Said McNair: "As almost every fan of SEC football knows, the Crimson Tide has a winning record against every league opponent. Sometimes, though, it is a surprise how dominant Bama has been against some teams.
Ole Miss is a prime example. Although the Rebels are considered historically one of the stronger teams in the league, Alabama has an all-time record of 45-9-2. That's in some part due to Alabama and Ole Miss not playing in some seasons when the Rebs were very strong.
Alabama has won the last five games, but in the last four the margins of victory have been thin, three-point wins in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and a four-point win (24-20) last year."
And it's also because Ole Miss and Alabama didn't play some years when the Tide was at its worst. That was through the 1950s before Bear Bryant took over in 1958 and things got substantially better for the Tide.
When Ole Miss and Alabama did meet, things often still didn't go the Rebels way in that era. Like the 1964 Sugar Bowl. Tide starting quarterback Joe Namath was suspended. Future Ole Miss head coach Steve Sloan got the nod at QB for Bama. All was set for a Rebel win, right?
Final score: Alabama four field goals (12) and Ole Miss a touchdown and extra point (7).
Snow was banked up that day on the edges of the field at Tulane Stadium. Ole Miss committed 11 turnovers and still almost won.
But it was Alabama that came away from the Crescent City with a victory, and that's the way things have fallen for the Rebels too often against their neighbors to the east.
Alabama's players get to think nothing but football for the next few days. It's fall break in Tuscaloosa. Classes ended Wednesday and won't meet again until Monday.
Tide head coach Nick Saban sent his troops through practice Wednesday indoors.
"We worked inside today, really just because of the turf," he said after practice. "It was a little humid out (Tuesday). The players worked hard and were a little drained and the fields were a little wet, so this seemed like a good day to go in and get used to the turf. We usually practice in there on Thursday anyway. The players worked pretty well today."
A Big One Indeed
Saban continues to tout Saturday's matchup as a season headliner.
Ole Miss, ranked No. 4 in the nation before losing at South Carolina two weeks ago, enters the game 3-1 overall and 1-1 in SEC play. The Rebels are currently 16th in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and 20th in the Associated Press poll. Third-ranked Alabama is 5-0 and 2-0.
"This is a big national TV game," he said, "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."
Lighting Up The Scoreboards
Five SEC teams - Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss - are averaging more than 32 points per game. Every team is averaging at least 20 points a contest this season, with Vanderbilt in 12th currently at 20 points per game.
At the end of last season, only two teams were averaging at least 32 points a game - Florida at 44 and Ole Miss at 32.
Saban said scoring is up across the league this season because of great players.
"I think there are a lot of good offensive teams," he said. "I think sometimes that stuff sort of goes with the quarterbacks and it seems like there is some really good quarterback play this year. We are going to play against a good quarterback (Jevan Snead) this week. The guy's (Jordan Jefferson) playing well at LSU. (Tim) Tebow is obviously one of the best quarterbacks in the country. I think the skill players in the league have something to do with that. I don't know that it has anything to do with a football team. I think it's the quality of the personnel and the systems that are out there that people are running, that are more and more difficult to defend and the multiples that you see become more and more difficult to defend."
The former head coach of Michigan State, LSU, and the Miami Dolphins said his current team has proven to be quite effective offensively.
"I just think we've had a little more continuity and consistency and a little better balance than we had a year ago, in terms of running and passing. We've probably made more explosive plays. We haven't turned the ball over. I think those are the keys."
Quite A Rush
The Alabama defense will be looking to get pressure on Jevan Snead, much like they have quarterbacks all season.
The Crimson Tide defense had five sacks in each of its first two games and has 15 on the season after only recording 26 during all of last year. Alabama is currently tied for 11th nationally in sacks with 3.00 per game.
"They do everything well," Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin said. "They don't have a weakness. They are big, strong, fast, great tacklers and are very sound fundamentally.
"We have to get every single yard we can get and we can't make a single mistake. We have to fit a gameplan to what we think their tendencies are, but even that is difficult because their tendencies are hard to pinpoint. Coach Saban mixes things up and gives you a lot more to prepare for, especially on third-and-long. Overall, they are just very good and we'll have to bring our best to the field Saturday."
Defensive end Marcell Dareus has led the way for the Tide with 3.5 sacks per game, sixth best currently in the SEC. Cornerback Javier Arenas is second on the team with 3.0 sacks for eighth in the league. MLB Rolando McClain is next with two sacks. The Tide is also second in the SEC in tackles for loss with an average of 7.4 per contest.
The Alabama defense has been tough on individual rushers the past couple of seasons. No running back has cracked the 100-yard mark since the Rebels' BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 131 yards on Oct. 13, 2007, a span of 24 games.
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