SEC Showdown Preview: No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss
On Saturday, one of the biggest games of the 2014 college football season will take place in Oxford, Mississippi. The number three Alabama Crimson Tide travel to Ole Miss to face the number 11 Rebels in what will be the biggest game in Ole Miss’ history.
This game was circled all summer as a potentially groundbreaking game for Ole Miss if they were able to take care of business in their first four games. The Rebels didn’t let the fans down this year and took care of business to set up a historic game in Oxford.
The Alabama Crimson Tide enters this game at 4-0 as well, but question marks continue to surround this team. The Tide are always one of the nation’s most discussed teams because of their historic past. This year has been no different, but who is the real Alabama is the question so many want to know.
When they travel to Mississippi this Saturday we will find out who exactly this year’s Crimson Tide are and if they are national title worthy. The quarterback discussion has been the biggest question mark for Alabama, but Blake Sims has proved, to this point, to be the answer at quarterback.
So, as we dig deeper into this matchup on Saturday what will be the key things to look for? The Ole Miss Rebels, unlike most years in the past, have depth at crucial positions. They have a starting defense that looks the part of an SEC team and an offense that has the ability to score on SEC defenses.
This is a change from past seasons, but also they are able to rotate talented players in and out the lineup throughout the game. This is to the credit of Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze who has done a masterful job recruiting the past three years.
The Rebels have the talent this year to actually be taken seriously in a contest like this, whereas in the past it was more of a wishful thinking thing for Ole Miss.
The one important thing Ole Miss must do in this game is challenge Alabama down field. The Rebels have a wide open offense that has given Alabama problems in the past. So many teams try to beat Alabama going side line to side line and that is not the way to go. If you want to beat Alabama you have to throw the ball vertically down the field.
Ole Miss has the athletes to do this on a consistent basis and it all starts with their quarterback Bo Wallace. Wallace has some threats at the wide receiver position, led by the standout Laquon Treadwell, which can challenge the Alabama defensive backs.
Alabama will have to get pressure on Wallace and prevent this Ole Miss offense from getting into a groove in The Grove. If the Crimson Tide have a difficult time slowing down the passing game then Ole Miss has a real shot at winning on Saturday.
On the other side I feel Alabama will look to run the ball much more than the first four weeks. Alabama quarterback Sims has yet to play a true road game and the way he responds to this challenge will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
I feel Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will look to utilize the running game, led by T.J. Yeldon, more in this game. This will open up the play action pass for Sims and standout receiver Amari Cooper.
The Ole Miss defensive backs must stay with Cooper at all times and do not allow him to run free like he was able to do against Florida earlier this season. The Rebels feel they would be better suited for a shootout style game with Alabama, but I feel that could be dangerous because of how free flowing the Alabama offense could turn out being in that style of game.
The X-factor in this game is the home field for Ole Miss. I am a big believer in home field playing a big role in these types of games. As I mentioned earlier, this is the biggest game in Ole Miss’ history. The crowd will be through the roof and to add on the hype, ESPN’s College Gameday will be doing their morning pregame show from The Grove.
So, in conclusion my prediction for this game is I see Alabama finding a way to win 34-27. I am a believer that Ole Miss will be ready for this game, but I have to see them win a big game before I am willing to consider them a real threat in the SEC West this season.
Their rivals Mississippi State were able to make a statement by beating LSU in Death Valley, so now it’s the Rebels turn to try and match that feat. I believe Ole Miss can very easily win this game, but it’s a type of won’t believe it until it happens type of thing.
Alabama finds a way to win behind a strong performance in the running game and pulls out a tough win on the road in Oxford, Mississippi. Alabama wins 34-27 and continues their road to winning the SEC West in 2014.