GAMEDAY: No. 17 Ole Miss vs. No. 1 Alabama
Sept. 17, 2016

By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

No. 17 Ole Miss looks to make it three-straight against the No. 1 Crimson Tide on Saturday. No team has achieved that feat against a Nick Saban coached Alabama team.

"To play the number one team in the country at our home, it is an opportunity that I relish," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I love the attitude we had yesterday and we are excited about this great challenge."

Many teams are beaten by the Tide before the game even starts. They don't have the confidence to compete with the program that has become college football's gold standard under Saban. That hasn't been the case for Ole Miss since Hugh Freeze took over in 2012.

The first two meetings were lopsided on the scoreboard, but it wasn't due to an unwillingness to meet Alabama between the lines. As for the last two seasons, everyone knows how those went. They are on the shortlist for any Ole Miss fan's favorite games to watch.

"Our first year here, when we went there and played a very physical game against them, I thought we matched blow for blow, not on the scoreboard, but blow for blow with physical play," Freeze said. "That is something we had to do to compete and our kids really drew a lot of confidence from that."

For Ole Miss to make it three-for-three, the Rebels will have to play a much cleaner game than they did in week one against Florida State. Ole Miss turned the ball over four times. Since 2008, the Crimson Tide are 88-8 when forcing at least one turnover.

That's due in large part to a defense that is the equivalent of a meat-grinder. They're hard enough to move the ball on at any time. In fact, they've nearly forced more punts and turnovers (21) than allowed first downs (23) this season. Every possession is valuable and can't be lost.

"They are a little better defensively, believe it or not, than what they have been," Freeze said. "They seem faster and they are very difficult to create any drives on."

Of course, Ole Miss has been the Tide's foil the past two seasons. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, Alabama is 29-1 against everyone not named Ole Miss while being 0-2 against the Rebels. A large part of that is because Ole Miss protected the football and accumulated a +6 turnover margin in the two games. The lone turnover Ole Miss committed was on a play where a facemask penalty was missed.

The Rebels will rely on quarterback Chad Kelly, who became the only player to throw for 300 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs in the regular season against a Nick Saban Alabama team last year.

"You have to be calculated with your shots and be smart with them," Freeze said. "You need a few breaks when you're playing great teams. We've had some of ours and we've had a few go against us."

Since Freeze took over, only Alabama, Stanford, and Michigan State have more top-5 wins than Ole Miss. The Rebels look to add another on Saturday at 2:30.


 

 

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