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Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Alabama

Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss faces No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.

Wallace Gets Another Shot at Alabama

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has said he wants to be the first quarterback to get Ole Miss to Atlanta, and becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning (2003) to defeat Alabama would be a big step forward in achieving that goal.

Wallace keeping his composure, ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff said, is one of the keys to victory for Ole Miss.

The Southeastern Conference's active leader in most passing categories, Wallace ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally passing (317.8), but he's been up and down some this season, and he's coming off a game against Memphis where he completed 22-of-37 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"His mindset never changes," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He'll be as confident as any kid on the field entering Saturday's game. He's always that way. It's a really good quality about him. He's very resilient. He'll be looking forward to this game."

Alabama ranks fifth nationally in total defense (250.3 ypg), second only to Ole Miss among SEC teams, but the Crimson Tide have been more susceptible to the pass than the run. 

On the ground, Alabama ranks second nationally, giving up 62.0 yards per game, including just 2.67 yards per attempt, while through the air the Crimson Tide rank 25th nationally, giving up 188.3 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt.

"It's obviously a big challenge playing Alabama," Wallace said. "They're a top-five team and the distractions are going to be here. It's a great opportunity for our team. We're excited about the challenge, and we know it's going to be a good game." 

Eliminating Negative Plays, Staying on Schedule

The biggest mismatch on paper is the Ole Miss rushing offense against the Alabama rushing defense. The Rebels' rushing offense ranks 76th nationally, averaging 160.8 yards per game, and ranked 82nd nationally, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt, while the Alabama rushing defense ranks second nationally.

Ole Miss has showed more two-tight sets to help in the run game, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins has found success in short-yardage situations, converting three third-and-shorts, three fourth-and-shorts and scoring a 2-yard touchdown in his 10 carries this season.

"It's a tall task to consistently do it," said Freeze of running the football against Alabama. "You have to be balanced. You have to mix it up and find things that give your kids a chance to do what you're asking them to do, but it's a difficult defense to do it against." 

Eliminating negative plays, staying on schedule and staying out of third-and-longs, offensive line coach Matt Luke said, are among the little things it takes to win close games, and those little things start with running the ball effectively and finding balance offensively.

"They're big and fast," Luke said. "They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball."

Tough Test for Stout Defense

If called upon, whether to keep Ole Miss in the game, or win the game, can the Rebel defense rise to the challenge as they have so far this season?

Through four games, the Ole Miss defense has been among the nation's best, giving up just 8.5 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. 

More impressively, the Rebels have given up just two touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation.

"I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here," said Freeze after holding Memphis to three points and 104 total yards in a 24-3 win this past Saturday. "They were really phenomenal. That was a team that was putting up some really good numbers."

In Alabama, the Ole Miss defense faces a balanced attack, one ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (42.0 ypg), 19th in rushing offense (258.5 ypg), 12th in passing offense and fourth in total offense (594.3 ypg), headlined by senior quarterback Blake Sims and junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Sims ranks second nationally in completion percentage and fourth in passing efficiency (190.3), leading the SEC in both categories, while Cooper leads the nation with 163.8 receiving yards per game, and leads the SEC with 10.8 receptions per game and five receiving touchdowns.

"The most impressive thing with Sims is his accuracy and how efficient he's been running the offense," Freeze said. "He's completing a huge percentage of his passes and throws the deep ball extremely well.

"Cooper is arguably one of the top three receivers in the nation, if not the best, and he's been super explosive. You have to guard him on runs because of the screen game, and you have to guard him on the deep ball. He's a difficult matchup for everybody, including us."

What They're Saying: Ole Miss-Alabama Pregame

Ahead of the first-ever visit of ESPN's College GameDay and one of the biggest weekends in school history, here's an exhaustive link roundup of stories from local and national media regarding the SEC West showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss:

Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 1969: The night college football went prime time, writes Lars Anderson for AL.com

Katy Perry for GameDay? Katy Perry for GameDay, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Two top-15 games make for the biggest weekend ever for Mississippi football, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

New York Giants' Eli Manning likes Ole Miss' chance against Alabama, writes Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Mississippi's Moment: The Newly Relevant Rebels and Bulldogs Take Center Stage in the SEC West, writes Matt Hinton of Grantland

Mississippi becomes epicenter of college football, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

Good Guys Finish 1st: The Hugh Freeze Story, writes Lars Anderson for Bleacher Report

Big week in Mississippi a milestone for coaches Freeze, Mullen, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports

Alabama's got 'chinstrap in and locked and loaded' for Ole Miss' 296-pound running QB, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama QB Sims has Ole Miss' respect, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

This is the Rebels' best chance, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Alabama's top-ranked run defense poised for different sort of challenge vs. Ole Miss, writes Andrew Gribble of AL.com

At Ole Miss, evolving perception both outward and inward, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today

Bo Wallace eager for another shot at Bama, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Hugh Freeze preps for Lane Kiffin curveball, says 1-on-1 battles could determine Alabama-Ole Miss, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama defense to be tested by Ole Miss tempo, Laquon Treadwell, writes Alex Scarborough of AL.com

How Lane Kiffin improved Bama's offense, writes Mackenzie Kraemer of ESPN.com

Ole Miss can make a statement vs. Bama, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Blake Sims (then a RB) had a memorable night in Alabama's last Ole Miss trip, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama-Ole Miss: Kiffin has turned Tide into nearly unstoppable force, writes Coy Wire of Fox Sports

Game-changers: Cooper, Treadwell major keys in Ole Miss-Alabama matchup, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Amari Cooper 'banged up' after Florida win, not listening to Heisman talk, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

No. 11 Mississippi prepares for Alabama offense, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

History on schedule for Mississippi, writes Chris Low of ESPN.com

Ole Miss and its Landsharks a legit threat to Alabama's run as the SEC's best defense, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com

Ole Miss confident it can compete with Alabama, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Alabama faces biggest test yet in Ole Miss, writes Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com

Wild, wild SEC West set for historic day, writes John Zenor and David Brandt of the Associated Press

Epic, writes Chuck Rounsaville of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

In case you missed it, 3 Things You Should Know About Gameday, The Memphis episode of The Season: Ole Miss Football and Get Your Grove On - Get Up. It's GameDay

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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