, Nick Saban teams have always found a way to win games like these, and Alabama has the home-field advantage.
Ole Miss will lead at halftime, but in the second half, Saban and staff will show why they’re the best in the business.
Final: Alabama 44, Ole Miss 38
Other Predictions from Around the SEC
Arkansas 20, Georgia 31
Auburn 27, LSU 23
Tennessee 37, Missouri 30
Troy 21, South Carolina 28
Florida 34, Kentucky 24
Mississippi State 13, Texas A&M 27
Connecticut 14, Vanderbilt 28