Ole Miss Rebels vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Pick
Ole Miss Rebels (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date and Time: Saturday, September 23, 2023 at 3:30PM EDT
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Point Spread: MISS +7/ALA -7 (BetUS – Get a 100% bonus up to $300 with code PREDICTEM)
Money Line: Mississippi +220, Alabama -270
Over/Under Total: 56
The Ole Miss Rebels come to Tuscaloosa to battle the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, as both teams open their SEC Conference schedule. With three wins and three covers, Ole Miss is ranked and ready to make what would be a huge step by beating a team they’ve only beaten twice since 2003 in, the Crimson Tide. Alabama, however, isn’t looking their typical self, now ranked outside the top ten for the first time in 128 weeks. On Saturday, they scored a closer-than-expected 17-3 win over South Florida. Mississippi, meanwhile, scored a 48-23 win over Georgia Tech. Who can get the upper hand in this SEC clash on Saturday?
It’s odd to be experiencing this Alabama downturn, but perhaps some pause is in order before ringing the alarm bells. Beating teams by 14 even when you were supposed to win by a lot more and a 34-24 loss to a good Texas team is not enough to shovel dirt on their hopes this season. Adding some interest to this game is Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin being Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s former offensive coordinator, with some semi-contentious back-and-forth taking place.
Saban also announced that Jalen Milroe will be the starting quarterback as Alabama prepares for its conference opener. Milroe was not good against Texas, putting his status in jeopardy. Saban didn’t play him in the game against South Florida, and watching his other QBs combine for just 2 TD drives, and none through the air was likely enough for him to declare that it is Milroe who deserves the starting gig. There also appears to be some potential issues on the Tide sideline, as Kiffin said defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is not, in fact, calling plays for the Tide “D,” a claim refuted by Saban.
Challenges for Ole Miss
With two wins in the last 20 years, beating Alabama is indeed a hump the Rebels need to get over. It’s tempting to side with them in light of this not exactly looking like a typical Alabama juggernaut, but I’d guess Milroe and this offense really try to put something big together this week against a good Ole Miss team to further put the shame of the Texas loss further in the rearview. Milroe can do damage with both his arm and his feet, works with a good backfield with some variety, good receivers and options, and tight end. So far, it hasn’t really taken hold, but the sample pool is small. They lost just once, and no one is going to judge ‘Bama in the end based on how large their margin of victory was over South Florida.
The pressure might even be more on an Alabama defense that, when last placed in a competitive context, didn’t really hold up against Quinn Ewers and the Texas offense. They looked pretty good last week in holding the Bulls to a mere FG, but again, that’s not much of a measuring stick. But with the rumblings about Steele and the fact that the Tide need to depend on this side of the ball in games like this, I’d imagine Saban and Company dial up something good for his former offensive coordinator on the other sideline.
Why Ole Miss Has a Chance
Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart could be blossoming at the right time for the Rebels. The USC transfer had a good season last year and is off to a fast start, completing 66% of his throws, with seven TDs and one pick aerially, along with two more on the ground, as he is also the team’s leading rusher. He has a big back in Quinshon Judkins, who is the perfect short-yardage and goal-line threat. Dart also has a three-pack of impactful receivers in Jordan Watkins, Dayton Wade, and Tre Harris, along with Judkins also catching short passes.
We don’t want to be late for the bus as it applies to the notion that Alabama team just isn’t what it once was. For the better part of a decade, they’ve had future NFL quarterbacks under center. Now, we see what not having that big stud QB recruit is costing them. They’ve already played three quarterbacks this season, and we’re just not seeing that same smooth-running Tide offense with the clear high-end field general commandeering the machine. It’s not just the QB play, as we see a ‘Bama offensive line yielding ten sacks in their last two games. Five sacks to Texas is acceptable on what is chalked up as a bad day for all in that loss. But to give up five to the South Florida defense could be a red flag, as was putting up just over 300 yards of offense against that level of opponent.
The formula not working on offense has affected an Alabama defense that has seemed off-key despite the solid showing against USF last week. Against Texas, their performance was uncharacteristic, and they are now facing an Ole Miss team that returned some good starters while bolstering their stock in the transfer portal. It’s possible that conditions have just led to these teams being a little closer to each other than what is normally the case.
Take the Points
I think Ole Miss having Dart and, therefore, the best quarterback on the field is a departure from the normal dynamic of this matchup. I don’t question whether Milroe will rise to the occasion and embrace the Saban vote of confidence or that this Tide “D” can start to deliver with some better results and fewer three-and-outs on the other side of the ball. I just think getting a TD, there’s some value on Ole Miss. I’m taking the Rebels in this one.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Ole Miss Rebels plus 7 points.
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