We've already predicted the season's wins and losses for each SEC school, including Ole Miss, now we'll work backwards through the 2013 Alabama schedule and preview each SEC game, ending with Va Tech.
Ole Miss Rebels
What Happened Last Year?
Last year, Bama beat Ole Miss 33-14. The Rebels were able to bottle up the Bama offense pretty well, allowing only 305 total yards, and forcing Jeremy Shelley to attempt four field goals, including two from the red zone. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze's offense just couldn't get anything going, amassing a paltry 218 total yards. To make matters worse, anytime the Bears gained any semblance of momentum, quarterback Bo Wallace would promptly throw an interception. Add in allowing a kickoff return to go for a touchdown, and the Ole Miss defense must have felt mighty lonely that September evening.
On a broader note, last year, Ole Miss finished with a 7-6 record Of the six losses, three were close losses to Texas A&M, LSU, and Vanderbilt. The other three losses were... less close.
How Does Ole Miss Look In 2013?
Not bad at all. No team in the conference returns more talent than the Black Bear Rebels, who return 8 offensive starters and 9 defensive starters.
On offense, their biggest loss was running back/wide receiver Randall Mackey, but they return QB Bo Wallace, RB Jeff Scott, and WR Donte Moncrief, as well as four offensive linemen. Add in five star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, and this group has the potential to be dangerous.
The ceiling for the offense will really be decided by how well Bo Wallace can perform in his second year in Hugh Freeze's system. Last year, Wallace completed 63.9% of his passes for 2,994 yards. Those stats actually stand up pretty well next to AJ McCarron's numbers from last year (67.2% and 2,933 yards). Look a little deeper, though, and the numbers sour in a hurry, as Wallace had 22 TDs compared to 17 INTs. To put that into perspective, you'd have to add up the INTs from Bama's starting QBs going all the way back to '09 to get to 17.
Defensively, Ole Miss was pretty much the definition of "mediocre" last year. They were 7th in the league in total defense, and 9th in the league in scoring defense. There were some mitigating factors to consider, though, as the Rebels had a rash of injuries that devastated their cornerback corps last year, sandbagging the team. This year, I look for the defense to take a step forward, considering they return 9 starters and are getting a serious influx of talent. Look for all-everything, five star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche to turn some heads as a true freshman. A couple other names to keep in mind - Antonio (Tony) Conner and Lavon Hooks. Tony is an incoming safety that was rated a five star by 247Sports, and was heavily recruited by Bama. Hooks is an incoming defensive tackle that was considered to be the #1 junior college player in the country.
Put all of these pieces together with an experienced returning squad and a rejuvenated group of cornerbacks, and this defense could climb the SEC ranks this year. Short answer to "How do they look in 2013?", if Wallace can protect the football better and the defense can stay healthy while taking a step forward, the Rebels may legitimately compete for second best in the West.
How Ole Miss Might Win
Basically, just play a better version of last year's game. Ole Miss did a fine job of bottling up Bama's run game, allowing only 125 yards on the ground. That number, by the way, was only second to Texas A&M's performance, which allowed 122 yards on the ground (note that I'm not counting Western Kentucky allowing only 103 yards, because, come on.). If the Rebels are able to have a similar performance defensively, this game could get interesting in a hurry.
One factor in games that is often quickly forgotten is when a team fumbles, but recovers it. We remember that Ole Miss was a turnover machine in last year's game because they had three turnovers to our one. We probably don't remember, though, that Bama put the ball on the ground three times in that game. I don't think Bama can afford to risk being so flippant with the ball this year.
So, how can they win? Protect the football. Smothering defense. Don't give Bama cheap points. This should be a close one.
Why Alabama Might Win:
Depth of talent. The gap between these two schools narrowed a bit this past February, but there's only so much headway a school can make in a single signing class. Ole Miss has the players to keep the game close and force Bama to play consistent football, but I don't think they have the depth to go four quarters with the Crimson Tide. Also, I don't have a lot of faith that Bo Wallace will be able to break out of his nearly 1:1 TD/INT ratio enough to push the Ole Miss past Alabama.
What I Think Will Happen:
Bama fans are prone to pointing and laughing at Ole Miss, but this could be our second closest game of the year, behind LSU. I'm actually a bit nervous about this one. I think Ole Miss is going to be stout on defense against us,but I think Bama pushes through late in the game to keep the rising Rebels at bay. Final score: 27-20.
|08/31/13||vs Virginia Tech||Atlanta, GA|
|09/14/13||at Texas A&M *||College Station, Texas||?|
|09/21/13||vs. Colorado State||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|09/28/13||vs. Ole Miss *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|10/05/13||vs. Georgia State||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|10/12/13||at Kentucky *||Lexington, Ky.||WIN|
|10/19/13||vs. Arkansas *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|10/26/13||vs. Tennessee *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|11/09/13||vs. LSU *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|11/16/13||at Mississippi State *||Starkville, Miss.||WIN|
|11/23/13||vs. Chattanooga||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|11/30/13||at Auburn *||Auburn, Ala.||WIN|