My last predictions post ended with the idea that Texas would beat Ole Miss 31-28, that the Longhorns would play with emotion and exploit the Ole Miss corners.
They did neither.
It was a dominant second-half showing by the Rebels in all three phases and a big win over a very talented program albeit one experiencing a bit of turmoil.
What Ole Miss accomplished in Austin should not be overlooked because Texas coach Mack Brown made a change at defensive coordinator.
I’ll go ahead and tell you, however, that if you need me to predict an Ole Miss win in Tuscaloosa to have a good Thursday you’re going to be disappointed.
With a three-game body of work for both teams right now, there are some matchups that tend to favor Ole Miss.
Alabama has struggled to run the ball consistently, while Ole Miss has stopped the run. If the Rebels can stop the run again, they’ll be able to rush the passer in favorable down-and-distance situations. If not, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron will hurt them with the play-action pass.
The success of Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans against the Alabama secondary has been well-documented. Ole Miss will bring two physical receivers to the table in Donte Moncrief and freshman Laquon Treadwell. Vince Sanders is getting back in the mix too, and freshman tight end Evan Engram has emerged as a bonafide threat.
Alabama appears to be getting healthier in the secondary with the return of cornerback Deion Belue.
For Ole Miss to have its best night passing the football it will have to run it. It’s unlikely that Jeff Scott will get the corner as often as he did against Texas. That will require more success between the tackles, so we could see more of I’Tavius Mathers. Freeze calls him the Rebels’ best inside runner. Mathers turned an ankle late in August camp and hasn’t carried much this year. He had a very physical run of 35 yards against Southeast Missouri but had just 14 yards on four carries at Texas.
Special teams play will be huge. Alabama’s Christion Jones has already returned a punt and kick for a touchdown, both against Virginia Tech. Ole Miss’ kick coverage units have improved, but Jones hurt the Rebels last year with a 99-yard kick return score.
We’re seeing an Alabama team that is showing some uncommon vulnerability, but we’re also seeing one that just went on the road and scored 49 points against a team right now ranked No. 10. Alabama won a difficult, emotionally-charged game in a hostile environment and was ahead comfortably in the latter stages of play.
Ole Miss can make this a fourth-quarter game, and anything can happen then.
Unlike just a year ago when these two teams met there is right now a belief and expectation among Ole Miss players that they will win. For five straight games over two seasons that’s proven true.
That belief has been in place at Alabama for a much longer period of time. Ultimately the savvy that goes along with that, the experience that comes from it, will propel the Tide in this game.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Ole Miss 28