Alabama vs Ole Miss: Game Preview

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Week five of the Crimson Tide’s 2013 season welcomes the Ole Miss Rebel/Black bears to Tuscaloosa for the fourth game of the year and second SEC matchup for Alabama. This game is extremely important for both of these teams for more reasons than win/loss totals as Ole Miss is trying to prove the program has turned the corner and the Tide have yet to find a team identity.  Last season the Rebels moved the ball at will throughout the game and were troublesome to the Tide defense with their fast paced, no huddle offense. The Tide offense has gotten a lot of help from the defense and special teams so far benefiting from those 2 units FIVEtotal touchdowns, helping to keep the pressure off the offense at times. For the first time since 2010, Alabama is DEAD LAST  in total yards rushing in the SEC which is stat that belongs to the running backs as much as it belongs to the Offensive Line.

The Tide Defense matches up with Ole Miss far better than they did against Texas A&M and as Coach Saban alluded to; this Rebel offense really isn’t similar to the A&M offense. A&M runs a spread offense, many times spreading receivers all over the field to loosen up the defense so Manziel has room to run around. Ole Miss is much more of a read option type team that is very adept at running the ball. The Rebels are rushing for 250 yards plus per game so far and they use misdirection plays and up-tempo/no huddle principals to keep the defense from substituting players. Alabama’s defense is much better suited to deal with the offensive attack of Ole Miss  than the spread out passing game A&M uses.

The Ole Miss offense will be exactly what we saw out of them last season but with a more experienced group except for the all important left tackle spot, manned by true freshman Laremy Tunsil. Although Tunsil was the top tackle recruit in the 2013 class, he is still a true freshman none the less and Bama’s Defensive Line should have the edge in that matchup. The Rebels receivers are collectively bigger and more talented than that of A&M and the Tide cornerbacks have a big day ahead dealing with those guys. Most impressively, the receivers are as good at blocking for the run game as they are at any aspect of their game. Running back Jeff Scott hides behind the tall Offensive Line in those misdirection plays and by the time the defender locates him, he is already past the line of scrimmage running for a big gain. Scott is not very big but he is extremely fast and effective in the scheme they run. Quarterback Bo Wallace is no Manziel but he is above average running the ball and he’s already faced the Tide defense therefore he knows what to expect come Saturday.

In all, the ole Miss offense is more run heavy than pass happy and they are effective with the fast paced tempo and read option scheme. They will look to keep the Tide defenders on the field and from substituting, creating a bit of an advantage. The Bama defensive front 7 will stay after QB Wallace and they’ll make him pay for keeping the ball on run plays every chance they get.  Look for the Rebel offense to keep up the tempo in the run game and then dial up play action passes down field on a regular basis trying to catch the Bama defensive backs off balance and keeping them honest.

The Tide Offense surprisingly has a lot to prove to themselves and to the nation after 3 games in which they have yet to establish a real identity or impose their will on any defense. last week the offense was missing several starters in order to get them a little extra rest following some nagging injuries but none serious enough to have kept them out of practice. As a result, the offense was a little off balance and inconsistent but overall should have been able to continue like no one was missing, but it wasn’t to be. Cooper, Norwood, Steen and the rest of the regulars will be back on the field this week hoping to help this offense take control of its identity and season.

The Alabama rushing attack wasn’t very dangerous against lower level competition Colorado State totaling a lowly 66 yards and leaving much to be desired going into this game. On the other side, the Rebel defense is only giving up an average of 116 yards per game on the ground, meaning if the Bama running backs can’t break out of the slump, it could be a long day. With 3 new starters on the Tide O-line, the easy way out is to blame them for Bama’s rushing woes but the film suggests that it’s as much the running backs as it is the linemen. This Ole Miss defense isn’t very experienced or deep but on the surface they have a lot of raw talent at the starting spots and they play together as a team. They will make their share of mistakes and the Tide must take full advantage of them when they do so.

AJ McCarron had a bad post game interview refusing to answer media

Coop Up & Over the Ole Miss corner for a TD in 2012.

questions and appeared to be sulking a little but the next day he was a little more upbeat. He has managed to keep his on field emotions in check so far this season but he’s obviously bothered by something that hopefully remedies itself soon. Having Cooper and Norwood back in the starting lineup should go a long way in helping his comfort level and offensive production. As talented as Ole Miss is along the D-line and at Safety with young players, cornerback is clearly the one position that the Tide have a decided advantage. The Rebels don’t have the personnel to line up man to man with any combination of Cooper,White, Jones, Norwood and OJ Howard and that bodes well for the Tide’s passing game. Last year’s game was Coopers coming out party and the Rebels have already seen what the Tide bring to the table at receiver but Alabama’s offense is sporting a shiny new tight end in the form of OJ Howard who should pose the biggest mismatch on the field when lined up against Rebel linebackers or corners.   Even though they haven’t “parted the Red Sea” in their run blocking, Bama’s O-line has been excellent in pass pro and they will have to keep McCarron’s jersey clean once again if they expect to take advantage of having all the receivers available.

Based on the evidence put forth as of today, this Alabama offense doesn’t look like it will be able to lean on the physical running game and game breaking plays from the running back position that have been a Bama benchmark for the last few years. It does however have the experience and talent across the board in the passing game for that group to be the backbone of the offense. The determining factor will be whether or not the run game can put up enough yards to keep Ole Miss honest and prevent them from focusing on stopping the pass. The Rebels aren’t in an elite defensive category but they most certainly are talented enough to reveal what this Alabama offense is made of. The Rebel offense isn’t going to be chucking the ball 30-40 yards down field all game long but they are relentless with their offensive tempo and pressure and are very effective at cashing in on missed tackles and blown assignments.  The defense will find out just what kind of shape they’re in and how disciplined they are and the offense will find out if they can create enough balance to keep good defenses honest…….maybe not the game of the century, NO, but it will be very telling at the least and is by no means a gimme game for the Tide.

Prediction

Alabama 31 Ole Miss 17