Alabama Football will open SEC play with a difficult home test this weekend when the Ole Miss Rebels come to town. The Rebels will bring in some familiar faces, led by head coach Lane Kiffin and defensive coordinator Pete Golding, both of whom are former Alabama assistants under Coach Nick Saban.
Kiffin will bring a high-powered offense into Tuscaloosa, but is the unit as potent as the early season numbers suggest?
Through three games, Ole Miss ranks fourth nationally with 52.7 points per game and 11th in the country with 526.7 yards of total offense per contest.
The strength of the Ole Miss offense in 2022 was the running game, as the Rebels ranked third in the country (and first among P5 schools) with 256.6 rushing yards per game. Only triple-option oriented service academies racked up as much rushing production as Kiffin’s Rebels last season.
Can Alabama Football slow down Jaxson Dart?
So far this year, Ole Miss has opened up a more explosive passing attack with the arm of quarterback Jaxson Dart, and currently rank in the top-10 in the country with just under 350 passing yards per game.
Dart is a quality quarterback with nearly two full seasons of starting experience under his belt, and he is currently playing his best ball. As a passer, he is averaging over 12 yards per attempt and has thrown seven touchdown passes with just one interception. He also leads the Rebels with 213 rushing yards on nearly seven yards per carry.
Jaxson Dart is a dangerous playmaker that the Alabama defense will have to account for on every down. Kevin Steele will rely on pressure, most likely from his disruptive group of linebackers, to make Dart uncomfortable and get him off his rhythm.
Alabama Football vs Kiffin’s arsenal of weapons
Running back Quinshon Judkins was arguably the best back in the nation as a true freshman last season. He has dealt with minor injuries so far in 2023, but he has still been an effective weapon as a runner and a receiver. Despite averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, Judkins has totaled 215 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns, having scored in every game for the Rebels.
Wide receivers Jordan Watkins and Dayton Wade have been impact players to this point, both averaging north of 19 yards per catch in what has been a big-play passing attack for Ole Miss.
Louisiana Tech transfer Tre Harris is another explosive weapon at receiver. Much has been made of Harris’ absurd stat line, as his eight receptions have gone for over 23 yards per catch with a team-high five touchdowns. However, he racked up nearly all of this production against Mercer, and missed last week’s game with a knee injury.
Lane Kiffin hopes to get Harris back at full strength this week, along with UTSA transfer Zakhari Franklin. Franklin recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons for the Roadrunners, but has yet to suit up for his new team.
One more transfer receiver that could make his debut in this game is former Memphis tight end Caden Prieskorn. When he is fully healthy, Prieskorn figures to combine with Michael Trigg to give Ole Miss a pretty impressive tight end tandem.
Collectively, all of these injuries to Ole Miss pass catchers create a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Rebels’ offense. Kiffin’s offense has shown flashes of having an elite vertical passing attack, but we have yet to see the unit anywhere near full strength against a quality opponent.
It will be fascinating to see who does and does not suit up this Saturday, and whether or not the Ole Miss playmakers will be at full speed. Regardless, quarterback Jaxson Dart has been extremely effective this season, regardless of the weapons at his disposal.
This will be the first major test for the Alabama Football defense since the Texas loss, so it should come out with something to prove.