OXFORD, Miss. — In this college football season, teams are learning not to look past opponents.
Iowa State looked ahead and lost to Louisiana, then Oklahoma got beaten by the Cyclones. Texas lost to TCU, and everyone knows what happened in Baton Rouge in the season opener when Mississippi State stunned the defending national champions. (And it’s worth pointing out that State followed up that win with a loss to an Arkansas team that had not won a conference game in 20 attempts.)
With a game against Georgia coming up after the trip to Oxford, Alabama does not want to fall into that trap.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for Ole Miss as a team."
— Roger Hoover (@Roger_Hoover) October 7, 2020
“Ole Miss has been a team that has created a lot of problems for us in the past, ruined a couple of seasons for us so we certainly need to have the proper respect for this team,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
“And if we don’t, with the number of points they’ve scored — 42 and 35 in the first two weeks — and one of the top offensive teams in the country, we’re going to have to have the proper respect for what we are going to need to do going on the road and play well to have success.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban on playing Ole Miss
Ole Miss is currently ranked fifth nationally in total offense, fourth in passing offense and second in passing efficiency. But the Rebels have shown the ability to run the ball as well — a trait that has not escaped the attention of one Bama defender.
“We know the challenge that’s ahead of us, their offense isn’t as run-heavy as they used to be,” Tide defensive back Patrick Surtain II said.
“They (Ole Miss) are more balanced with the pass and the run and so we look forward to it, and as a secondary you get excited for games like these. And Ole Miss has been doing a tremendous job of balancing their offense with the run game and the passing game. They know how to utilize their receivers well and their offense is a very potent offense.”
Alabama DB Patrick Surtain II
Saban gives credit for that offensive success to his former assistant and current Rebels’ head coach, Lane Kiffin.
“I think Lane has done an outstanding job, the players are playing hard they are playing well on special teams, scoring a whole lot of points on offense. They’ve got the high tempo offense and have some really good skill players on offense,” Saban said. “They’ve got enough returning starters that they have a blend of experience and some guys who are really playing well for them making a lot of explosive plays.”
Yet Saban realizes good coaching only goes so far. A coach needs talented players to execute during the game and the Alabama coach knows what is on the Ole Miss roster.
“They’ve got good receivers, good running backs. The quarterback (Matt Corral) is a really, really good player, one of the most efficient passers in the country. He’s very athletic and can make plays with his feet. (They) present a lot of problems in terms of how they’re playing on offense.”
Coach Nick Saban
Corral is No. 1 in the nation in Total QBR, second nationally in total offense, third in passing yards per game and third in passing efficiency just behind Alabama’s Mac Jones who leads the nation.
Corral also leads the SEC in passing completion percentage, with Mac Jones close behind in second.
Wide receiver Elijah Moore is also leading the nation in receiving yards per game and is third in receptions per game.
On special teams, Ole Miss’ Mac Brown is second the country in punting, averaging 49 yards per kick, and was named SEC Special Teams Player of this Week following his performance in the Kentucky game.
Although the Landshark defense is a work in progress, Saban said the unit has talented players and they play hard. Collectively, the Ole Miss offense, defense and special teams brought Saban to a realization about Saturday.
“We have to have the proper respect for this team all around,” Saban said.
Here’s Coach Saban’s Wednesday evening press conference:
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. — though there may be some time adjustment based on the path of Hurricane Delta — and the game is set to be televised on ESPN.