Three words we should never hear from another fan base again: “We Want Bama.”
I’m pretty sure we won’t see any placards with those words from the Ole Miss fans on ESPN GameDay before their game with Alabama. We have recent evidence that it's not smart. Vanderbilt players made statements like that prior to the showdown of unbeatens in Nashville last weekend, and look what happened to them. The Tide blitzkrieg’d the Commodores by a landslide 59-zip. Yes, ZIP. They also had the greatest yard disparity over any opponent in program history, outgaining the Commodores 677 to 78.
The lesson here? Be careful what you wish for.
Well, don’t worry, the Rebels aren’t going to suffer the same stage fright as VU did. They are used to playing in big games and playing well in them, too. Just look at some of the recent Rebels-Tide results. Also keep in mind that Bama looked a little preoccupied at times against Fresno State and Colorado State, so if the Tide revert to that form, you never know.
Unfortunately for Ole Miss, if last week was any indication, the Crimson Tide are the sleeping giant that has awakened. And he’s in a bad mood, people. (That little tremble you just felt was the rest of the SEC shaking in its shoes just a little bit more than usual.)
Ole Miss at Alabama
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Alabama -28
Three Things to Watch
1. The Tide will grind 'em down
The Crimson Tide haven't gone all Steadman Shealy/wishbone on us here, but their offense is still a good throwback to the Bear Bryant days, having posted 303 yards per game on the ground, including what seemed like a country mile vs. Vanderbilt. One of the worst lines ever written about Alabama came last week when I wrote: “Vanderbilt looks capable of shutting down Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough in the running game.” TILT! That won’t happen again. Especially since the giant wart on the nose for Ole Miss is that they are ranked at No. 95 in the country in rush defense — after playing South Alabama, UT Martin and Cal. Not a good recipe for what they’re about to face.
2. Shea Patterson has to have the game of his life
Patterson (above, right) is a star in the making. His first start last year was on the road to beat Texas A&M, where he led his team to 23 fourth-quarter points in a 29-28 win. Not too shabby, right? In the first three games of this season, he has thrown for 429, 489 and 363 yards, respectively, helping the Rebels stake claim to the fourth-ranked passing offense in the country. Now, can he follow Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly in beating Alabama? He’ll have to rely on a lot of short-drop, quick-strike passes to get him into a rhythm and also to help avoid that ferocious Alabama pass rush. Two things in his favor: 1) He’s got a legion of talented receivers to throw to, and 2) Bama’s secondary has shown some vulnerability this season.
3. Make this your bowl game
In case you don’t recall, the Rebels are playing without the carrot of a postseason game dangling in front of them this season. So if they are going to make a big splash this season, this is it. This is your bowl game. And if history is any indication, don’t expect this one to be a total walk in the park for the Tide. Remember, the last time the Tide lost an SEC game was vs. Ole Miss in 2015, 43-37. Before that? A 23-17 loss in Oxford in 2014, a program-maker of a win for Johnny Reb. Last year it was another donnybrook, as the Tide escaped with a 48-43 win. If the Rebels have any hope at all, they need a sell-out effort to make this one another win for the ages.
There is certainly good reason why the No. 1-ranked Tide are favored by four touchdowns in this one. They have the potential to make this a woodshed job in quick fashion. If the Rebels lose the turnover battle, look out. Last weekend, Vanderbilt lost two turnovers in the first quarter and found themselves down 21-0 before the crowd could really settle in at all.
The Ole Miss D-line is one of the team's strengths and has the potential to clog up the run lanes and keep quarterback Jalen Hurts under duress. If Patterson is on target early and sets the tone, the Rebels could make things interesting. But in the end, c’mon ... this is Alabama we’re talking about.
Prediction: Alabama 41, Ole Miss 13
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.