Why Ole Miss can and can't beat Alabama football in November
Ole Miss is certainly going to look different when Alabama football arrives in November.
Such is the nature of having the "Portal King" leading your program.
Lane Kiffin's roster has undergone an overhaul in the transfer portal this offseason, and the coaching staff also experienced turnover. The Rebels added 17 transfers in the portal this offseason, ranked No. 2 by 247Sports behind No. 1 USC, who added 20. Meanwhile, all three coordinators left, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby (Oklahoma), defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin (Texas A&M) and special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler (Alabama).
The changes will likely lead to some bumps early in the season, but the Rebels don't have to face the Crimson Tide until November.
By that point, Ole Miss might have shown that the roster turnover led to a clear step back from 2021. Or, it could be a well-oiled machine set for a clash with the Crimson Tide.
Throughout the summer, The Tuscaloosa News is looking at each Alabama opponent that has a shot, even if it's slim, to defeat the Crimson Tide. Sorry, Vanderbilt.
Next up are the Rebels, who will welcome Alabama to Oxford on Nov. 12. Here's what Ole Miss does and doesn't have going for it against the Crimson Tide.
Why Ole Miss can win
Ole Miss' top three rushers are gone, but the Rebels should still be in great shape on the ground.
Ole Miss added the No. 8 transfer per 247 in TCU running back Zach Evans. The former five-star prospect back rushed for 648 yards in only six games this past season, averaging seven yards per carry. The Rebels also picked up SMU's Ulysses Bentley IV who turned 96 carries into 610 yards and four scores in 2021.
The Rebels will pair those backs with an offensive line that returns four starters.
Alabama will need to be sound in its run defense.
There's obviously the familiarity factor. Kiffin, a former Alabama offensive coordinator, knows the Crimson Tide well and came close to beating Saban's team in 2020 in a game that stayed close late into the fourth quarter. Kiffin's Rebels managed to put up 48 points in that matchup.
Also, Kiffin's creativity and overall aggressiveness could prove problematic for Alabama. His enthusiasm for going for it on fourth downs proved detrimental against Alabama in 2021, but if Ole Miss finds a way to win, it will likely be because of Kiffin's willingness to be unconventional and take risks.
Why Ole Miss can't win
Ole Miss has a significant void to fill with quarterback Matt Corral off to the NFL.
He was a threat via the pass and run as he finished the year with 20 passing TDs and 11 rushing TDs. His 3,339 passing yards ranked 15th in the nation.
The Rebels increased their chances of having success at the position by adding USC transfer Jaxson Dart to combine with Luke Altmyer. Whoever starts, perhaps he turns out to be quite good. It's going to be difficult for either to be at Corral's level.
Even if they are, Corral struggled to keep Ole Miss competitive with the Crimson Tide in 2021. He threw for 213 yards with a passing and rushing touchdown in the 42-21 loss.
How effective will Ole Miss pass rush be?
It's well documented that to slow Bryce Young, a pass rush is needed.
The only games Alabama lost in 2021, the opposing team sacked Young at least four times. In close wins, that was usually the case, too. Auburn got to Young seven times, and Alabama escaped in the fourth overtime.
Whether Ole Miss can pressure Young remains to be seen. The Rebels lost Sam Williams to the NFL Draft after a season in which he tallied 12.5 sacks.
Perhaps Cedric Johnson picks up the slack, but Ole Miss' pass rush might not be much of a threat if Alabama's offensive line meshes by the time November arrives.
If 2021 is any indication, the Rebels will need to be able to get after Young if they hope to beat Alabama.
Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly