| FTBL Ole Miss: Will the weekend involve beating a dead horse?


I'm sure, by the title, you are thinking this is going to be yet another column on the quarterback position not living up to pre-season expectations. Bien au contraire, my fellow Bama fans. Although, I would be amiss if it doesn't come up in these thoughts leading up to the game in Oxford.

The last decade hasn't been kind to Alabama when visiting the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford. In fact, when looking at the overall record since the two teams began meeting and seeing Alabama leads the series 43-9-2 one would think Alabama should win this ball game going away. The 21st century, on the other hand, has told a completely different story since Alabama has won only once in the three meetings in Oxford. Tuscaloosa wasn't kind to Alabama last year as the Tide won in overtime by a field goal.

Will this year be any different?

When looking at Ole Miss and how they have performed in the '07 season it was certainly appears Alabama should walk through this game easily. Here's a Rebel squad that on defense ranks last in the SEC allowing almost 450 yards per game. One would think it's a game where the Tide offense should literally have its way.

There are a few variables that come into play which lead me to take those stats and throw them out the window. We've all discussed the depth situations on the Alabama defensive line and have realized the importance the linebackers and safeties have had in containing the line of scrimmage. Ole Miss, is in a different situation. They have talent on the line, enough talent that allows their linebacking corps and defensive backfield to cover down field while the defensive line holds its own. Greg Hardy, one of the Rebel's defensive ends, has spent a great deal of time in opponents backfields and can present a problem for the Tide's offensive tackles.

This weekend looks to be a switch for their defense. Even with the front four for Ole Miss being able to control the line of scrimmage, those four defensive linemen will be seeing seven on the line of scrimmage for the Alabama offense with the Tide running a two tight end set as its base package.

"But they are last in the SEC in run defense" you may be thinking. That's true, but what the Rebel defense is going to have to rely on this weekend is something they haven't had to often this season, the line backers and defensive backs attacking the line to stop the run.

When you have a team that is allowing opponents to rush for over 200 yards a game going against a team that is rushing for an average of over 180 yards a game you would think Alabama is going to run the ball and do so effectively.

Well, we will. Which, brings in the first variable; that being Coach Oregon. Coach O has yet to prove himself to be a good head coach but he does know how to coach defense. We've seen it before.

If we can establish the running game against the Rebel's it'll open up the option for Alabama to attack down field. With the Tide passing offense averaging over 200 yards per game in the air combined with going against an banged up secondary that is allowing close to 240 yards per game it is an easy conclusion to reach.

Ah, another variable.

With Alabama's offensive production, best described as on again then a quarter later off again, it's a conclusion that may end up being off base.

Considering the number of adjustments and schemes Houston brought to Tuscaloosa last weekend this game against Ole Miss will allow our defense to just line up and play. They aren't fancy by any sort of the imagination. It's an offense that isn't going to require a lot of adjustments and it should allow our defense to attack.

If there is an issue at Ole Miss it's in the middle of their offensive line. They haven't been able, even with a running back of the caliber of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, to move out of the cellar of the SEC in rushing offense. Yes, again, last in the SEC. I anticipate seeing our defense attack the middle of their offense, specifically, with our inside line backers on blitz packages. I suspect they'll get around the century mark running the ball Saturday, but that isn't my biggest concern.

Over 60% of the first downs the Rebel's have made this year have been throwing the ball. Even without a lot of play makers, they still have shown the ability to move the ball down field. They have a solid down field threat with Mike Wallace who we'll need to reduce to a small contribution, occasionally, in 60 Minutes. The rest of their receiving corps aren't what you would consider down field threats but more of the "move the chains" variety. Here's an Ole Miss passing attack that is averaging close to 240 yards per game going against a pass defense that is allowing close to that number. This aspect of the game, could be the deciding factor.

It bears noting here while discussing the defensive backfield for the Tide that while we've recruited 16 defensive backs over the last few years we are still starting a former walk-on and a true freshman.

So, how do I see this game playing out Saturday? Close, perhaps another fourth quarter decision.

The last variable.

After looking at the different match ups it probably doesn't appear that will be the case. But, I can't move past the fact that playing in Oxford has given Alabama fits over the years. In the entire 20th century our largest margin of victory was 20 points. In Oxford, it's only been two touchdowns. It's about like knowing Vanderbilt is going to hang with the Alabama squad every time we meet them. Ole Miss has consistently done the same.

Alabama 27
Ole Miss 20
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