Commentary by HottyToddy.com contributor Lee Ann Herring Olvedo
This season for Hugh and the boys hasn’t always been pretty, but so far it has been undefeated. However, this weekend will forever change the way we may see the Rebels and Tide respectively. For the Rebels, it will be the chance of a lifetime to make a national splash and put Oxford front and center in the college football universe.
I heard someone say today that passion has a funny way of trumping logic, which resounded loudly in my thoughts as I write this article. As much as I appreciate logic, when it comes to the analysis aspect of my job, I believe, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of each game, the numbers don’t matter as much as heart.
There is something to be said on game day about forgetting the hype — pundit’s favorites and underdogs and just allow the boys to play a game we all love. To see players reach inside their hearts and find that balance of rawness and innocence that ignites a passion and an outcome that the odds can never predict. There is no perfect formula that really prognosticates what team is better for a game like the one that is likely to unfold on Saturday.
Before I get down to business for this week’s keys to the game, I offer you Dear Readers a little Vegas logic and some stats just to indulge y’all.
Point spread: Alabama – 6.5 Moneyline: Rebels +235, Crimson Tide -275 Over/Under: 51.0
Now that I have got that out of the way, lets get back to business. It’s no question that the Rebels have cooked up plenty of momentum since the start of the season. They seem to be legitimate SEC championship contenders so long as they keep that momentum train rolling.
One of the things that makes this match-up crucial for the Rebs is not what will come from a win — but all that could be lost with a clunker showing. What I love about game weeks like this one in particular are the unconventional things we’re likely to witness. Saban and Freeze are sure to pull new strategies out of their bags of tricks. We’re in for an old-school football showdown. Don’t be surprised if you see Hugh and the boys execute some unexpected offensive packages to change the pace and fire up the run game.
Their is no question that Ole Miss has one of the toughest defenses in the nation. They will have their work cut out for them to say the least. The Rebels will need to focus on containing Alabama’s best offensive weapon — wide receiver Amari Cooper. Coopers numbers are a force of nature — as he has piled up 655 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 43 catches. Cooper is coming off an impressive show against Florida with 201 receiving yards, three touchdown and ten catches.
The Tide will be rolling in rested after a week five off week. However, both teams will have to take the mistakes out of their offenses to run on all cylinders.
Bo Wallace this season definitely has been a Jekyll and Hyde performer along with an Ole Miss offensive line that has struggled at times. Bo and his line will have to keep an eye on Tide junior safety Landon Collins, who is a major game-changer and difference maker. This kid will be a top-20 draft pick for sure. The Rebels will have to keep their eyes on Collins for every snap if they want to get their passing game going.
As the saying goes, timing and opportunity are everything. The Rebels have a chance to seize an opportunity and turn it into something grand. It’s no secret after this past week that Bama QB Blake Sims is on a throw-count to prevent him from aggravating the AC shoulder joint he bruised against Florida. Though Sims is No. 4 in pass efficiency in the SEC, his injury could open up opportunities for the Ole Miss defense. Not to mention the fact that the Tide has already had some issues with their pass protection. That’s a problem for Alabama since they’re about to face the best defense they have played this season.
This will be Sims first real road test. With him not 100 percent, it could change Bama’s ability to get into their typical groove that wins games.
With that said, a crucial opportunity for the Rebels to take down the Tide legacy a notch will rest in the hands of the front four for the Ole Miss D. If that sturdy group can collapse the pocket and force Sims into quick decisions and mistakes, this could turn the tables. It’s certain that Alabama is not the same without Sims, and this is not a game Nicky Saban wants to hand over to backup QB Coker.
When it’s all said and done the game comes down to which team can play with passion and conviction for four full quarters of football. This game will be filled with unexpected turns from each team. Neither team will win this battle without their best effort of the year. Opportunity is about to knock at both teams’ doors. Lets see who makes the excitement and pageantry work for them.
Are you ready, Rebels?
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.