By Tommy Deas
Alabama has been explosive, scoring 54 points per game, but the Rebels are averaging 61.5 points. Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu is a playmaker with a big arm. Alabama needs to get its ground game going now that SEC play is starting.
The Rebels rank dead last in the SEC in scoring and total defense. Alabama isn’t as stout as in the past, but still allows just 10.5 points per game. Isaiah Buggs and the guys up front will be turned loose on pass rush.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Ole Miss hasn’t missed a field goal. Alabama can’t say the same, and has missed three extra points so far. Joseph Bulovas may be the answer, and UA is strong in the return game. Ole Miss is explosive on kickoff returns.
The Crimson Tide has two new coordinators, including Tosh Lupoi on defense, but the machine keeps rolling under Nick Saban, college football’s apex predator. Ole Miss is working through difficult times, and Matt Luke has kept the Rebels together in his second season.
Ole Miss beat Alabama twice in a row in 2014 and ’15, the only such instance in a rivalry that dates back to the 1890s, and came close to extending it to three in a row. Alabama turned things back around, winning by 63 last year.
Alabama 49, Ole Miss 21
This looks like it could be a shootout, but Alabama has far too much ammunition for it to stay close. This might not be a vintage Nick Saban defense, at least not yet, but the Crimson Tide is more equipped to make stops than Ole Miss.
Alabama 51, Ole Miss 17
Two thoughts heading into this game. One, Ole Miss’ Landshark Tony is what nightmares are made of, and two, Alabama, facing its toughest challenge yet, begins SEC play with a dominant win to set the tone for the rest of the season.
Alabama 62, Ole Miss 27
Could this be a reprise of Alabama’s most stunning offensive day ever, with the Crimson Tide scoring 62 unanswered points in one stretch in Jackson in 1989? Perhaps. Could it be a repeat of 1988, when UA completed zero passes against the Rebels? No.
Alabama 52, Ole Miss 24
What are the odds two Hawaiian quarterbacks would face off against each other in Mississippi? The Ole Miss defense won’t be able to stop Alabama, but the Rebel offense will ensure that the Crimson Tide has to keep putting points up.
Alabama 48, Ole Miss 24
The Crimson Tide gets into SEC play. Ole Miss has an explosive offense and has shown it can put up big numbers. Alabama’s defense will have to play as a solid unit. This game will be a good measuring stick for Alabama.
Alabama 62, Ole Miss 21
The final score may resemble what happened in 1989, but the biggest difference is Alabama will not fall behind 21-0 in the first quarter. Behind the arm of Tua Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide receiving corp has become a lethal unit.
Alabama 49, Ole Miss 21
Jordan Ta’amu and Ole Miss’ receivers will provide Alabama’s defense with its most challenging test yet. Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide won’t let Ole Miss even sniff the kind of offensive success it had in its first two outings. With Tua distributing the ball like he has been, Alabama’s receivers will make their own case for best in the nation.
Alabama 61, Ole Miss 21
Ole Miss certainly has the offense to make this game intriguing. Its defense? Not so much. You can’t allow 557 yards per game and expect to be successful. With Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback and Alabama’s super sophomore trio receiving corps this one could get ugly.
Alabama 52, Ole Miss 24
Unlike the Rebels’ last game, it’s going to take both teams to total 76 points. Ole Miss and its “Nasty Wide Outs” will get a couple touchdowns past Alabama’s secondary, but it won’t be nearly as many as what the Crimson Tide is capable of with Tua Tagovailoa.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Ben Stansell
Xavier McKinney, Soph./S, 6-1/198
Key Stat: Career-high seven tackles against Arkansas State
Buzz: McKinney almost had his first career pick-six against the Red Wolves, but the ball slipped out of his hands. McKinney has shown the ability to cover and make tackles at a high level. Facing an Ole Miss receiving corps this weekend that some have called the nation’s best, McKinney will need to have another strong outing.
Jerry Jeudy, Soph./WR, 6-1/192
Key Stat: Four of his eight catches went for touchdowns
Buzz: After showing flashes as a freshman, Jeudy is having the breakout sophomore campaign many expected. He’s secured eight passes for 151 yards through two games. With Ole Miss’ top cornerback Jaylon Jones out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, Jeudy could post impressive numbers again in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Raekwon Davis, Junior/DL, 6-7/316
Key Stat: Totaled eight sacks last season< Buzz: Davis has yet to record a sack this year, but it’s only a matter of time before the behemoth lineman brings down an opposing quarterback. He’s totaled six tackles in two outings. The Crimson Tide will need Davis and the rest of the defensive line to disrupt Ole Miss’ high-powered passing attack by supplying pressure on quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
Jordan Ta’amu, Senior/QB, 6-2/210
Key Stat: Seven touchdown passes in 65 attempts
Buzz: Since taking over for Shea Patterson over halfway through last season, Ta’amu has been spectacular for Ole Miss. After amassing 1,682 yards through the air in just seven games, Ta’amu has picked up right where he left off in 2018. He’s thrown for a combined 784 yards while completing 67.2 percent of his passes in two games.
D.K. Metcalf, Soph./WR, 6-4/230
Key Stat: Averaged 16.6 yards per reception in 2017
Buzz: While Metcalf comprises one-third of Ole Miss’ talented receiving corps, which has dubbed itself the “Nasty Wide Outs,” he could see an increase in targets Saturday night if Alabama tries to shut down leading receiver AJ Brown. Metcalf caught 39 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
Scottie Phillips, Junior/RB, 5-11/211
Key Stat: 311 combined rushing yards in two games
Buzz: Ole Miss has witnessed a revival in its ground game and Phillips has been a major reason why. A JUCO transfer who joined the Rebels in the spring, Phillips ran for 1,070 yards and 13 touchdowns at Jones County Junior College last fall. How Ole Miss’ rushing attack fares against Alabama’s defense could be a deciding factor.