Ole Miss at No. 2 Alabama
When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Records: Alabama 4-0, 1-0 SEC; Ole Miss 2-2, 1-0 SEC
Radio: 95.3 FM, 102.9 FM
By Edwin Stanton
Alabama’s scoring machine looks to continue its torrid pace, averaging 371 yards and four touchdowns per game. A different receiver gets involved each week. It was Henry Ruggs III last week. Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith or maybe Jaylen Waddle has the hot hands Saturday.
Despite losing experienced starters throughout the young season, Alabama is still No. 24 overall in total defense with guys like Christian Harris and Shane Lee stepping up. Ole Miss is No. 71 and just doesn’t have the pass defense it needs to be competitive.
Alabama is 13th in the SEC in punting while Ole Miss is No. 3. Luke Logan has the slight edge for Ole Miss with field goals, connecting on four between 30-39 yards. Jaylen Waddle gives Alabama a boost, averaging 17 yards per punt return.
With all the shuffling going on, you have to give credit for Alabama defensive line coach Brian Baker credit for keeping the unit together. Ole Miss coach Matt Luke is in his third year in Oxford trying to give stability to a program that’s gone through some tough times for a long time.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Ole Miss has come into Bryant-Denny Stadium before (2015) and pulled off the upset. Also, the Rebels do have a small advantage with having two freshmen quarterbacks available, which could throw Alabama for a loop.
Alabama 56, Ole Miss 13
No one has figured out how to stop Alabama’s offense yet and don’t expect the Rebels to have figured it out by Saturday. With this being an SEC matchup you can expect it to be a tough matchup early, but a four-quarter game? Alabama pulls away for the rout in this one. If it was a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, maybe Ole Miss might have a chance.
Ole Miss 10
The Rebels are unsure if starting quarterback Matt Corral will be able to play in this one, which would make true freshman John Rhys Plumlee his replacement. It shouldn’t matter in this one. The Tide’s passing attack is currently second in the country and the Rebels’ pass defense is near the bottom. This one might approach last year’s 55 point Bama victory in Oxford.
Ole Miss 6
We already know how good Alabama’s wide receivers are as football players, and we will soon find out how good they are at rock paper scissors. The touchdown total from this game will be the indicator.
Ole Miss 17
I based Alabama’s score on one half of the likely heat index at kickoff. I based the Ole Miss score on a blind optimism that a quarterback named John Rhys Plumlee will have a big day and go on to play Laertes in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Hamlet.”
Ole Miss 10
Alabama has dominated this matchup the last two years, outscoring the Rebels 128-10 and winning each game by an average of 58.5 points.
While the Crimson Tide might not win by that much on Saturday, it still won’t be pretty for the Rebels
Ole Miss 9
The Crimson Tide lets up a bit this year after scoring 66 and 62 on the Rebels the last two years. Ole Miss says its defense is much improved, having switched to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Mike MacIntyre, but I’m not a believer yet. Losing its top three NFL receivers to the NFL will be tough to overcome
Ole Miss 7
The Rebels defense does not have the speed to keep up with Alabama. I expect the Crimson Tide receivers to have a big day again to help make it three consecutive years Ole Miss has given up 60 points to Alabama.
Ole Miss 17
Tua Tagovailoa and the elite corps of wide receivers have been imposing their will on opponents. Expect another solid outing from the explosive unit, while the young Crimson Tide defense continues to develop and work through injuries.
Ole Miss 10
Much like the last two matchups between these teams, I just don’t see this one being super competitive. Alabama will score more than 60 points against Ole Miss for the third straight year on the way to another victory.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Carey Reeder
Key Stat: Converted 75 of 81 extra points and 14 of 18 field goals last season
Buzz: Following starting kicker Will Reichard’s injury last week against Southern Miss, Bulovas took over the kicking duties and converted all five extra point attempts. Bulovas is expected to start Saturday as coach Nick Saban said they “need to get it right now,” speaking on Reichard’s injury, so it does not hinder him the rest of the season.
Position: Defensive back
Key Stat: Made 18 tackles in 2018; has 16 tackles through the first four games of 2019
Buzz: After making his first career start at safety against Duke, Mayden has capitalized on the opportunity after waiting his turn in previous years. The senior made a team-high eight tackles against Southern Miss last week and is UA’s sixth-leading tackler. Mayden has established himself as a key component in a deep secondary that hopes to continue their good form against Ole Miss.
Position: Offensive line
Key Stat: No. 4 overall player in the ESPN300 in 2018
Buzz: After winning the starting left tackle job in fall camp, Neal has started all four games this season. The biggest offensive lineman on the Crimson Tide roster, Neal has helped stabilize the front after some shaky moments earlier in the season. With a team that loves to run between the tackles as much as Alabama does, Neal will be important to the running game and for the rest of the season.
Position: Running back
Key Stat: Rushed for 362 yards and four touchdowns; preseason Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch list
Buzz: After a stellar showing in his first SEC game of the season, Phillips hopes to have the same production Saturday. The senior rushed for 44 yards on 12 carries against the Crimson Tide last season. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral’s ability to run paired with the explosiveness of Phillips and the injuries on the Alabama defensive front has all the making for a great battle in the trenches.
Position: Defensive line
Key Stat: 2019 preseason All-SEC second team according to Lindy’s; 13 tackles and one interception this season
Buzz: The highest rated NFL prospect for the Rebels, Jones is the one of only three players to start every game for Ole Miss last season. Jones’ nine tackles for loss and three sacks last season were second-leading on the team. A Rebel defense that finished 114-out-of-130 teams in division I in total defense last season, Jones’ decision to return for his senior season was welcome with open arms.
Position: Defensive back
Key Stat: Has 23 tackles and four pass breakups through four games
Buzz: It seems like every week a cornerback on the opposing defense is a player to watch; but with good reason. The Alabama receivers have yet to be slowed down this season and Julius will attempt to help the Ole Miss defense change that Saturday. The 2016 SEC All-Freshman second-team selection is tied for the most tackles on the defense (23) and will lead a rather experienced Rebel defensive secondary into Tuscaloosa.