For an explanation of what the heck this all means, check out week one.
This week's match up has me a little concerned, thus the Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound ranking. Ole Miss is a team that, if you don't bring your A game, can make you pay for your mistakes, but that really aren't quite where they need to be yet to take over a game against an opponent like our beloved Tide. In my estimation, there are five things we need to do to come out with a convincing win:
1. Cash in on long drives: Against Kentucky, three lengthy offensive series ended in a lost fumble, a missed field goal, and another missed field goal. That highly uncomfortable 17-14 win that was in doubt until the onside kick was recovered by Alabama at the very least should have been a more comfortable 26-14 win (and, if we had punched in the TD from the 3 yard line instead of losing a fumble, 30-14), but when you play the kind of "control the clock and manage the game" offense that we do, the margin of error is too small to leave points on the field.
2. Get up early and stay there: This goes hand in hand with #1, really. We haven't trailed yet in a game, and considering we don't seem to have the kind of offensive firepower yet to play catch up should we get behind too far, not being able to score when the opportunity presents itself could be huge, especially in a game like this where the opponent does have the ability to score quickly. Ole Miss has a good group of receivers and their ground game, while a little unconventional, is solid, especially with McCluster out of the "Wild Rebel" and both Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden emerging as solid backs. They are currently fourth in the league rushing with a 163.0 ypg average (the Tide leads the SEC with 226.3, for comparison), and fifth in passing with 219.2 ypg (the Tide is a woeful 11th with 152.3, a shameful 5 yards per game behind Auburn). The defense has played lights out in the early going so far, and we need to continue to build on the magnificent 88-0 in the first quarter stat that has been so key to our success this season.
3. Contain the" Wild Rebel": A big reason the Tide has been able to be so dominant in run defense (leads the SEC, allowing only 50.8 ypg) is the fact that our line has shut down the interior runs all season long. That's not an issue for the Rebels, as the biggest part of their ground game comes from the "Wild Rebel" formation, and getting to the outside is what they do best. We've vastly improved the sideline-to-sideline pursuit from last year (the LBs are quicker and understand the defense better, and Brandon Fanney is plaing like what a Jack linebacker ought to), but everyone is going to have to play solid, smart assignment defense to keep them from breaking any big plays out of it. McCluster is averaging 6.5 yards per carry out of it, a more than respectable stat, so let's hope our D can take a chunk out of those numbers today.
4. Continue the domination on the ground: Not only have we taken away the run from everyone that we've played, we've been able to run the ball right down their throats all game long with three physical, down hill backs and an O-Line that has blown everyone off the ball so far. Whenever our passing game has suffered (Tulane and Kentucky, and even Arkansas to some extent) we've always been able to go back to the ground and move the ball well enough to keep things safe. Not turning the ball over will be key on this, and I won't be terribly surprised to see Upchurch getting some carries early in relief of Coffee, and of course Ingram will be the man in the red zone. Being able to continue the strong running leads us to...
5. Get the play action passing going again: We killed UGA with it in the first half, and Ole Miss's secondary isn't quite as good as theirs (or UK's, for that matter). With Mike McCoy back, we now have two big, physical pass catchers out there and Wilson can have a banner day so long as we can keep their defense up at the line. We also need to pass block a little better, and considering the Ole Miss front four is comparable to (if not a little better than) UK's, being able to open up the play action should give Wilson a few extra seconds to make his reads and the receivers a chance to get open downfield. Hope for the best, kids. Roll Tide.