Mississippi-Alabama Preview

BY foxsports • September 15, 2015

(AP) - Mississippi has put up offensive numbers even a video game whiz would envy. Alabama hasn't broken too much of a sweat in its first two games either.

The Southeastern Conference Western Division powers have coasted into league play without a stumble, unlike some of their brethren. Now, the second-ranked Crimson Tide hosts the 15th-ranked Rebels on Saturday night in a rematch with the one regular-season opponent who beat 'Bama a year ago.

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly hasn't been in the SEC long. He watched that 2014 meeting at a Mexican restaurant in Meridian, Mississippi, as a junior college player.

Nobody has to enlighten him on the significance, though.

"This is where you make the money," Kelly, who was also recruited by Alabama, said on Monday. "This is where it counts."

The winner's payoff is one step forward in the cannibalistic West where Arkansas has lost to Toledo and Auburn barely beat FCS Jacksonville State.

Losing, well, that's no fun anywhere — particularly in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"It sucks, big time," Tide cornerback Cyrus Jones said. "That's all I can say. I hate losing more than I love winning. I think that's just the mindset around here. It's definitely not something you want to experience."

The must-win games even in a division where all seven teams were ranked a week ago won't necessarily come until later in the season. Alabama, after all, rebounded from last year's loss to win the SEC title.

This might be the first real indicator of how good these teams really are.

Ole Miss is off to a recording-setting offensive start, becoming the first SEC team to score at least 73 points in back-to-back games.

The caveat is a doozy: The Rebels beat UT Martin and Fresno State while putting up those numbers. Those aren't exactly football superpowers.

Alabama represents a Bryant-Denny Stadium-sized step up in competition.

"I think we have a confident football team right now that believes it can win," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "I believe we can win. But I also know you can lose these games because you're playing a really good team."

The Tide so far has handled Wisconsin and run away from Middle Tennessee.

History is on 'Bama's side.

Ole Miss has lost the last 12 visits to Alabama and had dropped 10 straight in the series before last year's 23-17 win.

Rebels fans stormed the field in a wild celebration after watching their team rally with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a last-minute Senquez Golson interception in the end zone.

Alabama players profess to have a short memory, even though they've lost only four regular-season games in as many seasons.

Asked for his recollections from the game, Tide defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson said: "Nothing, really, to be honest. It's last year. New year."

Kelly, who's leading the nation in passing efficiency, will be in the middle of the madness this time, not enjoying chips and salsa.

He said the Rebels' impressive offensive start has built confidence, even if the competition has been weak.

"We understand how good we can be if we're all on the same page," Kelly said. "That's what I think is more important."

Never mind the crazy offensive numbers. Alabama coach Nick Saban also believes Robert Nkemdiche and the Rebels have one of the SEC's best defenses, producing three touchdowns on that side of the ball.

"If you're a great competitor you love to play in games like this," Saban said. "This is certainly going to offer as many challenges as anyone could hope for as a competitor."

Or, in Kelly's parlance, it's where you make your money.

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