Ask Alabama football players if they are using the revenge factor as motivation for this week’s game against Ole Miss, and the answer is mostly a shrug. Some say that maybe it’s a little motivation, but for the most part the Crimson Tide is concentrating on Saturday’s game, not the 2014 game against the Rebels that was Bama’s only loss in a Southeastern Conference championship season.
Last year Bama had two disastrous turnovers in the final minutes in Oxford and lost to the Rebels, 23-17. Alabama recovered and went on to the SEC Championship and a place in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Prior to the 2014 game, the Tide was ranked third in the nation and the Rebels were ranked 11th. This year both teams are 2-0 and Alabama is ranked second in the nation, Mississippi 11th in the Coaches Poll and 15th by the Associated Press.
Bama and the Rebs will play at 8:15 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN will televise the game. It is the SEC opener for both teams.
Just as the players, Alabama Coach Nick Saban is focused on this year’s game, not last year’s loss to the Rebels. That doesn’t mean he is ignoring 2014, though. The tape of last year’s game has been reviewed, but it’s for preparation, not motivation.
Saban said, “One of the most important things that we always do, especially when it's the same staff, is you always look at what did they do last year? How did they play you defensively? What did they try to do offensively? Sort of evaluate, and we do this after we play the game, what we did well, what we needed to improve on. That's the first thing we get out this year when we play somebody, is try to figure out how we can do those things better and how we can make those adjustments.”
One difference in this season and last season is that both Alabama and Ole Miss – as many SEC teams – have new quarterbacks in 2015. Thus far, there have been dissimilar results.
Jacob Coker, who formerly played at Florida State, has started the first two games for Bama, and Saban said following the Tide’s win over Middle Tennessee that there was a reason Coker had been the starter. He also hinted that Coker may continue to start. He said that backup Cooper Bateman had been getting much work in those first two games because Bateman might be needed “to play somewhere down the line.”
Coker has completed 30 of 47 passes for 427 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Bateman has been good on 18 of 25 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown, one interception.
For what it’s worth, Coker’s quarterback rating is 149.91 and Bateman’s is 127.26.
Ole Miss also has a transfer playing quarterback. Chad Kelly was originally at Clemson, had some issues, and ended up at East Mississippi Community College before joining the Rebels this year. His quarterback efficiency is highest in the nation, 234. He leads the SEC and is third in the nation with six passing touchdowns.
Last year the Rebels had Bo Wallace at quarterback and Wallace was particularly dangerous as a runner. Kelly is more regarded for his arm. Saban said, “It's conceptually pretty much the same offense. They've always been a team that likes to do quarterback runs. He has run the ball a few times and he is a very effective runner. When they bring the next quarterback in, No. 2, they've done a little bit more of that. That doesn't mean they won't do it with Chad Kelly, he has done some but maybe not quite as much as Bo Wallace did it a year ago. But throwing the ball, executing the offense, he's done a fantastic job.”