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Week 5 - Ole Miss at Alabama
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace
Posted Sep 25, 2013

Week 5 Fearless Predictions & Preview - Ole Miss at Alabama

Ole Miss (3-0) at Alabama (3-0) Sept. 28 6:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: 2008. That was the last time Ole Miss didn’t lose to Alabama by double digits. 2003 was the last time the Rebels won in the series – Mike Shula was the Crimson Tide head coach, while Nick Saban was busy leading LSU to a national title – but it’s been an ugly run for the Rebels, winning twice since 1988 – the one and only road win - and just four times since 1970. But this is a different Ole Miss team and it could be ready to usher in a new era.

After surviving the tough SEC opener at Vanderbilt, and taking advantage of a mopey Texas squad two weeks ago, all of a sudden, things aren’t looking so bad for Hugh Freeze’s young club. The offense is playing great, the superstar recruits are looking the part right away, and after going to Auburn next week, the team doesn’t leave the state of Mississippi until bowl time – unless there’s a stop in Atlanta first.

And now, playing in the SEC championship isn’t such a crazy thought.

Of course, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Missouri aren’t exactly layups, even if they are home games, and Alabama, for all its flaws, is still Alabama, but the Rebels are looking the part with speed, talent, and a whole bunch of athleticism. Texas might not be playing like it’s supposed to, but if you can run with that team, you’re fast.

Meanwhile, it’s been easy to try to poke holes in the No. 1 team in the country. The offense didn’t show up against Virginia Tech, the defense took the day off against Texas A&M, and it’s not possible to come up with a more unimpressive 31-6 win than the Tide did last week against Colorado State, but despite all the concerns, outside of the LSU showdown on November 9th, it could be smooth sailing with a win this week. Other than the Tigers, after this, there’s absolutely nothing but a complete and utter meltdown gag standing in the way of yet another SEC championship appearance, but this is going to be a fight.

All the pressure in the world is on Alabama, as always. The program is used to it, but Ole Miss gets to come in all loose, excited, and too young to know any better. At 3-0 – considering 1-2 was a very, very real possibility looking at the preseason prognostications – the team is playing with house money.

There’s nothing more exciting than a team on the rise, and now it’s measuring-stick time. Is it the Rebels’ time to arrive – a win means we’re talking about No. 1 ranked Ole Miss next week at this time – or is it going to be a learning step in the progression? Will Alabama ho-hum it and come up with another SEC win over another pretender to the throne, or is this when the history books get an interesting new entry?

It’s time to learn something about these two.

Why Ole Miss Might Win: It’s possible Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense could turn into Texas A&M Lite – not as tasty, but without as much of the bad stuff. Depending on which way you look at it, either Johnny Manziel came up with one of the greatest performances in SEC history in the loss to the Tide, or his two interceptions overshadowed all the amazing statistics. Wallace used to have a big, big problem making the bad throw at the wrong time – he threw two picks in last year’s loss to the Tide - while coming up with the key mistake that would screw up something good, but that all changed. The Rebels have turned it over four times so far, and three of the mistakes came against SE Missouri State. Wallace didn’t throw a pick against either Vanderbilt or Texas, taking great care of the ball – the interception against SEMO was pitched by Robert Ratliff – and he’s coming up with the explosive pass plays on a regular basis.

Why Alabama Might Win: The Alabama offense might not be kicking it into high gear at the moment, but it seems to be able to do it when needed. Against Texas A&M, the offensive line took its game to another level, and at least before the key T.J. Yeldon fumble, the game was all but over. There wasn’t any need to do anything fancy against the Hokies or Rams with the defense not allowing much of anything, and with both games well in hand, but that doesn’t mean the offense can’t produce – at least that’s the theory. And why? AJ McCarron is playing better than you think. The 10-of-23 clunker against Virginia Tech – the Hokie D had a lot to do with it – dismissed McCarron from any Heisman discussion, and now he has fallen way behind Mr. Football, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger in terms of SEC quarterback hype, but outside of a pick against the Rams last week, he’s been razor-sharp completing 40-of-55 passes over the last two games and, in a lot of ways, outplayed Manziel when it truly counted. Some might see the Alabama offense as inconsistent, but instead, it might just play when it has to. This week, it will have to, and the running game should be able to produce against an Ole Miss defensive front that’s very, very shaky at linebacker, but it gets some help back because ...

Who To Watch Out For: Why do you give yourself two weeks off to get ready for Alabama? Healing time. Ole Miss gets back two very, very important parts to the puzzle in receiver Vince Sanders from a collarbone injury and, most likely, top linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche from a knee problem suffered against Vanderbilt. Sanders should take the heat off of star freshman Laquon Treadwell along with Ja-Mes Logan, while Nkemdiche will lead the team in tackles if he’s cleared to play.

- Alabama needs Amari Cooper to be Amari Cooper again. Out against Colorado State with a toe injury, he’s expected to be back and fine, but he has yet to show his 2012 pop and explosion, catching just six passes for 72 yards in the first two games. Last year he lit up the Rebels for 84 yards and two scores on eight catches.
- Texas A&M’s 6-5 Mike Evans made himself a fortune feasting off the questionable Tide corners, and Ole Miss has big receivers at all the spots with the potential to get physical and exploit the mismatches. Alabama’s young star, A’Shawn Robinson, has a sack in each of the last two games. The rest of the Bama D has a grand total of one. The defense doesn’t rush the passer, and Wallace could have a huge day if he gets time to let his talented targets go to work.

What Will Happen: Ole Miss will make Alabama look mortal. The Tide defense will have a few problems with the offensive balance, and the Rebels will rise up and come up with a few key stops early on – and then Alabama will decide it’s time to play. With Anthony Steen back at guard after missing last week’s game with a concussion, the Tide line will find its groove, and Yeldon will outplay Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott to take control of the game. Ole Miss will come away looking good, but it’ll be a learning experience.
Prediction: Alabama 38 … Ole Miss 16
Line: Alabama -15.5 o/u: 57
Must See Rating: (5 Rush – 1 Dads) … 4.5
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