No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS) at Ole Miss Rebels (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS), Saturday October 15th 2011. 6:00PM EST, College Football Week 7
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Oxford, M.S.
By Jay Horne, NCAA Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bama -25.5/Mississippi +25.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Ole Miss Rebels snapped a two game losing skid last week with an out of conference victory over Fresno State 38-28. It was just the 2nd victory of the season for the Rebels who are 2-3 on the season and still in search for their first conference victory. This week things are bound to get tougher for the struggling Rebels as they host the no. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this Saturday night.
For the visiting Crimson Tide, they appear to be on a collision course with LSU for not only the best in the SEC but possibly the opportunity to play for the National Championship. Alabama has simply been dominant beating all opponents by at least 16 points and an average margin of victory of 28 points in SEC conference match-ups. I have claimed a couple of times this season that Alabama maintains the best defense in America and they have not disappointed that claim yet.
Last week the Crimson Tide recorded their 2nd shutout of the season by thumping Vanderbilt 34-0. In fact, the Alabama defense has now given up just 24 points in the last 4 games which averages out to just less than a touchdown given up per game. The Crimson Tide defense owns the top scoring defense in the country giving up just 7 points per game and has only relinquished 191 yards per game on average. This week the Crimson Tide defense will have their ears pinned back again as they battle a struggling Ole Miss offense that ranks nearly dead last in the NCAA averaging just 274 yards per game.
On offense, Alabama is not exactly an explosive group but in reality they do not need to be. The Crimson Tide offense focuses on ball security and a strong running game. Coach Nick Saban understands that his defense is going to win most games as long as the offense does not beat their selves. Freshman QB A.J. McCarron is coming along nicely at the quarterback position after a slow start. McCarron had career high numbers last week completing 23 of 30 passing for 237 yards with 4 scores and 0 picks. Coach Saban is not scared to call plays to allow his freshman quarterback the opportunity to throw the ball down field. Therefore if McCarron continues to improve, then the playbook will open more as the season progresses.
Still, the running game is the bread and butter of the Alabama offense. All-SEC running back Trent Richardson has been solid behind and very good Alabama offensive front. Richardson recorded his 5th straight 100 plus yard running performance last week against Vanderbilt with 107 yards rushing and 1 touchdown. On the season, Richardson ranks 2nd in the SEC in rushing with 729 yards and also leads the conference in rushing touchdowns with 11 total. Expect another heavy dose of Trent Richardson this Saturday when the Crimson Tide attempt to stay undefeated.
The biggest question surrounding this Saturday's match-up is will the Rebels offense be able to find a way to move the football? So far this season, Ole Miss has just been horrible on offense and was even held to just 7 points in a loss to lowly Vanderbilt earlier this season. Its one thing to struggle an offense, but it's another to be facing those problems against a team like Alabama.
Rebels QB Zack Stoudt has been simply horrible completing 50% passing with 2 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions. Last week, junior Randall Mackey got the nod behind center and completed 8 for 18 passing for 214 yards with 1 score. Mackey may get the call again this week as he can also run with his feet and keep the play open longer. Still, the Rebels lack playmakers in the receiving game to expect things to change drastically. However, Ole Miss did find encouragement in the running game last week behind tailback Jeff Scott. The Rebels handed Scott the ball last week 24 times and the sophomore responded with 138 yards with 2 scores. Expect the Rebels to try and run the ball early this Saturday to prevent any further quarterback woes in effort to find a way to move the football.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This pairing is very similar to the Alabama vs. Vanderbilt pairing from a week ago. I backed the Crimson Tide last week and I think the defense does it again this week. Take Alabama -25.5.
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