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OLE MISS REBELS (3-0) at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (3-0)
No. 1 Alabama faces another tough test on Saturday night when it hosts the explosive offense of No. 21 Ole Miss.
Ole Miss hasnt beaten Alabama SU since 2003, averaging a mere 13.1 PPG during nine straight defeats in this series. But the Rebels have covered in four straight visits to Tuscaloosa, losing by just 9.8 PPG in the four ATS wins. As 31-point underdogs, they lost only 33-14 a year ago, holding the Crimson Tide to 305 yards of offense. Ole Miss enters this one winners of five in a row SU, and has covered in five of its past six contests. This season, the Rebels are averaging 38.0 PPG and 490 total YPG in their three victories. Alabama essentially took last week off against Colorado State, resting numerous starters in a 31-6 victory. It was the second straight week the Tide have failed to cover, winning 49-42 at 8-point underdog Texas A&M the previous week. However, this is a good sign considering Alabama is 15-3 ATS (83percent) off two no-covers as a favorite since 1992. However, Ole Miss has had plenty of time to prepare with last week's bye, and they are 19-6 ATS (76percent) on the road when playing with 2+ weeks of rest since 1992. Both teams also have favorable coaching trends, as Hugh Freeze is 12-4 ATS (75percent) since arriving at Ole Miss and 13-3 ATS (81percent) in the first half of the season as a college coach. Nick Saban is 18-8 ATS (69percent) off a home win by 17+ points, and 25-14 ATS (64percent) after 3+ straight wins as the Alabama head coach.
The Rebels have shown tremendous offensive balance this season with 250 rushing YPG (21st in nation) and 240 passing YPG (55th in FBS). QB Bo Wallace is a true dual-threat under center, throwing for 648 yards (7.5 YPA), 4 TD and 0 INT, but also running for 120 yards and 3 TD. Wallace is looking to make amends after a dreadful performance at Alabama last year when he completed just 15-of-26 passes for 123 yards (4.7 YPA), 0 TD and 2 INT. He has a great chance to improve upon that with the return of top WR Vince Sanders who has missed the entire season after suffering a broken collarbone in the first fall practice. Sanders caught seven passes for 46 yards in last year's loss to the Tide. Without Sanders, Wallace has relied mostly on three players who have all surpassed 10 catches and 150 yards this year -- TE Evan Engram (175 yds, 2 TD), WR Donte Moncrief (173 yds, 2 TD) and Laquon Treadwell (154 yds). It's never easy to run on Alabama, but the Rebels have an excellent ball carrier in RB Jeff Scott, who has galloped for 330 yards on just 35 carries (9.4 YPC) with a pair of touchdowns. He scored on a 75-yard game-winning scamper with 1:07 left in his team's SEC-opening win at Vanderbilt. The Ole Miss defense has been much improved this season, especially against the run where it has held teams to 114 rushing YPG on 3.1 YPC. The passing defense has also been decent, allowing 218 YPG on 6.8 YPA, including 5.4 YPA in its last game, a 44-23 win at Texas. The Rebels are really hoping to have sophomore LB Denzel Nkemdiche (knee) back in action. He was all over the field in last year's meeting with Alabama, racking up 11 tackles, 3 TFL and two forced fumbles. His brother, highly-touted freshman DE Robert Nkemdiche, has yet to record a sack, but he does have 10 tackles (eight solo) in his first three collegiate games. Ole Miss knows it needs to create some turnovers, something it has done five times this season.
Alabama's offense has not been very consistent, especially on the ground. The Tide tallied just 96 rushing yards (2.5 YPC) in the season opener versus Virginia Tech and 66 yards (3.1 YPC) in last week's victory over Colorado State. However, none of this blame should go to RB T.J. Yeldon who has gained 5.6 yards per carry on his 49 attempts. Despite the ground game underachieving, QB AJ McCarron has been outstanding in his decision making over the past two weeks, completing 40-of-55 passes (73percent) for 592 yards, 5 TD and just 1 INT. McCarron was very efficient in last year's win over Ole Miss too, completing 22-of-30 passes (73percent) for 180 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. Both of those touchdowns went to WR Amari Cooper, who finished with 84 yards on eight receptions. Cooper did not play last week because of a minor toe injury, but he will be back on the field Saturday. If he's still limited, McCarron has three other receivers that have topped 100 yards this year, including explosive junior WR DeAndrew White, who has a hefty 20.1 yards per catch with a pair of touchdowns. Fellow junior WR Christion Jones leads the Tide with 12 receptions, piling up nine grabs for 90 yards last week. The Tide defense and special teams have provided a great source of offense with five combined touchdowns already. Alabama's defense looked extremely shaky in its only SEC contest, allowing Texas A&M to compile a whopping 628 total yards of offense. The Tide were predictably much improved in this department last week, holding CSU to a mere 279 total yards, including 51 yards on 26 rushes (2.0 YPC). In last year's defeat of Ole Miss, the Tide picked off three passes and gave up only 218 yards to the Rebels.