Alabama Football: ‘Less Bad’ defense not enough for Ole Miss

Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Ask most in the Alabama Football and Ole Miss fanbases and it will be said both teams have improved defenses. How much better is debatable – and that is true for the Tide and the Rebels. Last season’s Crimson Tide defense was terrible in Oxford, MS, but it got better throughout the season and finished as the SEC’s top scoring defense.

After giving up 723 yards to the Crimson Tide in Oxford, the Ole Miss defense also improved statistically. After playing the Crimson Tide, the Ole Miss stats may have improved primarily on the basis of weaker offenses. The top-ranked, scoring offenses Ole Miss played after the Alabama Football offensive juggernaut were No. 39, LSU, No. 86 Arkansas and No. 98 South Carolina.

LSU and Arkansas were Ole Miss losses. The Rebels won against South Carolina, despite surrendering 548 yards. What became a 5-5 LSU team cranked out 593 yards against an Ole Miss unit that gave defense a bad name.

The 2020 Ole Miss defense had a lack of talent and a lack of depth. Both areas have been improved. The Rebels returned nine defensive starters and got a talent boost from a couple of veterans who did not play last season, along with transfer help. New talent and depth allowed changes in the first unit that appear to have made the Rebels stronger and faster.

The offenses the Rebels have defended so far this season are not adequate barometers. Tulane, ranked No. 28 in Scoring Offense in the FBS is the best measurement and the Rebels held the Green Wave to 21 points and 305 total yards. Louisville, ranked No. 53 in the same stat, scored 24 points and gained 355 yards. Only two teams gained less than 450 yards on the Rebels last season. Ole Miss lost both games to Auburn and Arkansas.

To stop Alabama Football offense, Rebels cannot just be less bad

From the limited sample of stats for the 2021 season, the Ole Miss defense appears to be ‘less bad’ – they have not earned being called ‘stronger’ yet.

Last season’s Ole Miss defense was bad at every level. It could not stop the run and its secondary got burned often in the passing game. Despite one of the SEC’s best defensive linemen in Sam Williams, Ole Miss struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Kiffin has so much justifiable praise for his offense in post-game reviews, few words are devoted to his defense. After the Tulane game, Lane said,

"I’m really proud of our defense for them to go 1 of 11 on third downs. They’ve got really good players. They’re really well schematically coached on offense and I was really concerned about that because they give you a lot of conflict plays. So I’m really happy with what our defense played."

The Ole Miss defense has an opportunity on Saturday. It also has much to prove. It can’t be just ‘less bad’ than last season and have any chance against the Alabama Football offense.

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