In this space last week, I wrote that Ole Miss would score some points and called the 31-point spread a “sucker bet.” Not a lot of people took Ole Miss seriously, as that program has been a doormat in the SEC West for a very long time.
Here’s a news flash—Hugh Freeze is a very good football coach and prepared his team as best he could. The Rebels still came out on the short end of a 33-14 game in Tuscaloosa, at night, before a prime time national television audience.
Freeze’s team did something that no team has done since Tennessee last year—get a lead on Alabama during regulation play.
He did it using his up-tempo, no-huddle offense and a really smart defensive strategy.
That defensive strategy included loading up the box to take away the run and playing zone coverage deep to take away the long ball. That forced Alabama QB AJ McCarron to think in a hurry and check down to shorter routes. McCarron did that almost flawlessly, but still had a somewhat pedestrian night—he “only” went 22 of 30 for 180 yards, 2 TD’s and no INT’s.
Credit Alabama’s offensive line for a stellar performance. They outweighed and outmanned Ole Miss’ much smaller front seven and gave McCarron all the time he needed to check down to the right route and right receiver. The Tide is likely to struggle to do that against much more athletic defenses. John Chavis of LSU watched the game last night with a piqued interest.
Offensively, the Rebels did something that no one has been able to do against Alabama in what seems like forever—they methodically marched down the field and punched in a touchdown to take a one point lead in the second quarter.
Last week, I warned folks not to be surprised if the game was still competitive after halftime. At 27-14, The score indicated that it was after Ole Miss scored its second and last touchdown of the game. But everyone in the stadium and everyone watching on ESPN knew who was going to win the game. Ole Miss just wasn’t going to have the horses to beat Alabama.
Ole Miss may not be a very good team (good, just not very good), but they have very winnable games coming up against Texas A&M, Auburn, at Arkansas and Vanderbilt, and the Egg Bowl looks to be competitive for a change. Ole Miss also appears to have a very good football coach, and that’s something the Rebels’ haven’t had in a very, very long time.