Week 6 Preview: (3) Alabama vs. (11) Ole Miss

The weekend has finally come. That alone could be the preview for this Saturday’s matchup featuring the (AP Poll) 11th ranked Ole Miss Rebels and the third-ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama. Weeks before the season, October 4 was circled. If both took care of business, this contest had “College Gameday” stamped on it.

At a combined 8-0, it’s safe to say both teams have relatively breezed to this point of the season. Ole Miss, despite sloppy first halves against Boise State and Memphis, has still beaten their opponents by a combined score of 156-34.¬†Alabama hasn’t been letting teams hang around either, outscoring opponents 168-56.

While neither schedule has been a cake walk, the Rebels nor the Tide have faced a ranked opponent this year. This will be somewhat of a bar test for both teams. That said, I think it will be more interesting to see how Hugh Freeze, Bo Wallace, and the Rebels grade out.

As All-American safety Cody Prewitt pointed out, Alabama may not be as strong as their teams of the recent past. The Sims/Coker QB battle may have slowed down some progression, but even so, the Alabama offense is still putting up an incredibly impressive 42 points per game – which is saying something considering Saban isn’t one for hurrying up and down the field.

In fact, behind Blake Sims, the offense has been a part of the 12th most prolific passing attack in the nation registering 335.8 yards per game. It’s a pick-your-poison scenario with backs like Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon who are also putting up more than 250 yards a contest.

Though the numbers are gaudy, this Mississippi opponent won’t be the swinging gate defensively that Southern Miss was a few weekends ago against Alabama. The Eagles let up 52 points, which again, is more points than Ole Miss has given up all season. The “Landshark D” has actually given up a nation’s best two touchdowns all season.

Continuing on stats, the Ole Miss offense is capable of putting up numbers as well, but hasn’t strung together four good quarters against a formidable opponent (assuming Boise State and Memphis fall under that category). Bo Wallace has gotten more grief – a lot unwarranted – early this season than possibly any other time during his three year career, despite having his highest completion percentage of his career at 71%.

Wallace, using a loaded group of receivers, leads the aerial attack that is averaging just .3 yards less than Alabama per game (335.5), and has racked up 11 touchdowns on the year. His stats haven’t been the issue; the consistency has been. Notably, his six interceptions have been a cause for concern.

If Wallace will manage this game more than try to take it over, the Rebels could be in it. The shots to WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss’s response to Alabama’s Amari Cooper, will be there: take them, but don’t force plays against an Alabama team that won’t need the help. As high-powered as the offense may be, there is no sense of losing the game when the defense could win it.

That said, Hugh Freeze isn’t one to shy away offensively. The up-tempo Rebel offense, especially after Saban’s voiced he wasn’t the biggest, uh… “fan” of it last off-season, is always interesting to watch. If there were to be a “weak” part of the Tide’s defense, it would be the secondary. West Virginia’s Clint Trickett gained 365 yards through the air against the Tide in week one, with less weapons.

This game will have major implications in sorting out the SEC West’s victor come the season’s end, as will the contest going on a few hours earlier in Starkville on Saturday, where Mississippi State takes on Texas A&M. This is the biggest game to come to Oxford since David Cutcliffe and Eli Manning took a narrow loss to the Tigers in 2003. The story lines write themselves, which is why the crew of College Gameday won’t need much help coming up with talking points. If they do, the camera man could always pan out to some of the sundresses.

*Section Photo credit to Spruce Derden, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images



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