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Game Day Preview - Ole Miss at Alabama: Keys & what to expect

Alabama OL Brian Motley (66), TE Preston Dial (85), RB Mark Ingram (22) & TE Michael Williams (89)
Alabama OL Brian Motley (66), TE Preston Dial (85), RB Mark Ingram (22) & TE Michael Williams (89)
Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

Here’s a preview of Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC) at #8 Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Kickoff is scheduled for 8pm CT, Saturday, October 16, 2010. Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe will be the game announcers on ESPN2.

Below, I give my analysis of each phase of the game what to expect, my prediction and connections between the two schools.

Ole Miss/Alabama Connections
Alabama leads the all-time series 43-9-2. The Crimson Tide has won 6 straight meetings.

Former U. of Alabama Offensive Coordinator (under Mike Shula) Dave Rader makes his return to Tuscaloosa. He is Ole Miss’ Co-Offensive Coordinator along with Mark Markuson.

Phase 1: Alabama Offense vs. Ole Miss Defense

If Alabama’s offense will allow itself to be great and play with swagger, the Rebel Black Bear mascot will be the last one standing after an Ole Miss beat-down.

Alabama needs to play with swagger on offense. The Tide players may have thought they could just show-up last week, but they sure didn’t play like that. Alabama needs to go back to being the one dictating play, not passively reacting to what the opponent does. This is the most talented team in the country. Punch Ole Miss in the mouth with the run game regardless of who they put in the box. Establish the run and physicality from the start.

Alabama has the two best running backs in the country. To pass in order to set-up the run with this offensive line, those running backs and the tremendous blocking wide receivers on this team is inexplicable and a waste of play-makers. Alabama’s mindset offensively has been too submissive when it should be dominating.

When Alabama throws it has to willing to go down the field. With big-plays in the passing game come back-pedaling safeties that can’t support the run. McElroy has to be willing to throw the pass up and let his receivers make plays for him. He cannot play afraid. Don’t confuse that with taking chances and playing reckless. There’s a difference.

If the Rebs want to sell-out to stop the run and you can run against it (which I don’t believe) then run “The Wildcat” without McElroy, put an extra tight-end or receiver in the game and use that extra blocker vs. the extra DB in the box. Spreading the defense out is another way to keep teams out of the box. Here’s another way.

Ole Miss’ defensive line was assumed to be the strength of the team entering the season. That unit has talent but it’s underperformed. Ole Miss also has lost all-SEC DE Kentrell Lockett to a season-ending knee injury.

Phase 2: Ole Miss Offense vs. Alabama Defense
Tackling Jeremiah Masoli will be extremely important. He’s able to get out of arm tackles and sure-tackle situations all the time. Ole Miss creates a lot of big plays. Masoli is usually right in the middle of it.

Masoli averages 10 runs and 19 passes per game. There are some talented wide receivers on this team that may cause Alabama’s DBs some problems. He gets the team in the endzone. He’s been a real force this year.

Dont’a Hightower and Mark Barron have to be up to their All-American talents. This defense is still learning and finding its way. The stars have to be the stars until everyone’s level rises. Marcell Dareus has been closer to that than Barron or Hightower.

RB Brandon Bolden has really come on as of late. When Ole Miss can run out of regular-formations, it’s a dangerous and potent offense.

You never know what good ole Houston Nutt has up his sleeve. Don’t be surprised to see some trick plays to attempt to fool this young secondary. I have a feeling Nutt thinks they can throw against Alabama’s DBs. Inside slants have worked often against the Alabama defense. Expect to see some of those routes.

Phase 3: Special Teams
This has been a real positive for Alabama. It all went wrong last week vs. South Carolina. It will be important to see if Alabama’s issues continue or if that was one bad game.

If Trent Richardson is going to return kicks again, I want to see him run with the decisiveness, vigor and violence that we’re used to.

Marquis Maze is likely to return punts. He’s put the ball on the ground before. Alabama can’t afford those kinds of turnovers. Ole Miss turns those into points.

Jesse Grandy is a small, quick return man for Ole Miss. He had a 73-yard punt return vs. Kentucky.

Keep an eye on Carson Tinker’s long snaps, if he’s even handling those this week. I think they’ll stick with him. If not, my best guess is back-up center David Ross.

Bottom Line
I think Ole Miss will make some plays on Alabama’s defense but not nearly enough. The talk is Masoli and the Rebels offense vs. the youth and inexperience of the Crimson Tide defense. I believe that if Alabama utilizes its heavy advantage of its offense vs. Ole Miss defense, the Rebels can’t win and won’t win. I think Alabama plays much better and with much more intensity than last week. It won’t be a cure all game for Alabama but it will be much closer to what we expect from Alabama.

Score Prediction
Alabama 38 Ole Miss 17

Check back after the game for a complete recap of the game with observations and immediate analysis of the game, along with game notes and post-game quotes.

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