The Alabama Crimson Tide – Ole Miss Rebels series is one of the most lopsided in the SEC with the Tide holding a 47-9-2 advantage (with NCAA sanctions included). The last time the Rebels defeated the Tide on the field, Eli Manning was quarterback.
Needless to say, the Rebels must stop the bleeding in this series to turn the corner as a program.
Salve for the wound may come this season in Oxford when Alabama comes to town on Oct. 4. The Rebels have pieced together a talented team that went through the ups and downs last season, going 8-5 and winning the Music City Bowl over Georgia Tech. The Rebels look to carry that momentum into 2014 and finally make a push to get to Atlanta.
Ole Miss returns quarterback Bo Wallace and a strong offensive line that can match Alabama’s toughness at the line of scrimmage. Wallace has not had much luck against Alabama defenses in the past, but this version of the Tide will have a whole slew of new starters in just their fifth game in a hostile environment. There will be no C.J. Mosley, Jeoffrey Pagan or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to step in and save them.
If Wallace can take advantage and find Laquon Treadwell on a couple of deep balls early to get the crowd into a frenzy, this could spell trouble for Alabama. The Tide secondary is a big question mark right now, and this group could experience some serious growing pains in Oxford with Treadwell’s physical play and sure hands.
Other than Treadwell, All-SEC tight end Evan Engram is healthy and his presence on third-and-long and red zone situations will be crucial. If the offensive line can give Wallace time to find his targets and sustain drives with the running game, the Rebels will find the end zone often. Judging by the fact that Ole Miss has averaged less than seven points per game in their last five games against Alabama, this would be a massive improvement.
Alabama will also be breaking in a new quarterback in 2014. The spring game did very little to settle the controversy as to who that new quarterback will be. No matter who it is, the talent-laden Ole Miss defense will be looking to create havoc with All-American safety Cody Prewitt and All-SEC linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant patrolling the perimeter.
The Tide averaged 31 points per game against the Rebels in the past five meetings, and they still have the offensive firepower at the running back and receiver positions to rack up those type of numbers. T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper are three of the best players in the conference, and if the offensive line provides protection, Alabama can bully their way into the end zone. Nothing about the Tide offense is finesse.
However, Ole Miss has the experience on defense to contend with Alabama’s power game. If the Rebels can apply pressure and confuse the new quarterback with blitz packages, game-changing turnovers could follow. Once the crowd gets lively and momentum swings directly in the Rebels’ favor, Alabama no longer has the reliable game manager to pull them out of the fire. It will be interesting to see if Prewitt, who led the conference with six interceptions last season, can take advantage of any wayward passes downfield.
Alabama replaced so much talent and Ole Miss retained most of their starters on both sides of the ball. The game is in Oxford and Ole Miss has a relatively easy schedule before Oct. 4. Conversely, Alabama has to play West Virginia and Florida before they come to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. A team full of question marks versus a team with answers: Can Ole Miss take advantage and end the streak of futility?
They better if they ever want to see the Georgia Dome.