This is a matchup I have had circled since the summer. I took a piece of Ole Miss to win the SEC and to win the National Championship in the futures market because I believed this team could go to Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama. Matt Corral is currently the Heisman favorite and this Ole Miss offense is playing up to the incredibly high bar set for them entering this season- the Rebs are currently averaging 635.3 YPG, the best in all of college football, the second-best team (Ohio State) is averaging 559.2 YPG, a whole 76.1 yards less than the Rebs. Ole Miss is also #1 in the country in scoring offense with 52.7 PPG. They are incredibly explosive and are in the top-10 in both yards per rush and yards per pass. I could go on and on about Ole Miss’ offense but I don’t think many people doubt them, it comes down to how Ole Miss will play defensively against Alabama’s offense. Ole Miss is off a bye which should help out their defense a lot with the extra week of film prep.
Alabama is a very interesting team this year. They are the #1 ranked team in the country but I wouldn’t say they’ve been the most impressive team in the country. They dominated Miami Week One but that win has looked less impressive as Miami barely beat App State and were also blown out by Michigan State. They played two cupcake opponents in Mercer and Southern Miss so you can’t take much from either of those games. Then they played Florida on the road and barely escaped with a 2 point win despite Florida QB Emory Jones not doing much of anything. Alabama deserves their #1 rankings for sure as the reigning national champs who have yet to lose a game but I don’t think this group is even close to the same level as the 2020 Crimson Tide. Bryce Young has impressed me so far this year, especially in his first SEC road trip to Gainesville, but the Bama offense has definitely been missing the big explosive plays we saw last year. Young only averaged 6.85 YPA against Florida and their rushing game had been average at best. They are 66th nationally in rushing yards per game and 48th in yards per rush attempt. This Bama offensive line just isn’t quite the same as last year’s unit and Najee Harris ain’t walking through that door. Last year Alabama ran for over 300 yards in this matchup and I don’t think they are capable of that type of performance on the ground this year.
Ole Miss’ defense was their big question mark entering this season in a unit that returned a lot and was hoping to improve in year 2 under DJ Durkin. No one expects them to be world beaters but when you have the nation’s best offense, you just need to be able to pick up a few stops. So far the Rebs’ D has done just that. Week One they shutout Louisville in the first half and took their foot off the gas late because their offense had already taken care of business but overall they looked really impressive against a Cards’ offense that has since averaged 34 PPG in their 3 games after facing Ole Miss and gone 3-0 in those games. In the Rebs’ other FBS matchup they held Tulane to 21 points and Tulane had put up 35 on Oklahoma and 69 on Morgan State the two weeks prior to them playing. Tulane QB Michael Pratt had 297 yards passing against Oklahoma and just 166 against Ole Miss. I think this unit is definitely improved and ranks a respectable 50th in the nation in yards per play allowed (Bama’s D ranks 40th for perspective).
We have already seen the once “untouchables” of college football drop games this year (Ohio State, Clemson x2) and some really poor performances from teams like Notre Dame and Oklahoma that are also perennial playoff contenders. I think the extra year of eligibility really hurt these major programs that sent a ton of guys to the NFL while the middle of the road to pretty good teams from last season got to return almost all of their talent. Bama has been the one team from that group to not really struggle this year but I think this could be the spot that they really struggle with. Ole Miss played last year’s Alabama team (which is one of the best CFB teams ever) more competitive than any team in the country other than Florida in the SEC Championship Game. That game was decided by only 15 points and that was with Bama pulling away late in a game that was neck-and-neck the whole way until the final few minutes. I think from that matchup last year, Ole Miss has improved on both sides of the ball (particularly defensively) while Bama has taken a step back on both sides of the ball. It wasn’t that long ago that Swag Kelly walked into Tuscaloosa and left with a win. Lane Kiffin and Matt Corral are poised to go into Tuscaloosa and compete from the first whistle and I think they’ll have a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter.