Saban: 'Best team we've played all year'

Nick Saban said Alabama has played more guys up front on defense than any position on that side of the ball. Ole Miss presents a team that he would like to use more defensive players at every position.

“It seems we haven’t had the continuity to do that to this point,” said Saban, who brings his Crimson Tide to Oxford Saturday for a matchup of nationally ranked unbeatens. “This would be a good week to do that because of their pace of play. One of the things that has helped us defensively is that we’ve been able to control the ball offensively. That’s going to be a challenge against this team. They create a lot of negative plays. It’s going to be really important to minimize those so we can control the football on offense. That’s been the biggest thing that’s helped us defensively.”

The Crimson Tide is coming off an open date week. Even as long as Saban has been in football, he said he still isn’t always sure how a team will respond after a Saturday off from playing a game.

“Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to have a bye week? And I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.

Ole Miss had an open date prior to playing Memphis last weekend and was a bit rusty, it appeared, on offense in a 24-3 victory against the Tigers. Now after an open date for the Crimson Tide, Saban hopes the open week helped his team get better.

“I know the focus for us was on improvement as a team, making corrections, meeting with every individual player about what they could do to help improve their individual performance, which would hopefully help improve how your unit becomes more effective,” he said.

“It also gave us the opportunity to get players who had injury issues healed up a little bit. From that standpoint, we probably were successful. I think (senior wide receiver) Dee (DeAndrew) White will be the only guy that’s limited. He may be able to play some role in this game.”

Saban said Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace’s three years of experience at this level is but one of the keys to his success and to the Rebels winning so many games since he’s been the starting quarterback.

“The experience guys gain from playing that position, obviously their leadership, the guy’s a really good competitor, is important to the entire team,” Saban said. “They’ve made a lot of explosive plays on teams by throwing the ball down the field. They’ve got great play action passes. Bo’s done a very good job of executing those things. That experience is something you can’t instill. It’s something you have to go through and learn, and it’s a tremendous advantage.”

Saban said that although every opponent his team has faced this season has in some form presented a fast-paced offense, the Ole Miss version is another challenge.

“They do a really good job with their no-huddle pace of play in terms of being able to run the plays that they want to run based on the looks that they get,” he said. “(Laquon) Treadwell is a really good receiver. The offensive line is much better than it has been in the past, capable of whether it's running the pass or as protection. They play well on special teams. This team plays really hard with a lot of passion and they have played extremely well in their first four games of the year as a team total. It is going to be a very challenging game for us."

Alabama’s offense is ranked second in the Southeastern Conference so far this season, while Ole Miss is at No. 4 in the league. Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is one reason the Rebels are up there.

“He’s an outstanding player, a good athlete with good size,” Saban said. “He plays with a lot of toughness, a very physical blocker. He’s the complete package in a receiver. Whoever is on him is going to have to study him and play him well, keep him cut off and execute and do what we do better than what they do. He’s an outstanding player. That’s a difficult task.”

Saban said his own quarterback, senior Blake Sims, is ready for action in Oxford Saturday.

“Blake (Sims) was able to throw the ball at the end of the week last week,” he said. “We had him on a pitch count, and he throws a lot better now. We feel like he's okay and will be ready to practice and ready to go.”

Ole Miss and Alabama rank No. 1 and No. 2 respectively on defense among SEC teams this season. Saban said the Rebels’ defense is experienced and deep.

“Their quickness is a tremendous advantage and has given us problems in the past. They do a lot of movements and stunts up front. They’ve got a lot of good pass rush guys. They have a lot of experience. I think they have nine starters back on defense. They do a really good job executing their scheme and do a good job trying to take away what you want to do based on their scheme. They’ve been very, very effective. It still goes back to their quickness, the stunts, the way they can pressure you. They do a good job disguising things in the back end, mixing it up and making it more difficult for the quarterback. They’ve done a good job with that."

Saban said his team playing on the road for the first time this season presents its own set of circumstances.

"I think when you're playing a team like Ole Miss, especially when you're playing on the road in the SEC, there are a lot of huge challenges. First, playing on the road itself, game management noise, and all those kinds of things will be challenges for us. But the biggest thing is going to be their team and the quality of their team. I think the things that they do as a team are going to be real challenges for us, so preparation is really, really, important in a game like this because you have to do a good job Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so that you can go there and feel confident that you can execute. That will be the most important thing is how we execute. Multiple things on offense in terms of formations, how they utilize players, so our players have to do a good job of preparing for that so we can go there and be able to execute."

Alabama is 4-0 and has beaten West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Mississippi, and Florida.

“This is the best team we have played all year,” Saban said of the Rebels. “Their defense is especially quick and run well with good pressure up front. They have a ball hawking secondary that's picked off a lot of passes, some created by pressure and some created by quality of players that they have."

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