The Rebels are 3-1 with their loss coming at the hands of Texas. But take that game away and they're outscoring opponents 116-37, due in part to their uptempo, no-huddle offense.
Ole Miss is currently No. 3 in the SEC in total offense, averaging 588 yards per game. Even in the loss to the Longhorns, the Rebels put up 31 points and almost 400 total yards. On the flip side, Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the conference (third nationally) in total defense, giving up an average of just 185 ypg. Needless to say, this will be quite a matchup.
Alabama has faced a no-huddle, spread attack this season as both Michigan and Florida Atlantic ran it a little bit. Head coach Nick Saban said the Rebels' style, as revamped by new coach Hugh Freeze, is similar to what Auburn ran under Gus Malzahn, so he's prepared his team for this kind of offense many a time.
"This is a team that's a completely different team," Saban said. "I think Hugh Freeze has done a really, really good job."
Alabama's defense will be challenged physically—it must be fit in order to keep up with a hurry-up offense; and mentally—it must be disciplined and have all its personnel in order so it can avoid penalties, such as having too many men on the field.
"We've just got to be alert about what players are going to be in the game," said cornerback Dee Milliner.
Milliner said the scout team has done a great job this week practicing at a fast tempo.
"They'll do like four plays straight in the hurry-up, like they're going to be doing in the game," he said.
This could be the first time the Tide gets challenged deep this season. Michigan tried to toy with Alabama's secondary, but aside from the two long balls the Wolverines turned into touchdowns, they were unsuccessful.
"We know they're going to do a lot of deep vertical passes, double moves and all that," Milliner said. "We've just got to be prepared for it, just work on technique at the line of scrimmage and just know what we're in and what we're going to do."
Milliner said that no matter what kind of moves an offense tries to put on Alabama's secondary, he feels they're prepared because they have to defend AJ McCarorn every day in practice.
"He's the greatest quarterback in college football right now in my eyes," Milliner said. "If we can compete against him and take throws away that he makes, it seems like when we get on the field, the other quarterback can't do anything against us because he's the one that makes all the plays out there at practice.
"If we can stop him, we can stop any quarterback."
Another crucial point for the defense will be forcing three-and-outs, getting the offense out of rhythm, and getting off the field quickly—things that are essentially a hurry-up's kryptonite.
"The more bad plays they have, they have to slow down and see what's not working and what they need to do to get something going," said safety Robert Lester. "As long as we stop them from making plays and stop them from moving the ball and stop that up-tempo, I think we'll have a chance to slow the game down."
If Alabama's communication and preparation is in order, the defense will be able to handle Ole Miss just like it has its previous four opponents, no matter what's thrown at them.
"They can go as fast as they want, and as long as you've seen it before and prepared for it, you can adjust to it," Lester said.
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