Major Challenge Ahead

After an open date week, the Ole Miss Rebels face arguably America's best college football team in Oxford Saturday at 5 p.m. The Alabama Crimson Tide roll in.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

As usual, the Tide will have winning this game and winning all their games on their collective minds. They are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play.Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, 0-3 against Alabama since he became the head coach of the Rebels, said it's a challenge of major proportions for his team.

"You're looking at one of the best teams in the country, bar none," said Nutt, in his 14th season as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference. "Defensively it goes without saying. There've been very few teams that have been able to move the ball on this group. Just outstanding quickness and toughness. They fly around the ball and they create problems and turnovers. Then offensively they do a really good job as well.

"So we're excited about this opportunity, playing one of the best Alabama teams that's been around in a long time."

Nutt, his team 2-3 and 0-2, said Alabama head coach Nick Saban's schemes are complex.

"They do such a good job of giving you so many different looks, especially in the secondary," Nutt said. "They do so many good things with man coverage. Then they give you the perception it's man coverage, and all of a sudden they trade off on crossing routes. You think it's going to be a big play, and all of a sudden the corner lets him go to the next zone and he jumps off and hits the crossing route right in the mouth.

"It's all those things. They dial up blitzes at really good times that keep you off balance. I expect the same. I've been going against (Saban) for a long time. It seems like he's just gotten so much more in the package. It's very difficult to gameplan and know this is what they're going to do. Got a lot of different variety of coverages and mixtures and blitzes. It's just tough. The main thing they do is stop the run. They give up very, very little yardage in running the football. It's awfully good schemes, multiple schemes with good people."

Randall Mackey
Bruce Newman

Nutt said Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron has been sold at the signal-caller position.

"He's not turning it over. That's No. 1," Nutt said. "He's doing an excellent job of taking care of the ball. Of course, it helps when your best friend is No. 3 (Trent Richardson). Just turn around and hand it to him. That takes a lot of pressure off. They pick and choose their spots with him. He doesn't force it. He doesn't make errors. He doesn't throw it to the other team. They protect the ball."

More Nutt Notes

On being a huge underdog at home and handling that: "I always try to be as honest as I can with our guys. What I'm interested in is us getting better. I thought we got better last week as a football team. From Fresno State on we got better. That's what's important. Play. Play extremely hard and eliminate mistakes. That's what we've been putting our emphasis on. What an opportunity.

On being more physical as a team as he had mentioned last week: "We really challenged our guys hard last week. We had three really good days last week being physical. Sunday, we came back with pads. Same thing. They responded each day. They're trying to get better. They know they have to tackle."

On Alabama: "This is probably a little better team than the last couple of years because of depth and what they do on defense. They haven't given up many explosive plays, not many plays over 20 years. They just do an excellent job of not allowing you to cross that last white line. Their secondary is awfully physical. Their front's always been physical. But, boy, their secondary. They're good tacklers and enjoy contact. They don't mind getting right up there in your face and competing each play. Just a solid, solid football team."

On Randall Mackey: "We took advantage (of the open week) going out and really working hard and putting him in some situations, third down, letting Tyrone (Nix) blitz us a little bit, let him hang in that pocket and see how he reads things. I think he's getting better. I'm excited about him and the way he has approached and is studying the game. And the way he's handling practice. He's really intense and going through his reads. The main thing is he's taking care of the ball. He didn't turn the ball over. That's huge."

OM Spirit Top Stories