Preview and Predictions: No. 15 Ole Miss at No. 13 Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. — We are inching closer to Saturday’s kickoff, and the panel is back to bring you a preview for this week’s matchup as No. 15 Ole Miss takes on No. 13 Alabama. The Rebels are looking for their first win over the Tide since 2015. The last time Alabama lost two home games in a regular season was in 2007 — Nick Saban’s first year as the Tide’s head coach.
The Rebels have put together some incredible second-half performances this year to propel them to 3-0. Last week Ole Miss took care of business at home against Georgia Tech, but this week’s road matchup will be the toughest test yet.
Before we discuss what the Rebels have in front of them, here’s a look at our multi-media panel. Be sure to follow all of them on X/Twitter and The Rebel Walk as well.
- Kickoff: Saturday, Sep. 23rd, 2:30 PM CT
- TV: CBS
- Memphis: WHBQ-AM 560
- Oxford: WOXF-FM 105.1
- Jackson: WFMN-FM 97.3
- Betting Lines as of 10:00 am September 22 (subject to change):
- ATS: Alabama -7
- O/U: 55.5
- Ole Miss Moneyline: +205
- Alabama Moneyline: -250
Alabama hosts a hot Rebels team that has worn down opponents over the course of a game in the fourth quarter. The Tide has had its own woes this season as Nick Saban tries to figure out a new winning formula by going back in time. Quarterback has been all the chatter for the Alabama as the Tide has already seen three signal callers take the field in valuable snaps this season: Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner. Ole Miss will get to face off against Jalen Milroe, named starter on Monday. A strong-armed and mobile QB, Milroe got the starting nod after a win over MTSU and a home loss to Texas before not seeing the field last week against South Florida.
Another item of note is the Tide had to replace both offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason. Coach Kiffin has already made comments about who he thinks is making playcalls on the defensive side of the ball (cornerbacks coach, Travarius Robinson, not defensive coordinator Kevin Steele). Offensively, Alabama snagged former Notre Dame OC Tommy Rees after Bill O’Brien’s departure.
Alabama has put a larger emphasis on controlling the line and has a reinvigorated run game behind the duo of Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams. Up front, the line was supposed to be a strength for Alabama; however, the group has already given up 12 sacks on the season and has a run game that has averaged only 4.4 yards per carry thus far this season.
Defensively, the Tide is led by their two cornerbacks, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold, who have drawn high praise and are the leaders of this unit. They also have Dallas Turner manning the edge at the SAM position. The group has been strong on that end and is allowing under 200 passing yards per game.
Ole Miss Keys to the Game
Offense: Use your depth
The recipe is pretty simple here. Ole Miss is a team with a lot of offensive weapons. The only issue is injuries have prevented Ole Miss from being able to have their full arsenal all at one time. With rumors of UTSA transfer wide receiver Zakhari Franklin and Memphis transfer tight end Cade Prieskorn practicing this week, could we start to see what a full potential Ole Miss team would look like? Wide receiver Tre Harris who was injured against Tulane is also rumored to be on the travel roster.
When Texas beat Alabama in Bryant-Denny two weeks ago, the Longhorns showed their offensive firepower. Quinn Ewers completed 24 passes on the night and five receivers tallied more than three catches. None of those five had more than five catches. In a similar way, Ole Miss can challenge the Tide by having its own weapons on the field. This can also free up opportunities for Jaxson Dart as well. Dart has carried the Rebels on his shoulders at points this season in what has been a strong start to the year for the signal caller. The junior is the only quarterback who is top 25 in passing yards and top 100 in rushing.
Outside of preseason All-American running back Quinshon Judkins, the Rebels’ Ulysses Bentley IV has shown that extra gear. Tre Harris has been lethal after the catch, Prieskorn can help block up front, Michael Trigg is a mismatch on the field any time he takes a snap with his athleticism and catch radius. Dayton Wade has been a Swiss army knife getting the ball on sweeps and swings. Ole Miss needs to take advantage, and having these guys on the field and moving around pre-snap will make that job much tougher for whoever the defensive play caller is for Alabama.
Defense: Get to the QB
Ole Miss made waves when Coach Kiffin was able to get Pete Golding to join him in Oxford. Now the former defensive signal caller for the Tide gets a chance at his old boss this weekend. Alabama, as mentioned earlier, has struggled to protect its QB this year, while Ole Miss has been really solid as a pass rushing group. This, in part, is thanks to Golding’s new scheme with the Rebels. Take the aggressiveness of Golding and his overall knowledge of this Alabama team and it makes for must-watch football on the defensive end.
Let’s keep it simple. If Ole Miss can get to the QB and create pressure, the Rebels should find themselves in favorable positions. Milroe is a strong runner as a quarterback so seeing someone act as a spy may not be the worst idea either.
Ole Miss 31, Bama 27
Prediction: Big day for Q. Judkins rushed for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns in a game that came down to the wire against Bama a year ago. No doubt the Tide will zero in on him, but the passing game could open up some opportunities for the preseason All-American.
X Factor: Jaxson Dart
Dart has proven to all his doubters up this point that he deserved to keep the job in Oxford. This could be the biggest road test of his career so far. The Rebel quarterback ultimately has a chance for a ‘Heisman moment’ this Saturday.
Alabama 31, Ole Miss 28
Prediction: Ole Miss’ defensive woes will continue. Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe will pose a serious ground threat that the Rebels struggle to contain throughout the game. Milroe will march the Tide down the field and milk enough time off the clock to keep the Rebels’ offense from being the key factor of the game.
Alabama 31, Ole Miss 28
Prediction: Rebels get off to a hot start and open up an early lead, but the angry Crimson Tide make enough halftime adjustments to keep the deep ball in check during the second half. A late sack on 4th down proves costly and gives Alabama the ball back with enough time to kick a long game-winner. Big day from Dayton Wade.
Ole Miss 34, Alabama 31
Prediction: Jaxson Dart and the pass attack carry Ole Miss to victory. Caden Davis kicks the game winning kick from 40+ yards out.
X factor: Ulysses Bentley
Ole Miss 28, Alabama 21
The panel left me with a 2-2 split. I’m going to take the side of the Rebels. It was a tough choice, but Ole Miss has been playing good football and is looking to have some of its playmakers return to the field from injury. Look for a choppy game, but at the end of the day I have to think of a couple things.
First, Pete Golding knows this personnel group at Alabama very well. He and Coach Kiffin both are ready for the opportunity to scheme up some unique looks for their prior coach and friend, Nick Saban. Secondly, the ability for Ole Miss to play all its guys (if healthy) provides a unique challenge for Alabama. We saw how they handled it against Texas. How will they fare against something similar the second time around? Ole Miss needs to play smart and limit its turnovers as Alabama tries to control the line and the clock. In order to stop that, Ole Miss has to get pressure and that’s where JJ Pegues becomes an x-factor. Bama has had some issues and injuries on the interior part of their line, so let’s see if the Oxford product can make some plays there and help limit the run game.
TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.