Tide Vs. Ole Miss Still A Big Game

So it was really about Alabama. When CBS announced that it would exercise its six-day window to decide what afternoon game to televise on October 10, conventional wisdom had it that the network wanted to make sure Ole Miss could beat Vanderbilt before committing to that game. Not so fast.

Moments after Alabama wrapped up a 38-20 win over Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday, CBS confirmed that the Crimson Tide's game at Ole Miss would be the afternoon game in the network's Southeastern Conference doubleheader Saturday. Bama and Mississippi will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford. The night game pits number one Florida against number four LSU.

Alabama, 5-0 and ranked third in the nation, has enjoyed success against the Rebels, now 3-1 and ranked 18th to 21st in last week polls. As almost every fan of SEC football knows, the Crimson Tide has a winning record against every league opponent. Sometimes, though, it is a surprise how dominant Bama has been against some other teams.

Ole Miss is a prime example. Although the Rebels are considered historically one of the stronger teams in the league, Alabama has an all-time record of 45-9-2 against Mississippi. That's in some part due to Alabama and Ole Miss not playing in some seasons when the Rebs were very strong.

Alabama has won the last five games against Mississippi, but in the last four the margins of victory have been thin, three-point wins in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and a four-point win (24-20) last year.

Before the start of the season, Alabama at Ole Miss was considered one of the key games of the SEC Western Division championship race. When the Rebels—ranked in the nation's top five--lost at South Carolina in a Thursday night game in late September, some of the bloom may have come off this game. It is, however, still a most important game in the SEC race. CBS got that.

Alabama has watched some top ten teams fall by the wayside, and now the Tide is in control of its own destiny. That control, though, means winning every game.

The Rebels also have LSU coming to Oxford and Mississippi can overcome the loss to the Gamecocks by winning all their Western Division games and a home game against Tennessee.

Ole Miss was the pre-season favorite of those making rankings because the Rebels (a) handed the only 2008 loss to national champion Florida and (b) finished the 2008 season with six straight wins. After losing to Alabama, the Rebels' list of late-season victims included Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and a 47-34 win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

In addition to the loss to the Tide, the 2008 Rebels had some less impressive setbacks—to Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

As of late, Alabama has become something of a media darling, many calling Bama the nation's best team, even though Florida and Texas (both idle this weekend) continue to be one-two ahead of the Tide in the polls.

The Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban will be on the road in the SEC for the second consecutive week. Most will view the primary task this week to be the same as it was two games ago against Arkansas. That job is to shut down a very fine quarterback.

Alabama accomplished that goal against the Razorbacks and Ryan Mallett. The Rebels are led by Jevan Snead. A goal of the Tide defense had been to get more turnovers, and that mission was accomplished against Kentucky. Bama had three interceptions—by Mark Barron, Rolando McClain and Eryk Anders.

In the battle to see which SEC quarterback will finish as runner-up to Florida's Tim Tebow for league honors, Alabama's Greg McElroy has out-dueled Mallett. This week he'll need to win against Snead.

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