Ole Miss (3-1) at (1) Alabama (4-0)
Saturday, September 29, 9:15 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide get back to work in SEC play
when they welcome the Ole Miss Rebels to Tuscaloosa this weekend for a
showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The defending national champions once again look like the team to beat, as
they have run through the competition in 2012. The team has routed a pair of
then top-25 foes with easy wins over Michigan (41-14) and Arkansas (52-0) and
have treated Western Kentucky (35-0) and most recently Florida Atlantic (40-7)
with equal disdain. Following this contest, Nick Saban's squad will enjoy a
bye, then hit the road for back-to-back games at Missouri and at Tennessee.
Hugh Freeze's first season in Oxford has gotten off rather well. The Rebels
opened the campaign with a 49-27 win over Central Arkansas, followed by a
28-10 victory over UTEP. Ole Miss closed out a three-game homestand against
nationally-ranked Texas, but in front of the largest non-conference crowd in
school history, the Rebels were no match for the Longhorns, suffering a 66-31
loss. The team hit the road for the first time last weekend and gained back a
little momentum with a 39-0 shutout of Tulane in New Orleans. At 3-1, the
Rebels have already eclipsed last season's win total.
This marks the 60th all-time meeting between these two programs, with Alabama
holding a sizable 48-9-2 series advantage. Ole Miss have not posted a win in
this series since 2003.
Ole Miss shouldn't be taken lightly, as the team possesses a potent offense
with great balance. The Rebels are netting a hefty 488.0 yards per game,
averaging well over 200 yards both on the ground (259.8 ypg) and through the
air (228.2 ypg).
Playmakers abound on this side of the football for Ole Miss, starting with
quarterback Bo Wallace. The sophomore has completed just 55-of-86 pass
attempts this season, for 717 yards, with seven TDs, while ranking second on
the team in rushing with 179 yards and two more scores. Junior QB Barry
Brunetti has played in all four games as well and ranks fourth on the team in
rushing (153 yards). He has also completed 15-off-21 passes, for 162 yards and
Junior tailback Jeff Scott missed the opener and has only carried the ball 31
times on the year, but has certainly made the most of it, averaging 8.6 yards
per carry, leading the team with 268 yards and three TDs.
Despite the success on the ground, Freeze would like to see more balance on
"We want to be close to 50-50," said Freeze. "We're probably skewed a little
bit right now towards the rush. We've been in some games where we're able to
take control of the game, in three of them, and not have to throw as much.
Hopefully as we get into league play it will be more balanced."
The receiving corps is highlighted by the big-play potential of sophomore
Donte Moncrief, who has 19 receptions, for 343 yards (18.1 ypc) and four TDs.
The Rebels' up-tempo style on offense is a reason for concern according to
"Ole Miss is really a much improved team. The offensive numbers that they've
been able to put up against everyone that they've played have been very
impressive," said Saban. "They've got some really good skilled players. Bo
Wallace has done a good job for them at quarterback. Barry Brunetti comes in
sometimes. Two quarterback system, no-huddle, fast, really run the ball
effectively with all the zone read options, quarterback runs, have some good
skilled guys that can make plays in the passing game."
The Ole Miss defense got a little satisfaction out of shutting out the Green
Wave last week after getting torched for 66 points a week earlier to Texas.
The Rebels allowed a mere 159 total yards of offense by Tulane in the game and
were extremely stingy against the run (-14 yards).
The Ole Miss defense has been active upfield, recording 26 TFLs and 12 sacks.
The team has also registered seven turnovers, including five interceptions,
three of which came against Tulane.
Junior middle linebacker Mike Marry leads the team in tackles with 22 stops,
followed closely by freshman Denzel Nkemdiche's 21. Nkemdiche leads the squad
in TFLs (3.0), with one sack and one interception to his credit.
With 21 players still on the roster that played on both the 2009 and 2011
national champion squads, is it really a surprise that Alabama has dominated
in the fashion it has early on?
Quarterback A.J. McCarron has been the perfect field general for this team.
WIth his 25 pass attempts against Florida Atlantic without an interception,
McCarron ranks second now in school history with 176 consecutive passes
without a pick and he is creeping up on Brodie Croyle's school record (190).
On the season, McCarron has completed 63 percent of his throws, for 819 yards,
with 10 TDs and no interceptions.
The ground game is still the preferred mode of travel for Alabama and despite
not having a workhorse like Trent Richardson to rely on this season, the team
is still finding a way to average just over 200 yards rushing per contest
(204.0). It has been a stable of serviceable backs getting the job done,
highlighted by freshman T.J. Yeldon (254 yards, 6.3 ypc, two TDs) and Eddie
Lacy (232 yards, 5.2 ypc, four TDs).
Alabama has dominated on the defensive side of the ball for some time now and
2012 is no different. The Crimson Tide have rolled over the competition,
yielding a mere 5.2 ppg (second nationally), while shutting down both the run
(62.2 ypg) and the pass (122.8 ypg) to rank third nationally in total defense
(185.0 ypg). In four games, the Tide have amassed 26 TFLs, 11 sacks and forced
Despite the loss of a couple of All-Americans on defense, Alabama's revolving
door of talent has not missed a beat. Linebacker C.J. Mosley currently leads
the team in tackles with 29, with 1.5 sacks, one interception (returned for a
TD) and one forced fumble. Fellow LBs Nico Johnson (20 tackles, one forced
fumble) and Trey DePriest (15 tackles) follow in terms of overall stops.
Saban has been impressed with Mosley's play thus far.
"C.J. does a really good job. He's very athletic, fast, very instinctive and
is really a play-maker type of guy," said Saban. "He's learned since he's been
here to fit the run a little bit better, does a good job in that regard, he's
gotten a little bit bigger and a little stronger. He's always been a really
good athlete and a space player so, with all the spread-out formations that we
have played against to this point he's had a lot of opportunities to make
plays, and he's made a lot plays."
Ole Miss is seeking to end an eight-game losing streak in SEC openers and is
0-8 all-time against the top-ranked team in the land. Both skeins are likely
to continue here, as Alabama seems to actually be getting stronger as the
season wears on.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 44, Ole Miss 10
09/27 07:12:46 ET
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