Saban Says Rebels Best Opponent Yet

Alabama opened the 2009 football season playing a top ten team, Virginia Tech. Bama won that game and the Hokies fell out of the top ten, but impressive victories have put Virginia Tech back among the nation's elite. Ole Miss rose to fourth in the nation earlier this year, but lost at South Carolina.

It was something of a surprise, coachspeak notwithstanding, when Alabama Coach Nick Saban said this week that Ole Miss would be the best team that has Alabama has played this year.

Saban wasn't backing off that claim Wednesday.

Saban said, "This is a big national TV game, the kind of game the players ought to be excited about and have a tremendous sense of urgency to get ready to play. It should be the kind of game that you come to a place like Alabama to be able to play.

"Ole Miss has a very good team on both sides of the ball. They've played extremely well this year and they are one of the teams to beat in our division. It's always tough to play on the road, so this will be a big challenge for us and we're doing a good job of preparing."

Alabama is 5-0 and ranked third in the nation. The Crimson Tide is 2-0 in Southeastern Conference games. Mississippi is 3-1 and ranked 16th in the nation. The Rebels are 1-1 in league games.

Kickoff at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday. CBS will televise the game.

Saban said his belief that Ole Miss is the best team Alabama will have played this season "to date" is not to disrespect Virginia Tech, which Saban called a "really good team." He also said he wasn't comparing Mississippi and Virginia Tech.

"Looking at their defense, looking at their offense, looking at their players, looking at how they play special teams, looking at the problems they present relative to what they do, and how you have to prepare for them, the multiples they have, and how they use their players, I think they can beat you in more ways than anybody we've played, so I guess that's what I'm saying," Saban said.

"They can beat you in more ways," Saban said. "They can beat you running the ball. They can beat you with (number) 22 (flanker/wildcat Dexter McCluster) in a whole bunch of ways. They can beat you with the quarterback (Jevan Snead)." Saban remembered that Alabama had a commanding first half lead against the Rebels last season, but Snead brought Ole Miss back before a late Tide defensive stop.

The Bama coach added "They can really beat you on defense."

Saban has always been generous in his praise of Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt, who formerly coached at Arkansas.

"Houston Nutt does a really good job," Saban said. "I always felt he got as much out of the players he had as anyone we ever played. I always had a lot of respect for his ability to do that."

Saban said that Nutt adapts to his personnel. "He changes with the kind of players he has," Saban said. "When he had (former Arkansas quarterback) Matt Jones, he did things he doesn't do now. When (tailback/wildcat) Darren McFadden was there (at Arkansas) with the invention of the wildcat, that was something they did quite a bit of and had a lot of success with. When were were at LSU he had a quarterback who threw for about 360 yards on us."

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