Crimson Tide look to keep things rolling at home against Rebels
Alabama returns to SEC play Saturday against an Ole Miss team that had a shot at knocking off a ranked opponent last week but came up short. The Crimson Tide are 4-0 after a 49-7 drubbing of Southern Miss at home and are looking to improve to 2-0 in the SEC. Alabama had no trouble with South Carolina on the road two weeks ago, winning 47-23 as the Tide are top 10 in the nation in total, scoring and passing offense and have won their four games by a combined 157 points.
The Rebels are 2-2 following their 28-20 home loss to No. 15 Cal. Ole Miss had a chance to potentially tie the game late, but the Golden Bears made a stop at the goal line on the final play to deny the Rebels. Ole Miss does have a conference victory in hand, having defeated Arkansas 31-17 three weeks ago.
Since Ole Miss upset Alabama in back-to-back years (2014, '15) and helped stage an instant classic in '16, the Crimson Tide have reclaimed control of this series in dominating fashion. Alabama has outscored Ole Miss 128-10 in the last two meetings of this SEC West rivalry.
Ole Miss at Alabama
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Alabama -38
When Alabama Has the Ball
Running back Najee Harris eclipsed the 100-yard mark last week for the first time in 2019 as the junior finished with 110 yards on just 14 carries against Southern Miss. Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would love to see that trend continue, and get Brian Robinson going as well. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should continue to put up mesmerizing numbers against the Rebels. Tagovailoa has thrown for 1,300 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first four games. Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs should continue to be his featured targets in the passing game as the wide receiver duo has combined for 46 catches for 754 yards and 10 touchdowns so far.
Although improved from last year, Ole Miss is still a work in progress on defense. The Rebels have done a good job against the run (94.8 ypg, fourth in the SEC), but have been more susceptible through the air (288.5 ypg). That's not ideal when it comes to facing an offense that has carved opponents up with its passing game.
When Ole Miss Has the Ball
For the Rebels, the biggest question mark entering this game is the health of starting quarterback Matt Corral. The redshirt freshman injured his ribs in the fourth quarter of last week's game and was replaced by John Rhys Plumlee. Head coach Matt Luke said on Monday that Corral was dealing with bruised ribs and is considered "day-to-day." If he's unable to go, Plumlee, who completed all seven of his pass attempts and ran for 53 yards in less than a quarter against the Golden Bears, will likely get the start.
Whoever is at quarterback will need to lean on senior running back Scottie Phillips to try and loosen up Alabama's defense. Phillips is sixth in the SEC with 362 rushing yards and has been a workhorse, posting 85 carries (second to Mississippi State Kylin Hill's 91) in the first four games. The Crimson Tide are in the middle of the conference rankings in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (98.8), but they are holding opponents to just 3.1 yards per carry and have yet to allow a touchdown on the ground.
When Ole Miss looks to make something happen with its passing game, expect Elijah Moore to be the primary target. His 29 catches are second only to Jerry Jeudy (30) in the SEC and account for nearly 40 percent of the Rebels' total receptions (75) thus far. He also has caught three of Corral's four touchdown passes.
The Rebels are more than a five-touchdown underdog against the Crimson Tide, which is understandable. Whether it's Matt Corral or John Rhys Plumlee, the Rebels will start a freshman at quarterback against the No. 2 team in the country, on the road. Ole Miss can try and keep Alabama's defense honest with Scottie Phillips, but the Tide have entirely too much firepower as any number of skill position players can take a slant pass 75 yards to the house. Expect Tua Tagaovailoa to have another big game as 'Bama pulls away quickly and rolls to another easy victory.
Prediction: Alabama 56, Ole Miss 17
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.