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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ole Miss Rebels Game Preview and Prediction

Bo Wallace

Bo Wallace

The epicenter of college football is focused on the state of Mississippi on Saturday, as Alabama travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss in a huge SEC West showdown. The Magnolia State features two key SEC West showdowns, but the Rebels-Crimson Tide matchup is arguably the game of the day in college football for Week 6.

Ole Miss has made steady gains under coach Hugh Freeze, and the momentum for the program is trending up. This preseason, the SEC West race was considered more open than in previous years, and a win over Alabama would place the Rebels squarely in the mix for the conference title and a spot in college football’s playoff. For Alabama, this game is the start of a difficult road stretch with four away games in their next five contests. The Crimson Tide has played like the best team in the nation at times this year. A huge win over Ole Miss would be enough for most to rank Alabama No. 1 on Sunday.

Alabama has won 10 in a row over Ole Miss. The Rebels’ last victory over the Crimson Tide was a 43-28 matchup in 2003. Alabama has won its last two meetings in Oxford by at least 19 points, including a 52-7 blowout in 2011.

Alabama at Ole Miss

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

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Spread: Alabama -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace

Which Bo Wallace will Ole Miss have on Saturday? Is it the good Dr. Bo? Or will the Rebels get the quarterback that tossed five interceptions in games against Memphis and Boise State? In his only SEC game this year, Wallace threw for 320 yards and one touchdown against Vanderbilt. Ole Miss needs a similar effort on Saturday, especially when it comes to keeping the zero in the turnover column. Wallace has no shortage of options in the passing game, starting with sophomore Laquon Treadwell (15.4 ypc) and continuing with Cody Core (16.3 ypc), Vince Sanders and a matchup nightmare at tight end Evan Engram. If Wallace can limit his mistakes, there will be opportunities to throw on Alabama. The biggest “question mark” on the Crimson Tide defense is the secondary, which allowed 365 yards to West Virginia in the opener. Eddie Jackson’s return adds more depth and talent to the defensive backfield, which held Florida to just 93 yards on nine completions in Week 4. Ole Miss will likely replicate West Virginia and Oklahoma’s gameplan for attacking the Crimson Tide’s secondary with tempo and quick passes, but Wallace has to avoid the big mistake and take his chances downfield when there are opportunities.


2. Alabama’s Rushing Offense

Ole Miss is allowing just 3.5 yards per carry and only one opponent (ULL) has recorded more than 135 yards on the ground this season. The Rebels have improved their depth and overall talent each year under coach Hugh Freeze, and the front seven is loaded with talent, depth and speed. Alabama’s offense will throw a lot of formations and different looks at Ole Miss, but the ground attack is still the focal point for coordinator Lane Kiffin. The Crimson Tide has recorded at least 190 rushing yards in every game this year. Running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon have combined for 604 yards and four scores this season, while quarterback Blake Sims has pitched in 141. In last year’s meeting, Alabama recorded 254 yards on 40 attempts. Stopping the Crimson Tide is more than just slowing the ground game, but Ole Miss needs to get Alabama’s offense in third-and-long situations. The Crimson Tide leads the SEC by converting 61.8 percent of their third-down attempts. The Rebels have to get Alabama out of its comfort zone on offense and force the Crimson Tide to throw to open up the ground game.


3. Stopping Amari Cooper

It’s clear Cooper has greatly benefited from the arrival of Lane Kiffin as Alabama’s play-caller. In four games, Cooper has 43 catches – almost as many as he had in 2013 (45). The junior is averaging 15.2 yards per catch and has five receiving scores over the last three games. The Ole Miss secondary will have its hands full against Cooper, but the Rebels have allowed only one passing score against 135 pass attempts this year. The secondary is also limiting opponents to a completion percentage of just 51.9. Senior Senquez Golson and junior Mike Hilton are tasked with slowing Cooper, but safety Cody Prewitt is also one of the league’s best and has 10 picks over the last four years. How will Ole Miss defend Cooper? Will the defense shade extra coverage in his direction? The Crimson Tide has other weapons in the passing game in Christion Jones and DeAndrew White, while tight end O.J. Howard has largely been absent in the stat column. If the Rebels cheat too much coverage in Cooper’s direction, Howard could have a huge day.


Final Analysis


This is arguably the biggest game for Ole Miss under Hugh Freeze. The SEC West is for the taking for the Rebels, as LSU is reloading, Auburn and Alabama suffered key personnel losses from 2013, and Texas A&M lost three first-round picks. Freeze has been slowly building Ole Miss into a West Division contender, and this team is worthy of a ranking among the top 10-15 teams in the nation. However, Alabama might be the No. 1 team in college football. Quarterback play is huge in this one, as Ole Miss needs a flawless effort from Bo Wallace, while Blake Sims will be pressed to continue his hot start to the season. If the Rebels slow the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack and win the turnover battle – combined with a raucous home crowd – the upset is there for Ole Miss to take. But beating Alabama requires a flawless effort in turnovers and penalties. The guess here is the Crimson Tide controls the pace of the game and wins in the fourth quarter.

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Prediction: Alabama 30, Ole Miss 20