Published on September 19th, 2015 | by Alex Thiel0
Untested Rebels Look to Find Cracks in Alabama’s Armor Again
It’s not every year that Ole Miss wins a football game against Alabama.
It’s not every other year. It’s not even, like, leap years or something.
In 2014, Ole Miss notched its tenth win in program history against Alabama. We got to double digits against the Tide 120 years after starting the series.
That’s not good, y’all.
That’s as many wins as Vanderbilt has over Florida. Kentucky’s beaten Georgia twice more. Mississippi State has beaten Alabama eighteen times.
Looking at the numbers, you start to get an idea why last year’s victory was so earth-shatteringly massive for the Rebel fanbase. The ESPY awards seem justified. You begin to see why pieces of the torn-down goalposts were selling online for exorbitant sums of money.
So the question is: can Ole Miss do it again? The Rebs have never beaten Alabama in back-to-back seasons, and a win in Tuscaloosa while breaking in a new quarterback in front of a national TV audience would pretty well cement the notion that Ole Miss can contend with the SEC’s big boys on a year-in, year-out basis.
Of particular note in this year’s game in the manner in which Alabama has adopted the up-tempo offensive style that Nick Saban so publicly opposed throughout his career. Offensive guru Lane Kiffin has the Tide churning at a faster pace than even Ole Miss; Alabama actually averages more plays per game than the Rebels do (though this can partially be attributed to the Rebs’ unreal offensive efficiency and capacity for breaking big plays).
One of the keys to this game will be an unprecedented test to the Ole Miss defense in massive running back Derrick Henry. This year’s model of “oversized and unstoppable Nick Saban running back” is already generating Heisman buzz, and the Rebs’ front six has yet to be tested by a running game of this caliber. The Tide will trot out an offensive line that Hugh Freeze described recently as “as good as [he’s] seen.”
However, Alabama is not invincible. Kirby Smart’s defenses have shown a repeated tendency to give up yards to teams that push the tempo and mix things up on offense, and Bo Wallace was able to carve up their secondary last year to the tune of 251 yards and 3 TD.
Of course, Wallace was aided by a stingy defense and a blind side protected by All-American LT Laremy Tunsil, whose eligibility remains in doubt in light of NCAA investigations. These are currently question marks for the untested Rebels, with Hugh Freeze repeatedly claiming that he “doesn’t know” if his team is ready for conference play.
If Kelly’s crazy efficiency can continue (at press time, he holds the #1 QBR in college football), and if the defense can come up with an answer for Henry and co., the Rebs stand a solid chance of pulling the upset and setting the tone in the SEC West.
Yes, it’s true that history likes to repeat itself in the tradition-rich SEC, and Ole Miss has never won a night game in Tuscaloosa.
That said, this Rebel team doesn’t seem to care much for historical trends.