Alabama football has weapons and Nick Saban, while Ole Miss has Matt Corral and Lane Kiffin's offensive mind | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Nick Saban did not say a word about Ole Miss on Saturday night  

What talking there has been in the last week has come from idle Ole Miss, and there has been little enough of that. None of it has gone beyond the reasonable bounds of a nationally ranked team with a fair shot at unseating No. 1.

What whispers there have been in Tuscaloosa, where Saban had to exert a strong hand to keep the focus on Southern Miss, have been more of an element of respect for Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. That’s partly because of what Kiffin has done since taking over in Oxford in 2020. Even more, it has been the offensive genius status bestowed on Kiffin in his years as Alabama’s offense coordinator. Last year’s game against Ole Miss was a lot of fun, especially on offense, but it would be a rare Crimson Tide fan who considered the 63-48 victory “fun.” 

Saban's focus has been on Alabama.

"I see progress being made,” Saban said after the USM win. “I see improvement. I think we just need to continue to improve on that.

“We played better on offense,” he added. “I still think there's some third-down situations we need to clean up and get better at."

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Kiffin, with no game this Saturday, was more verbose on the SEC Wednesday teleconfence.

"They have a great team, great players," said Kiffin of Alabama. 

Kiffin mentioned how he marvels at how well Saban recruits college players as well as high school players. Jameson Williams, with his two kickoff returns for scores, proved that point with a vengeance. Perhaps Ole Miss doesn’t have that sort of speed across the board, but Kiffin can isolate mismatches and take advantage of the weapons he has. That’s especially true when Rebels quarterback Matt Corral, coming into what should be a matchup of the top two early Heisman contenders, is on his A-game.

For Williams, sheer speed was enough.

“My strategy every time I get the ball is like I’m trying to go to the crib, no matter what play or what catch, I’m trying to go to the crib,” he said.

Sep 11, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Technically, Alabama has no crib, but knowing AD Greg Byrne, one will be constructed by Monday afternoon, large enough to accommodate both Williams and Jo Jo Earle if necessary. Maybe Roydell Williams, too. To include Jahleel Billingsley might break Byrne’s crib budget, at last until the Texas money start flowing like a gusher in the Permian Basin.

Alabama didn’t need all its weapons against Southern Miss. But next weekend it will be more than happy to have them

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports,com or via Twitter @cecilhurt