Saban Expects Good Game From Rebels

What's the difference between Alabama and Ole Miss? One team, Bama is 6-0 and ranked second in the nation. The other, Mississippi, is 3-3 with home losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina (homecoming, no less). So the difference is three games. But the real difference is in how Ole Miss lost those games, two of them at least.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban doesn't expect Ole Miss to "lose" to Bama Saturday. That doesn't mean he doesn't expect the Crimson Tide to win, but he knows that the Rebels are capable of playing at a very high level.

The Crimson Tide will host the Rebels at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium and the game will be nationally televised by CBS.

Alabama is the only undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference and is 3-0 in league games. Bama's wins include comfortable victories over ranked teams Clemson and Georgia. Mississippi is 1-2 in SEC games. The Rebs have an excellent victory over Florida in Gainesville. In addition to the losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina, Ole Miss lost to Wake Forest by two points.

"Ole Miss easily could be 5-1 or 6-0," Saban said. "In the two games they lost at home they had two critical turnovers. Against South Carolina (a 24-31 loss) they were on the 10-yard line and fumbled and South Carolina ran it back about 50 yards. Against Vanderbilt (a 17-23 defeat) they were on the goalline going in and fumbled at the one. They lost for the same reason anyone would lose."

Ole Miss took advantage of some Florida turnovers for a 31-30 win in The Swamp. "And Ole Miss played a great game," Saban said.

Both Alabama and Mississippi are coming off bye weeks.

"We've practiced a little better each day," Saban said following Wednesday's practice. "We've had a lot of hitting and trying to get back into it. Each day we've been a little bit better, a little better intensity and little better consistency in what we are doing."

Saban said that Alabama had practiced well Monday, better Tuesday and better still on Wednesday. He said there had been some catching up to do when players returned from three days off on Monday. "We were not disappointed," he said. "It was typical after a break. We knew what to expect. Each day the players have executed a little better." Saban said, "Obviously Ole Miss is a good team. They've played a lot of good football. They are tough to run against on defense. They play a lot of eight-man fronts. Offensively, they do a lot of stuff that's going to be very challenging for our defense. So, the extra work time has been good for us. It's going to take the same kind of intensity and focus that we had in the Clemson and Georgia game, because this is a very good team that we are playing and we've got to go win the game with execution, what we do and how we do it play the kind toughness we need to control the line of scrimmage. They are a very good running team and they are intent on stopping the run. So, it will be an interesting match-up up front."

The Tide coach said a key for Alabama success will be players doing the right thing. "When players do the things the way they are supposed to do them, it usually works out pretty well," he said. "Then it comes down to execution. It's not the play that is called. It's how the play is executed—offense, defense and special teams. We play pretty decently when we execute, and when we don't execute we don't play well."

Bama expects to have a top player back in the line-up this week. Wide receiver Mike McCoy had a slight hamstring pull against Georgia and missed the Kentucky game. "He has practice extemely well," Saban said. "Mike is a very good player, the most experienced of our receivers as a starter last year. He had a great camp and was having a great game at Georgia before he got hurt.

"He gives us experience and confidence and helps us from a threat standpoint, he and Julio (freshman Julio Jones). They flip-flopped on Julio in the Kentucky game. It's harder to do that when there are two."

Jones is Alabama's leading receiver with 19 catches for 278 yards. McCoy has seven receptions for 97 yards.

Saban also commented on the Tide's recent NCAA graduation rates that were released on Tuesday and complimented the staff and players for a job well done.

"I'd like to take a minute and talk about the success rate we've had here in terms of graduation, our grade point average with our current players and the progress that we've made," Saban said. "I am very pleased and happy that we are the top team in our league, in terms of graduation rate. I think it says a lot about a lot of people. We always talk about our program and trying to help people be successful, in terms of developing personal characteristics, graduating from school, being successful as a student, being as good a football player as you can be and help them launch a career.

"I think very seldom do people really get an opportunity to see how that works and how we do it and these are obviously some statistical information that shows what kind of good job our administration has done, the kind of facility we have and the kind of people that we have – Jon Dever and his staff – our tutoring staff and everybody that works in the academic program and how our players have responded to do a good job, which is really what it's all about. I know we get caught up in the BCS polls and standings and how to do this and that and all of that, but when it comes to the players on the team the thing they are going to accomplish that's going to be most significant to the quality of their life is the day they graduate."

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