It's Friday, folks! Tomorrow is the day when we find out what this team is made of. While it's far too early to declare this the game of the year in the conference, there is reason to suspect that these may be the best two teams. We'll start with Marq Burnett of the Anniston Star, who live-tweeted Saban on Tom Rinaldi's radio show last night. The highlights:
As Alabama continues to use play-action, Saban said the TEs will become an even bigger part of the offense.— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) September 18, 2015
What's that? Play action? Tight ends?
Music to an Alabama fan's ears. Granted, there could be some gamesmanship going on here, but it seems obvious that this team is built for power football. The spread and HUNH concepts were largely developed to alleviate talent discrepancies. When you're bigger and stronger than the other guy, sometimes it's better to simply play physical and impose your will. Coker and these elite receivers were built for the play action game.
Injury update: Saban says Maurice Smith got a stinger during practice. Freshman Ronnie Harrison will play in the dime package.— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) September 18, 2015
Saban said Alabama will play 3 freshmen in dime vs Ole Miss: Marlon Humphrey (redshirt), Minkah Fitzpatrick (true) & Ronnie Harrison (true).— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) September 18, 2015
Good news/bad news here. I'm glad to see Ronnie Harrison getting an opportunity, but not happy to have it happen due to injury. Smith was rounding into his own at that safety spot and would be missed. We're counting on you, Ronnie. The thought of three freshmen in the secondary, all on the field together? Pass the Maalox. They have boatloads of talent, but that is asking a lot.
Ostendorf: Kelly has looked terrific in the first two games, but the offensive line didn’t have much trouble protecting him against UT-Martin and Fresno State. It’s a little different against an Alabama defense stocked with NFL talent. How will this Ole Miss line hold up, especially if Laremy Tunsil sits out again?
I truly believe this will be the most critical match-up in the game. If the Rebels' patchwork offensive line is able to protect Kelly long enough for him to get the ball down the field, it may be a long night for Alabama. Kelly has shown the ability to run that offense masterfully when given the time to do so. Fortunately, on paper, the Alabama defensive front vs. the Ole Miss offensive line should be the most glaring mismatch in the game. If the Tide is to win, this vaunted front seven will have to live up to its billing in a huge way.
"You can't really look at that," Jones said of Ole Miss averaging more than 70 points per game. "You have to look at who they're playing. That's how I look at it. We know what type of defense we have. It's not about what they're doing. It's about what we come out and do, and how we execute what we're supposed to do. "We don't get caught up in the big numbers that they're putting up, because even if we scored 70 points against Middle Tennessee State, I don't think our offense would be very excited because they know they still have to get better to play the teams they have to play. I don't think the numbers even matter."
It's hard not to like Cyrus Jones. He has grown into a confident corner and leader of the secondary who backs down from no one. It sounds like he's looking forward to manning up on Laquon Treadwell.
"We have a little bit more speed (in the secondary) and it’s going to be really important that we do a good job of covering their players and keeping them cut off down the field," Saban said. "We practiced pretty well this week. They’re probably going to make some plays, but I think you have to minimize the big plays they make, do a good job of tackling on the perimeter and we have to be able to stop the run up front without having to load the box or that’ll open up the big plays for them."
Starting with the headline, Saban also spoke about Bo Scarbrough with Rinaldi, said he's been practicing since August and should be able to contribute right away in the UGA game on October 3. He also said that whatever NCAA rule was broken happened during his recruitment and had nothing to do with Alabama. As an in-state player, Alabama and Auburn were his two finalists. You do the math.
Pertaining to the quoted text, as I said above, that front is the key. If they are able to win at the point of attack, stopping the run and rushing the passer without committing extra players, life will be much more difficult for Chad Kelly and that Ole Miss offense. Also, the young secondary is certainly faster and more athletic this season. If the Tide is able to rush Kelly, there should be some opportunities to intercept the ball on the back end. May that gaudy belt change hands many times on Saturday.
"As for (our) defensive linemen and what to study, it’s not going to change their scheme whether he plays or doesn’t play. It doesn’t change their plays. It doesn’t change who gets the ball. It doesn’t change the runs. It does change a little bit how an individual might play against him. So those individuals need to look at that, and if he plays be ready for it."
This makes sense as a defense will rarely scheme around a particular offensive lineman. His status will certainly have some impact on the outcome of the game, however. If he plays, the Ole Miss line obviously becomes much more formidable.
"I like the personality of this team," Saban said. "I think we've played physical and the players have given good effort. We haven't always executed with the consistency that we'd like, but we've done a lot of good things and certainly want to build on those things."
In general, Saban has been pleased with this team's approach. Whether that will translate into a ton of wins remains to be seen.
Howard saw the interception from last year again recently. As Alabama watched film of the game to prepare for the matchup on Saturday, Howard had to observe again and re-live Golson taking the ball away from him to seal Ole Miss's win. "It's," Howard said, "a little edge on my shoulder because of that."
O.J. Howard is off to a vastly improved start. If the plan is to get the tight ends more involved, Howard will obviously be a the greatest beneficiary. With his size and athleticism, he should be an utter nightmare to cover. Perhaps that Ole Miss play has given him the necessary motivation to reach his potential.
But fans hoping the SEC will assert itself as the nation’s best conference might fear an Ole Miss victory in Tuscaloosa. Alabama and Auburn entered the year as presumed playoff contenders. After the Tigers showed warts against an FCS team last week, a poor outing by the Crimson Tide on Saturday would mean the SEC’s most dangerous squads looked beatable within the season’s first month. Of course, Ole Miss could always turn an Alabama upset into its own playoff run, but that didn’t happen last year.
This is drivel. If Ole Miss beats Alabama and goes on to win the SEC with no more than one loss, they will be a shoo-in for the playoffs. Based on what I have seen thus far, it's far more likely that the ACC is left out.
"While we are aware of past controversies, Jonathan has not been found guilty for the incidents he was accused of that led to his dismissal from his prior institutions," the statement said. "The Director of Athletics and Head Football Coach have met with Jonathan to outline the expectations of a Southeastern student-athlete."
Saban took a ton of flak over the Taylor signing, but he too spoke with those who would know about him and his situation before making the scholarship offer. Maybe Jonathan can keep from blowing his final opportunity and actually get on the field for his remaining one year of eligibility.
That's about it folks. Get plenty of sleep tonight and have some caffeine on standby just in case tomorrow night. It's going to be a late one.