Alabama vs. Ole Miss, game analysis

No. 1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) vs. Ole Miss (3-1, 0-0)

When: 8:15 p.m. today
Where: Tuscaloosa
Line: Alabama by 31
TV: ESPN.

Four-down territory
1. Injured quarterback:
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has taken his share of hits this season. He has been sacked 11 times. In the SEC, only Florida has allowed more sacks than the Rebels. In addition, the sophomore is second on the team in rushing with 179 yards. He also has an injured shoulder as the Rebels play one of the nation’s most physical defenses.
2. Red-zone defense: Alabama has allowed only five drives inside the 20-yard line this year and given up only two touchdowns in those situations. The Tide’s rate of 40 percent ranks third in the country. Ole Miss is seventh at 59 percent. In 17 red-zone chances against the Rebels, opponents have produced eight touchdowns and two field goals.
3. Win streak: If Alabama wins today, it will improve to 5-0 for the fifth straight year. As unusual as it may sound, the Tide never had five straight 5-0 starts under Bear Bryant. The closest Alabama can come to that is 1915-20 when the Tide was 5-0 four times and 4-0-1 once. There was no team in 1918 because of World War I.
4. Freshman influence: Although it probably won’t stay this way, it’s interesting to note that two true freshmen are leading Alabama in rushing and receiving. T.J. Yeldon is the top rusher with 254 yards, and Amari Cooper has a team-high nine catches. Another true freshman, Kenyan Drake, has three touchdowns, which is one behind team leader Eddie Lacy.

Key matchup
Alabama running backs vs. Ole Miss defensive back Senquez Golson:
Golson is a sophomore who appears to be a fine athlete. Not only is he a part-time starter for the football team, he also starts for the Rebels’ baseball team as an outfielder. Last year, Golson became the center of national highlights for a week when he got faked practically out of his shoes by Trent Richardson, who was near the end of a 76-yard touchdown run. Maybe this week Golson will bite on the nifty spin move Alabama’s Eddie Lacy showed off last week against Florida Atlantic?

Player of the week
AJ McCarron, QB, Jr., 6-4, 210:
McCarron completed 15 of 25 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns against Florida Atlantic. He ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency and has positioned himself as a Heisman Trophy darkhorse. McCarron has thrown 176 straight passes without an interception. Brodie Croyle has the school record with 190.

By the numbers
1:
Number of times Ole Miss has beaten Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The one defeat came in 1988 on Alabama’s homecoming when the Tide couldn’t complete a pass.
3: Number of kickoff returns by Alabnama this season. Crimson Tide opponents have scored only three times, and including one kickoff per game to start a half, Alabama’s opposition has kicked off only seven times this season.
6: Number of Alabama’s interceptions this year — six players with one apiece.
3,266: Number of days since Ole Miss last beat Alabama. Eli Manning’s Rebels beat a Mike Shula-coach Tide 43-28 in Oxford, Miss.

Prediction
Ole Miss is better than a year ago, but it’s not hard to improve on last season’s terrible 2-10 team. The Rebels still have a ways to go before they recover and can challenge teams like the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide. They have maybe 20 to 30 guys who could make the Alabama roster of 85 scholarship players. Alabama 41, Ole Miss 10.

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