Ole Miss - Alabama match-ups

The match-up:
This meeting will be the 56th
all-time between Ole Miss and Alabama dating back to 1894. The
Crimson Tide holds a 44-9-2 advantage. Alabama has won 17 of the
last 21 meetings and four straight since Ole Miss' 42-28 win in
Oxford in 2003. The Tide has escaped each of the last three
meetings by three points including last year's 27-24 result in
Oxford. The Crimson Tide own a 22-1 advantage in the series in
games played in Tuscaloosa, with Ole Miss' only win coming in
1988 when they won 22-12. Alabama pulled out a 26-23 overtime
win in the last meeting at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2006.
At stake:
Headed into the season, the Alabama game looked like a swing
game, one that Ole Miss needed to win to get to the six or seven
win level on the season.   However, as Alabama has
progressed to a No. 2 ranking nationally, the Alabama game looks
more like one the Rebels are expected to lose, and will hinge
their hopes on wins over Arkansas, Auburn, ULM, and Mississippi
State to get to the seven-win level.  A respectable showing
would help in the recruiting wars, a win - which is not totally
out of the question - could catapult the Rebels to a seven or
eight win season and show the earlier win over then No. 4
Florida was no fluke.
Keys to the Game:
1) Stay away from turnovers.  While this may seem like a
stuck record, the Rebels' three losses - and the upset over
Florida - was a direct result of winning or losing the turnover
battle.  Alabama is talented, and any cheap scores will add
to the Rebels challenge.  For an upset, the Rebels must be
error free on Saturday.  2) Develop some mettle. 
Showing up emotional one week and down the next is a recipe for
a mediocre football team.  Rebel head coach Houston Nutt
said he was the only cheerleader on the sideline after a Jevan Snead fumble was returned for a touchdown, despite Ole Miss
remaining up 17-10 against South Carolina at that point of the
game.  Nutt has also said the team's emotional state is
fragile - and while no one is disputing that assessment - it's
time seniors stepped up and lead other team members to a win
instead of feeling sorry for themselves when a break doesn't go
their way.  If the Rebels want to be winners, they need to
play like winners for 60 minutes each weekend. 3) Offensive line
play must be consistent.  The Rebels have had far too may
"watch out" blocks - meaning an offensive lineman gets beat or
misses his assignment and hollers over his shoulder for the
quarterback or running back to watch out.  This is a big,
physical, and talented offensive line - they need to play like
Ole Miss rushing versus the
Alabama ground defense: Ole Miss comes into the game
ranked a very respectable No. 49 among the 119 Division I teams
in rushing offense at 163 yards per game.  Alabama comes in
with the No. 2 rush defense, giving up just 50 yards a game. 
The Rebels don't have the backfield star as Alabama does in
Glenn Coffee, but uses a running back-by-committee approach that
includes juniors Cordera Eason and Dexter McCluster and true
freshmen Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis. Sophomore LB
Rolando McClain leads the defense with 44 tackles with 3.5
tackles for a loss and three pass break-ups, but it's tackle
Terrence Cody that the Rebels must control sufficiently to keep
from being a disruptive force. The 6-foot-5, 365 pound lineman
is playing the way Rebel fans envisioned Jerrell Powe playing;
however, Powe's progress has been hindered by three years off
the gridiron.  Key for Ole Miss will be an offensive line
that has been outstanding on some occasions, but hasn't played
consistently or as physical as necessary to win the majority of
the battles against SEC-level competition.  An exception is
All-American Michael Oher, who has stepped up his play from his
first three seasons at Ole Miss and remains one of the top
tackles in the country.  The Rebels have the potential to
make some noise on the ground, but will need to set up the run
with the pass, have excellent line play, and keep Alabama
defenders off balance by throwing the Wild Rebel at them on
Advantage: Alabama
Ole Miss passing versus the
Alabama secondary:  Ole Miss enters the game
ranked No. 54 in passing offense at almost 220 yards per game. 
It appears, at least statistically, to be an area where Ole Miss
could find some success against an Alabama pass defense that is
ranked No. 66, giving up 211 yards a game.   If
there's an area where Ole Miss matches up well against Alabama,
it's with a group of deep, experienced, and talented wide
receivers that might be able to stretch the field and opening
some running lanes in the process.  In order for that to
work, Ole Miss has to have two things from the supporting cast -
quarterback discipline on the part of Snead and protection on
the part of the offensive line.  While Snead has caught the
brunt of criticism for some miscues - and rightfully so in some
instances - it doesn't take away from the fact such
considerations as being hit in the back at Florida on a pass
that resulted in an interception or getting immediate pressure
on the play against South Carolina when the pocket broke down
and he scrambled, only to fumble.  On the plus side for Ole
Miss and Snead is that he is gaining experience and has already
seen hostile environments at Wake Forest, and more so at
Florida.  He's shown the ability of late to take the loss
on a bad play and move on to the next chance, something that if
he continues, should bode well for the Rebels.  Still, he
must avoid Alabama
senior Rashad Johnson, who boasts 30 stops and eight breakups
and Oxford native Justin Woodall, who has collected three
Advantage:  Ole Miss
Alabama rushing
versus the Ole Miss ground defense:   Alabama
comes into the game ranked an impressive No. 15 at 226 yards a
game in rushing offense while Ole Miss is No. 35 in rushing defense, giving up 112
yards a game.  Ole Miss features a defensive line that can
put at least eight players on the defensive front in a four-man
rotation with little to no drop off in talent - and that goes
three deep in some positions, such as nose tackle with Powe, the
former top recruit in the country, former four-star Ted Laurent, and
lightly recruited by capable Lawon Scott.  Defensive ends
are deep with All-American Greg Hardy, former four star Marcus Tillman (who picked the Rebels over LSU) and Kentrell Lockett,
who was offered and recruited hard by Alabama, and another
four-star bagged by former head coach Ed Orgeron.  Fifth
year senior Chris Bowers is muscled up and having his best
season and junior college transfer Emmanuel Stephens offers even
more depth.  Linebackers are solid with former junior
college transfers Tony Fein and Ashlee Palmer, both now seniors,
former four-star Californian Jonathan Cornell and former Auburn
signee Patrick Trahan.  Still, it's an area where Alabama
has excelled and often with gapping holes, even against tough
competition, like Georgia.  Coffee ranks second in the SEC on the ground at 118
yards per outing with five touchdowns and ran for a career-high
218 yards against Kentucky two weeks ago.
Look for Ole Miss to load up to stop the run and challenge
Alabama to beat them with the pass - a situation that is scary
for Ole Miss fans after Tim Tebow and Chris Smelly each had
300-yard plus games through the air against the Rebels. If
Alabama gets Ole Miss on its heels due to Alabama's passing
success, look for the Crimson Tide to have success in the
running game, but the man-to-man match-ups on the ground are
close to even.
Edge: Even
Alabama passing versus the Ole Miss secondary:  Call it
the match-ups of the have nots.  Alabama comes in ranked a lowly No. 104 at
156 yards per game through the air, while Ole Miss is ranked No. 89 in pass
defense, giving up 228 yards per game.  It's likely not been lost on
Alabama scouts that one of the secrets to beating the Ole Miss secondary is a
quick drop and getting rid of the ball before the Rebels' excellent defensive
line can impact the play, and letting playmakers take over against an undersized
and talent short secondary.  That worked in the Swamp for Tebow (329
passing yards), for
Memphis' Arkelon Hall (265 yards in his Division I debut), Wake Forest's Riley
Skinner (267 yards), and for Smelly (327 yards).  The
question may be if Alabama has the playmakers to make that work, but chances are
good that could be the Tide's strategy.  Look for it to start with freshman
wide receiver Julio Jones, who has hauled in 19 passes for 278 yards and four
scores.  Senior quarterback John Parker Wilson has
never been overly flashy, but is solid - and his senior leadership should impact
the game.  He has completed 76-of-127 passes for 853 yards for six
touchdowns with two interceptions. Alabama doesn't necessarily
offer a constant threat of big play capability from the wide receiver position,
and a key for the Rebels will be to make sure playmakers don't emerge in this
Edge: Alabama
Special Teams:  Give the
Rebels an edge for place kicker Josh Shene, who is seven of
eight on field goals and perfect on extra points for the season. 
He faces Leigh Tiffin, who has been good at times, but also
struggles with consistency including two misses last week
against Kentucky.  Punting should be about even although
Rob Park has struggled at times with consistency.  Ole Miss
features burner Mike Wallace on kick off returns and Alabama
counters with Javier Arenas, who averages almost 17 yards
a punt return. He hurt the Rebels last year and must not be
allowed to get loose.  Justin Sparks has done a good job in
putting most kicks in a position where they can be covered from
hash mark to sideline.  The Rebels coverage has been spotty
on a few occasions, and defenders must close quickly against
Alabama, a team that features some talented returners.
Edge: Even
Weather forecast:
Mainly sunny. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 40s.
Broadcast information:  TV: CBS (Verne
Lundquist, play-by-play; Gary Danielson, color analyst; Tracy
Wolfson sideline reporter). The CSS replay of the game will be
Sunday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. CT. RADIO: Ole Miss Radio Network
(David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst; Stan
Sandroni, sideline reporter). The in-stadium frequency in
Tuscaloosa will be 89.7 FM. The Alabama radio feed will be
available on satellite radio on XM 199 and Sirius 215. WEB: will provide live audio through RebelVision,
live stats and an in-game blog. The official Rebel athletics
website will also provide a full game recap and a photo gallery
at the game's conclusion.