The biggest games of the year for the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) at home will be here this Saturday. Alabama will be hosting the #12 Ole Miss Rebels (3-0) and their explosive high-power offense. This will be the second meeting between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his former assistant in Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. Saban is 23-0 all-time versus his former assistants. Anytime that Alabama faces Kiffin’s offense, it is no easy task. Last year, Alabama defeated Ole Miss on the road 63-48. The Rebels’ offense is led by a serious Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Matt Corral. It is Ole Miss’ defense that improved significantly from last season. While there is no doubt that Alabama’s offense will be up for the task, they have a serious fight with Ole Miss’ defense. Here are the goals for Alabama’s offense against Ole Miss.
Keys for #1 Alabama’s offense versus #12 Ole Miss
The Offensive Line of Alabama Needs to Protect the Pocket
In four games this season, the offense for Alabama rank fourth in points per game (46.5). They are led by their Heisman Trophy front-runner in quarterback Bryce Young. His tremendous and explosive passing skills have Alabama rank 16th in the nation in passing yards per game (313.8). In just four games, Young has thrown for 1,124 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only one interception on 88 completions (out of 122 passing attempts). Young is a highly athletic quarterback as he can move out of the pocket and throws down the field. Young escaping the pocket has become a common theme for this Tide’s offense, will either get pressure from the interior offensive or the right side of the edge. Alabama has only given up seven sacks in four games this season because Young is so elusive.
For Alabama to win a potential shootout with Ole Miss, the offensive line must keep the pocket clean. The only way for Ole Miss to slow down the offense of Alabama is if they can pressure Young and force incompletions. In three games, Ole Miss has accounted for nine sacks, with four of them coming from buck linebacker Sam Williams. He is a player like Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., a two-technique pass rusher who constantly gets into the backfield and sacks the quarterback. With him playing the buck linebacker, Ole Miss can shift Williams around to either side of the edge. Redshirt senior Chris Owens will need to be prepared for an aggressive Williams coming off the edge. Owens and the interior offensive line will also need to avoid constant pre-snap penalties that kill any offensive momentum.
Alabama Needs to Continue Establishing the Running Game
There is no doubt that Young and the Tide’s loaded receiver corp can get open through separation and make plays. Alabama will need their development to the run game against the defense of Ole Miss. The Rebels rank 61st in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (136). Alabama’s offense currently ranks 80th in the nation in rushing yards per game (151.8). Last Saturday against Southern Miss, Alabama had their best rushing performance so far this season. The Tide rushed for 211 yards on 33 rushing attempts for an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Alabama had their first 100-yard rusher last Saturday as Roydell Williams rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Jase McClellan rushed for 97 yards on 12 carries against Southern Miss. Senior Brian Robinson Jr. was in pads, but he did not play due to a rib injury.
The Rebels defense has a solid defensive line and linebacker corp, but they do not have the best confidence in their secondary’s ability to tackle near the line of scrimmage on outside runs. The outside runs are some of Alabama’s best plays regarding their run game. If Robinson is not 100% for Alabama, they can still rely on McClellan and Williams to quickly get the outside and wear down the Rebels’ defense. The defense for Ole Miss has given up at least 139 rushing yards in each of their three games. Ole Miss has also not played an explosive and athletic offense like Alabama yet this season. If the offensive line can get to their blocks with pulls and climbing to the second level of the defense, Alabama can do some real damage with their run game. Alabama could then use their passing game on a gassed-out Rebels’ defense.