Tide Vs. Rebels Statistically

The Southeastern Conference gets right to the heart of the matter in its weekly release of football statistics. Scoring offense and scoring defense are items one and two. For various reasons, a statistical comparison has its flaws, not the least of which is that teams haven't had the same schedules.

For instance, in comparing Alabama and Ole Miss, how does one make allowances for the Crimson Tide having played SEC games against Arkansas and Kentucky, while the Rebels' opponents have been South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Both Mississippi conference games have been on the road, while Alabama played Arkansas in Tuscaloosa. Non-conference games count, too, in the statistical comparison. Alabama has had one tough non-conference game, against fifth-ranked Virginia Tech, and won handily.

Flaws notwithstanding, here is how Alabama matches up against Ole Miss in key statistics. The Crimson Tide will be in Oxford Saturday to take on the Rebels at 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS. Alabama is 5-0 and ranked third in the nation, Mississippi 3-1 and ranked 16th.

In those two most important categories (since games are decided by a score), Alabama is averaging 40 points per game compared to Ole Miss at 32.5 points per game. The Rebels have done better in scoring defense, allowing 10.8 points per game to Bama's 14.4.

One important statistic to many coaches involves rushing. Coaches say they want to be able to run the ball and to stop the other team from running. Alabama is third in the SEC and 10th in the nation in rushing, 228.2 yards per game, and Ole Miss is fourth in the conference and 37th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 114.2 yards per game. Mississippi averages 182.8 yards per game rushing, seventh in the league and 42nd in the nation, and Bama ranks first in the SEC and fourth in the nation, permitting only 64.4 yards per game on the ground.

Alabama is fourth in the league and 48th in the nation in passing offense, 234.6 yards per game, and the Rebels are fifth in the SEC and 13th in the nation in pass defense, giving up 159.8 yards per game. Mississippi is seventh in the league and 79th nationally in passing offense, 190.8 yards per game, but Bama is fourth in the SEC and 10th in the nation in pass defense, giving up 157.8 yards per game.

In total offense, the Crimson Tide is third overall and 14th in the nation with 462.8 yards per game and the Rebels are fourth in the SEC and 18th in the nation in total defense, giving up 274 yards per game. Mississippi ranks seventh in the conference and 59th in the nation in total offense, 373.5 yards per game, going up against a Bama defense that is second in both the conference and the nation, allowing 222.2 yards per game.

Alabama has a plus five in turnover margin, having gained three fumbles and five pass interceptions against two lost fumbles and one pass intercepted. The Rebels are plus one with five fumble recoveries and five interceptions, four lost fumbles and five interceptions.

Third down efficiency is another key statistic for coaches. Alabama ranks third in the league at 45.2 per cent (33 conversions in 73 opportunities) and the Rebels are seventh in the league at 38.9 per cent success (21-54). Defensively, the Rebels lead the league, holding opponents to just 23.8 per cent (15-63). Alabama is in second place defensively on third downs, allowing 19 of 70, 27.1 per cent.

Sacks may or may not be important. Alabama is leading the league, averaging three per game, and is sacked only once per game. Ole Miss also averages three per game, but averages getting sacked twice per game.

Ole Miss is terrific in the Red Zone (inside the 20). On offense, the Rebels have scored 14 of 14 times, 12 of them touchdowns. Alabama has scored only 23 of 27 times, 15 touchdowns and eight field goals. Mississippi opponents have been successful in scoring only nine of 14 times (four touchdowns, five field goals). Bama opponents have scored five of six times, four touchdowns and a field goal.

Alabama has two individual leaders, Javier Arenas in punt returns (15 returns averaging 19 yards per return) and Mark Ingram in touchdowns (nine, six rushing, three on pass receptions).

Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead was considered one of the nation's best returning starters, while Bama has a first year starter in Greg McElroy. McElroy is fourth in the league in passing with 217.2 yards per game, Snead seventh at 182. McElroy is also ahead of Snead in passing efficiency, McElroy third in the conference and sixth in the nation, with Snead 10th in the league and 66th nationally.

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