No. 19 Mississippi tries for 3 in a row vs. No. 1 Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze says beating Alabama isn't just about having a great plan or possessing physical talent.
The coach said players have to believe they can win the game. And when it comes to that, the Rebels should be just fine.
No. 19 Mississippi (1-1) will be a substantial underdog when it hosts No. 1 Alabama (2-0) on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. But the Rebels have one advantage – they have a two-game winning streak in the series.
''You have to believe that you can and our kids do,'' Freeze said. ''We believe that we can play with anyone in the country. That doesn't mean we can beat them on any given day, but we do believe we have gotten to a point where we can step on a field and compete with them.''
Ole Miss will lean on senior quarterback Chad Kelly, who threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in the Rebels' 43-37 over the Tide in Tuscaloosa last season.
Kelly leads the SEC with seven passing touchdowns so far this season.
Alabama coach Nick Saban knows Ole Miss will try to create opportunities downfield and his defense must be ready.
''When we have struggled in the past we have given up explosive plays, which is something that their offense is constantly trying to create,'' Saban said.
Alabama's defense certainly seems capable of shutting down the Rebels. They've had two impressive games so far this season and have given up just 16 points over two games.
The Tide's secondary, including cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, say they're prepared.
''We're going to go out there, play hard, play physical, fast and just try to get the win and make up for the last two years,'' Fitzpatrick said.
Some other things to watch when Alabama and Ole Miss meet on Saturday:
RARE SUCCESS: Ole Miss has beaten Alabama twice in a row heading into Saturday's matchup, which is the only time that's happened in a series that dates back to 1894. Alabama has a 47-11-2 record in the series. The Rebels have had a little more success in game in Oxford, though, winning 4 of 11, including the 2014 matchup.
RED ZONE SUCCESS: Ole Miss has scored in 10 out of 10 opportunities in the red zone this season – all of them touchdowns. But the Rebels will be playing on Saturday without D.K. Metcalf, who had emerged as one of the team's best targets in the end zone. Metcalf, a 6-foot-4 freshman, caught a touchdown pass in both the Florida State and Wofford games, but a broken bone in his left foot has him on the sidelines indefinitely.
DEALING WITH INJURIES: Metcalf's injury hasn't been the only setback for Ole Miss this season. The Rebels lost starting cornerback Kendarius Webster and running back Eric Swinney to season-ending knee injuries during the Florida State game. Ole Miss needs freshmen like Jaylen Jones and Jalen Julius to step up in the secondary while senior Akeem Judd, junior Eugene Brazley and freshman D'Vaughn Pennamon will likely have bigger-than-expected roles in the backfield.
HURTS ON THE ROAD: Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts will be playing his first true road game on Saturday, but Tide coach Nick Saban is confident he can handle it. Said Saban: ''It's going to be a work in progress, but the thing that I like about him is that he doesn't get frustrated. He doesn't get all discombobulated. He has a lot of poise. I think he has a lot of inner confidence. He believes that he can do it. It's important to him.''
TRIPLE THREAT: Hurts has plenty of experienced targets in the passing game, led by receivers Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and tight end O.J. Howard. Stewart has emerged as the big-play threat so far this season with nine catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Ridley has caught a team-high 11 balls for 138 yards and a touchdown while Howard has caught five passes for 68 yards.
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