EDITOR’S NOTE: Counting down to the first week of Ole Miss football practice the week of August 15, HottyToddy.com’s own Collin Brister, former sports editor of the Daily Mississippian, will bring you exclusive “5 at 5” analyses of either A) the opponents Ole Miss will be facing this season or B) some background on Ole Miss’ players at each position. It’s being called “5 at 5” because each original piece will give you 5 key things to know, and we will post these stories at 5 p.m. every Monday-Friday.
Looking back at Ole Miss Rebels’ victories over Alabama Crimson Tide
As everyone reading this knows, unless you’ve lived under a rock, Ole Miss has beaten Alabama the previous two seasons. The Rebels, frankly, have dominated Alabama the past three halves of football.
The theme for the two Ole Miss victories is the Rebels causing turnovers, especially on special teams. Arguably, the biggest play in the 2014 contest was when the Rebels caused a Crimson Tide fumble late in the contest on a kickoff return. Ole Miss turned that into six points and went on to win 23-17 in the biggest win of the Hugh Freeze era. The Rebels caused and recovered two special teams fumbles in last years contest, resulting in 10 points for the Rebels on their way to their first victory in Tuscaloosa since 1988.
Alabama to Get a New Quarterback
As was the theme with the earlier preview of Florida State, Alabama is looking to replace last year’s starting quarterback Jake Coker. The Crimson Tide has played in the college football playoffs the previous two seasons with new quarterbacks. Alabama has a myriad of options to be the signal caller in Lane Kiffin’s third year as the offensive coordinator. Cooper Bateman actually started the game against the Rebels last year, but was replaced with Coker in the first half. The Crimson Tide also have redshirt freshman Blake Barnet and sophomore David Cornwell battling for the position
Evaluating Alabama’s Offensive Starters
The Crimson Tide lost Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry from last year’s team, but Alabama will always be stable at the running back position. The front-runner to replace Henry is 6’2” 230 pound former Ole Miss target Bo Scarbrough. Scarbrough rushed for 104 yards on 18 carries during the 2015 season. The Tide also return arguably the best receiver in the SEC in Calvin Ridley. Ridley had over 1000 yards receiving last season in a run-oriented offense. Alabama lost two offensive line starters in Ryan Kelly and Dominick Jackson. Alabama returns Cam Robinson to left tackle for his junior season. Robinson is the best left-tackle in college football.
courtesy: Ole Miss Sports
Weighing on Alabama’s Defensive Starters
The Crimson Tide got lucky after the 2015 season on defense losing only one draft eligible junior, A’shawn Robinson. Alabama returns Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen to front the defensive line. The Tide also return talented linebacker Reuben Foster, who played much of 2015 injured. Foster is a dynamic playmaker for the Crimson Tide. Alabama was also able to get senior Eddie Jackson to return to school for his senior season. Jackson will provide the secondary experience during the 2016 season. The Crimson Tide’s secondary could be extremely good this season, as they return Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick, both sophomores who started for the Crimson Tide at corner last season.
Analysis and Prediction: Alabama is still Alabama. Nick Saban is still Nick Saban. They aren’t going anywhere. That being said, Hugh Freeze seems to have Alabama’s number on the offensive side. The Rebels have put up 63 points in the last three halves against Alabama.
Ole Miss is going to get Alabama in their home stadium with Alabama’s new quarterback in his first true road environment. Ole Miss gets a huge benefit getting Alabama so early in that regard.
Nick Saban has never lost to an SEC opponent three years in a row, and Ole Miss will have a challenge on their hands to make that happen. They’ll have to get great, not good, play from Chad Kelly. They’ll have to stop Bo Scarbrough and make a young, inexperienced quarterback make plays to beat them. They’ll, in all likelihood, have to get a little lucky.
Collin Brister is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.