Oct 4, 2014; Oxford, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson head coach Nick Saban walks on to the field prior to the game against Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2016 Alabama football team will travel to Oxford, Mississippi this Saturday to take on the Rebels. Here’s why I think they could make it three in a row.
I don’t like to talk about Alabama football losing a regular season game or any for that matter. Meredith, our other co-expert, made me draw straws to see which person would do the “will” and the “won’t”. Okay, we didn’t draw straws. She was already working on hers so I decided to play devil’s advocate.
This game is one of those that hasn’t meant anything in the grand scheme of things in the end for Alabama football but in a tight SEC West race, it very well could.
Alabama fans expect to win this game more times than not and two in a row from the Rebels has left a bad taste in their mouths. Needless to say, they want this one back and I bet there are some players that do, too.
Here’s the part we don’t want to think about. If the Rebels make it three in a row over the Crimson Tide, what factors caused that to happen?
Let’s take a look and see some things that won’t come into play on Saturday. Did you see what I did there?
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide place kicker Adam Griffith (99) kicks a field goal during the first half against the USC Trojans at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
It happens every single time a field goal kicker lines up to attempt to post three points on the scoreboard. Alabama football fans hold their breath until they see the ball sailing through the uprights.
In the past two season against Ole Miss, the Rebels got their win by six points each season against the Tide.
If this one is a close one and I expect it to be, those field goal kicks could mean losing over winning. We don’t want that.
So far this season, Griffith has put two kicks through the uprights on three attempts. He is currently sitting on his longest for the season at 36 yards.
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The one he missed came against Western Kentucky and was from 48 yards and he just pushed it wide left.
During the back half of last season, Griffith settled down quite a bit from a shaky start to begin the year. His number could be called in Oxford in a close one and the Tide may need those three points to get out of there with a win.
Sep 19, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (13) fumbles the ball on the opening kickoff and Mississippi Rebels recovers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
I’m sure we have heard the talk from fans of other schools complain when we say the Tide’s mistakes is what beat them, but that is usually the case. With the said, after the first two games with the Rebels, Alabama needs to limit the turnovers.
Last season, the Crimson Tide committed five in the Rebels’ 43-37 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The year before in that game that made me start to dislike Katy Perry, an interception in the end zone ended the game to give Bama a loss in Oxford.
These Ole Miss teams as of late aren’t the Rebel teams your granddad used to see or the ones we remember from just a few years ago. The mistakes have to be limited against them.
In the first two games of the season, the Tide has had four fumbles and just one interception from Jalen Hurts on a bad decision. This Ole Miss defense isn’t as good as the past few, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Florida State Seminoles at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
I’m really ready for this guy to be gone out of Oxford.
The big question is which Chad Kelly will we get? Will we see the one that played in the first half against Florida State or the one that showed up in the second half?
What about the one that heaved up a prayer in Bryant-Denny last season and it was caught for a touchdown? I’m still salty about that one.
I think the safer bet would be the first half Chad because for the past two years, Ole Miss players have played out of their minds against Alabama for their Super Bowl.
Through the first two games, Kelly has completed 41 passes on 66 attempts for 532 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has thrown three interceptions in the short period, too. There again, it depends on which Kelly shows up.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin talks with quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) and wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) during the game against Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Hilltoppers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Nick Saban hasn’t said for sure, but if you read the tea leaves from the Western Kentucky game, Jalen Hurts will more than likely be the man against the Rebels.
Listing Hurts as a reason the Tide could lose to the Rebels isn’t a knock on the true freshman by any means. He’s having a great season so far and will only improve as the season goes on.
That’s the big question for this game. How much has he improved since USC? Is he ready to face an SEC defense?
Hurts has only thrown one interception this season and that one was just a bad decision against Western Kentucky. This Ole Miss secondary isn’t as good as the youngster would have seen in the last two seasons, either.
With the Trojans looking like they were overrated a bit and then factor the opponent in from last week, this will be his first major test. If he can play mistake-free football, we will all like the outcome.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris (34) is hit by Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defensive back Joe Brown (7) and linebacker Keith Brown (2) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Hilltoppers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
The Running Game
A staple of an Alabama football team since Coach Nick Saban arrived has always been the running game.
What Alabama fans have seen out of it this season has some concerned.
At this point in the season, the Tide’s leading rusher, Damien Harris, is ranked right in the middle of the pack for the SEC according to statistics.
Against Western Kentucky last Saturday, the Tide was held to an average of under one yard on a handful of carries in the first half. That’s alarming but with what the Hilltopper defense was presenting, it didn’t make sense for Lane Kiffin to run the ball right into them. They did finish with 124 yards for the day.
The offensive line hasn’t looked up to par with the lines we are used to seeing, either. With a true freshman making his first SEC start on the road, Alabama needs to establish the run against the Rebels to keep the defenders honest and give Hurts some breathing room.