2015 marked the last time head coach Nick Saban failed to guide the Alabama Crimson Tide to a perfect 5-0 start.
Matt Luke and Ole Miss (2-2) will be the last line of defense on Saturday to prevent that from happening once again. Despite the Rebels lukewarm start to the season, Saban has already warned that Saturday’s game will be no simple task.
Saban and his coaching staff are well aware of the threats that Ole Miss can pose — especially on the defensive side of the football. The Rebels leads the SEC in tackles, and they’re third in the conference in sacks (12). Luke’s team has also racked up seven turnovers in their first four games.
However, Luke and his team are yet to face an offense as daunting as the one led by junior QB Tua Tagovailoa.
Saban discussed his quarterback’s improved confidence this week.
Analyzing Alabama’s ground game
The Crimson Tide have scored an average of 51 points per game at home coming into Saturday’s game. Overall, they’re averaging exactly 50 points per game on the season. Tagovailoa — who has unsurprisingly emerged as a Heisman candidate — has already thrown 17 touchdown passes without an interception.
The junior will likely have little issues against a Rebels’ defense that allowed California’s Chase Garbers to throw for 357 yards and four touchdowns last weekend. But Saban will also surely call for a bit of balance for his offense.
The Crimson Tide currently rank as the 6th-best rushing team in the SEC — just above Ole Miss. They’ve only rushed the ball 134 times (9th in SEC), yet they’re averaging 5.34 yards per carry which ranks 5th in the conference.
Alabama junior running back Najee Harris rushed for 110 yards on just 14 carries in last week’s 49-7 win over USM. Junior Brian Robinson Jr. has also been an effective change-of-pace rusher for his team. Tagovailoa’s rushing ability has also been well documented. Saban has a slew of options to call upon in the backfield, and Luke’s defense will have to be able and willing to stop the run on Saturday.
What to Know
Ole Miss comes into Saturday’s heavyweight bout as 38 point underdogs.
In their loss to California last weekend, the Rebels’ failed to score from the 1-yard line as they attempted to tie the game late. They might be slightly more motivated to win this time around following the manner of their latest defeat.
Although, their opponent, will undoubtedly be prepared for their SEC home opener.
Kick-off is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
In this week's practice report, Charles Clark, Myles Hartsfield and Octavious Cooley preview this weekend's road trip to Tuscaloosa. ➡️https://t.co/ZZzZOLCE3l
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 25, 2019