The 2017 Ole Miss Football team has gotten off to a relatively disappointing start to the season. The Rebels have played below average football against inferior competition the first two weeks and laid an absolute egg against Cal in week three. After a bye week, Ole Miss will take a 2-1 record into Bryant Denny Stadium to take on the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Here we discuss the challenges Ole Miss will face in our Ole Miss vs. Alabama preview.
The Ole Miss offense has been somewhat of a roller coaster this season. There have been a lot of great plays that explore the talent of Ole Miss’s skill positions. There have also been instances when the Rebel offense showed that it could be figured out and stifled.
Quarterback Shea Patterson has looked fantastic at times. Through three games, he has racked up 1,281 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has exhibited his arm strength and his ability to extend plays with his feet. However, he has also thrown two interceptions, three of which came against Cal. Those turnovers were a huge factor in the Rebels losing to Cal. His line has to be more consistent in pass protection, and Patterson has to be a better decision-maker.
The Ole Miss run game continues to be nonexistent. Through three games, Ole Miss has rushed for 209 yards on 76 carries. That’s 2.8 yards per carry. Not to mention the best defense Ole Miss has faced this season (Cal) ranked 125th in total defense last season. Ole Miss has the talent in the backfield and the depth and experience on the offensive line to have a decent rushing attack. One has to wonder whether it is the scheme and the play-calling that is holding the Rebels back in this regard. Either way, Ole Miss has to improve or will face a lot of hardship the rest of the season offensively.
Right now, Alabama still has one of the best defenses in college football. This unit allowed seven points to Florida State, 10 to Fresno State, 23 to Colorado State, and zero to Vanderbilt. Ole Miss has to be efficient in every aspect of the football game to keep the Crimson Tide defense off balance.
The Rebel defense has been abysmal so far this season. Missed tackles and lack of gap responsibility has lead to everyone rushing for tons of yardage on the Ole Miss defense. Bad news, it won’t get any easier this week. Alabama’s offense has been very balanced and efficient. Along with leading his team in rushing, Jalen Hurts is completing a high percentage of his passes and has yet to turn the ball over through the air. The Rebels will need to change that if they are to compete Saturday.
While Ole Miss has struggled defending the run, Alabama specializes in running the football. The Crimson Tide has already surpassed 1,200 yards rushing on the season and are averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Ole Miss will be forced to rotate several players defensively as Alabama will look to wear down this thin, inexperienced Rebel defense.
Ole Miss has had some key injuries within the past couple of weeks. The most important of which were center Sean Rawlings and receiver A.J. Brown. After Rawlings went down with an ankle injury against Cal, the Rebel offensive line was in complete disarray. False starts and procedural penalties plagued Ole Miss on the offensive side of the ball. While the Rebels have plenty of weapons at reciever, Brown is certainly the most dangerous. He is a physical mismatch that can play outside or in the slot. He is the type of player Ole Miss has to have in order to challenge the Crimson Tide. Both Rawlings and Brown will be gametime decisions. Tight Dawson Knox and defensive ends Victor Evans and Qaadir Sheppard should all see extended time Saturday.
Ole Miss will face an extremely tough task Saturday. Alabama is the best team in the country in the eyes of many people while Ole Miss is still struggling to find an identity. Ole Miss is coming off a bye week and should come in fresh and motivated. This still won’t be enough and Ole Miss will fall to the Crimson Tide 45-27.