The Vitals:Ole Miss has already spoiled one top-five team's perfect record, and Saturday provides the same opportunity. The Rebels face second-ranked Alabama in a nationally televised contest at 2:30 p.m. The Tide has beaten Ole Miss by just three points in each of the past three seasons, including a 26-23 win in Tuscaloosa two years ago.
Saturday will mark the 56th meeting between the schools in the all-time series that dates back to 1894. The Crimson Tide holds a 44-9-2 advantage in the series, including a 45-8-2 lead on-the-field. Ole Miss received a win by forfeit for Alabama's 19-14 victory in 1993. Alabama has won 18 of the last 21 on-the-field meetings and four straight since Ole Miss' 42-28 triumph in Oxford in 2003.
Viewing and Listening Options: TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, play-by-play; Gary Danielson, color analyst; Tracy Wolfson sideline reporter). The CSS replay of the game will be Sunday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. CT. RADIO: Ole Miss Radio Network (David Kellum, play-by-play; Pete Cordelli, color analyst; Stan Sandroni, sideline reporter). The in-stadium frequency in Tuscaloosa will be 89.7 FM. The Alabama radio feed will be available on satellite radio on XM 199 and Sirius 215. WEB: OleMissSports.com will provide live audio through RebelVision, live stats and an in-game blog. The official Rebel athletics website will also provide a full game recap and a photo gallery at the game's conclusion.
Saturday Storylines: Turnovers can't happen, plain and simple. With Alabama tough against the run, Jevan Snead and Dexter McCluster will be counted on for offensive production, and fumbles and interceptions due to bad decisions will spell all kinds of trouble for the Rebels. Ball security was a main focus during the bye week, and be sure to watch Ole Miss get down instead of possibly fighting for extra yardage. Houston Nutt stressed that, especially after an already big gain. The Rebels must win the turnover battle and convert chances into touchdowns to stay in this one.
Alabama has a knack for running the football led by Glen Coffee and a massive offensive line, but the Rebels have to make sure to not be gashed by the rushing game on first down. Allowing Alabama to consistently operate in second-and-short is dangerous, and the way to win is to force third-and-long and pressure John Parker Wilson. The Rebels have been most successful this season with their ears pinned back and blitzing the quarterback. That tactic should work well against Wilson, who is efficient thanks to the run game allowing him the option to open up play-action passes and throw into eight-man fronts. On Saturday, Ole Miss must make Wilson beat them.
The clear advantage for Ole Miss appears to be with the field goal kickers. Josh Shene has missed just one kick this season, while Tide kicker Leigh Tiffin pulled two against Kentucky a couple weeks back. Tiffin has been erratic and has yet to face a late-game, pressure kick this season. It is imperative for the Rebels to not settle for 3's, but Ole Miss does have the upper-hand if a field goal in the fourth quarter is the difference.
Alabama has played nearly 20 freshmen so far, but adversity hasn't struck any of them yet. With the Tide yet to even really play from behind, confidence and positivity surround the young group of athletes. Getting off to a good start and a lead is crucial for Ole Miss, so that the inexperienced Alabama players have the chance to tighten up and get nervous. The talent may be there, but there is something to be said for close SEC battles and experience being a plus. The Rebels' best shot is to get the young guys to start having to think about failure.
Crimson Tide Notes
Ole Miss Notes
Nick Saban Weekly Press Conference
"The thing that is most important for us is to focus on the things that matter. We need to focus on preparation, intensity and energy that we bring everyday to what we do. It affects our performance. Everybody has the opportunity to show the maturity and focus on the details that are going to help us improve as a team. I think we look at every game that we play, like it has a history and life of its own and play one game at a time. We need to improve as a team and that should be what our focus is. We have a lot of really good teams to play. Ole Miss is one of those teams. I think it takes a lot of maturity to play with consistency and for whatever reason we forgot to do the things that got us to 5-0. One of the coaches in our league said that this week. So, to have the foresight and understand the things that you need to do, so that you can continue to improve, get better as a team, play better as a team and build on a season is really the key to success.
"Houston Nutt is an outstanding coach. He has done a great job wherever he has been coaching. He did a great job at Arkansas for a long time. They (Ole Miss) have a very good team this year. Defensively, they are one of the top-ranked teams in the league. They are very difficult preparation with the different things that they do offensively and they've got good players to do it with. They've got a really good corps of receivers. They have been productive and all have big-play capabilities. (Dexter) McCluster is used all kinds of different ways as the wildcat back. He runs the ball, plays quarterback and runs the speed sweeps. (Jevan) Snead is an outstanding quarterback. He is throwing the ball well. They are not a one-dimensional team at all in terms of what they do, they have tremendous balance. Defensively, they have a lot of good players back, eight starters back, from last year's team. They create a lot of problems with their movement and their quickness. This is good all-around football team. They've also done a good job on special teams. They had a kickoff return for a touchdown. They have good return guys. They had a punt return for a touchdown. The blocked some kicks, blocked a kick against Florida. They have lost some tough games close. They have beaten Florida on the road. So this is a very challenging team for us and a very challenging game for us. Obviously the focus needs to be on what we do and how we perform and how we play and that's what we're going to try and get our players to focus on."
"The bye-week is over and everybody is healthy, so everybody is ready to go."
On the time you spent on fundamentals and against Ole Miss during open date:
"We certainly tried to spend a lot of time on fundamentals. In a day in age where a lot of people think it's what you do and not how you do it that determines whether you're successful or not, we're still old-fashioned in terms of how you do it is still pretty important. So, that was a big emphasis for us, individually and collectively, whether it was technique or systematically trying to improve in areas that we needed to fundamentally improve on. We had a period each day, not just on Ole Miss, but on people that we play in the future and things that we'll see in the future that are different to what we have seen to this point. Obviously, their wildcat stuff, or whatever you want to call it, is something that is uniquely different and we did spend a little time on that."
On Ole Miss' playing a more physical-brand of football:
"Well they had a very good team when David Cutcliffe was there and we played against them before. They were physical, they played hard on defense and they had a great quarterback (Eli Manning), who has done a great job in pro ball. So, we have a tremendous amount of respect for them. They do play physical now. They are very good up front with the offensive line. They've got four or five starters back. The left tackle (Michael Oher) is an All-American player and a very good player and arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the country and they play very hard and physical on defense, but I've never known them not to play that way."
On Travis McCall's role and possibly making a living in the NFL doing what he does:
"Well, my focus is not really on that, but there are role players and certainly good-blocking tight ends are a premium. That is something that a lot of teams probably can utilize, will utilize and do utilize. I think there is some opportunity for players of that style."
PC courtesy of the official Alabama web site.
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