Saturday, September 19, 2015 – 9:15 pm ET
Ole Mississippi Rebels at Alabama Crimson Tide
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Scattered clouds. Warm. 87 °F, Wind: 6.70 mph/E
Ole Miss is the first SEC team to ever score 73+ points in back-to-back games and the first team from any conference since Houston in 1968 . The Rebels have eclipsed 600 total yards in both games. Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring offense (74.5 ppg) a year after topping the NCAA in scoring defense (16.0 ppg). No. 2 Alabama is the first ranked opponent this season. Ole Miss went 3-3 against top-25 teams last year.
Ole Miss secured its first ever victory over the nation’s top-ranked team with a 23-17 win over Alabama on Oct. 4 last year in Oxford. The Rebels overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit as senior QB Bo Wallace directed the comeback with three second-half touchdown tosses, including the 10-yard game-winner to junior RB Jaylen Walton with 2:54 left. Senior CB Senquez Golson, who was taken in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, intercepted Blake Sims’ pass in the end zone with half a minute left to seal the Rebel victory. It was Ole Miss’ first victory over Alabama since 2003, snapping a 10-game skid.
After leading the NCAA in scoring defense last year (16.0 ppg), Ole Miss currently tops the nation in scoring offense (74.5 ppg). The defense isn’t too shabby so far this year, ranking second in the SEC and 21st nationally (12.0 ppg).
Alabama is 2-0 on the young season and is ranked No. 2 in both the AP and coaches polls this week. The Crimson Tide has victories over then-No. 18 Wisconsin (35-17) and Middle Tennessee (37-10). RB Derrick Henry leads a powerful run game with his 243 yards and six TDs. Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman have shared snaps at QB, with Coker holding an edge in production completing 30 of 47 passes for 427 yards, two TDs and an interception. The Tide defense has limited opponents to 63.0 rushing yards per game and forced and recovered three fumbles.
The Alabama defense includes seven starters from a season ago. Those seven return 330 total tackles, 40 tackles for loss and nine sacks to this year’s team. Of those returning starters, five come from the Tide front seven, including Jonathan Allen who collected 11.5 tackles for a combined loss of 44 yards, both totals that ranked second on the team in 2014. Senior defensive leader and inside linebacker Reggie Ragland returns as well after recording 95 total tackles, 10.5 of which were for a loss, to rank second on last year’s team.
The Bottom Line: Since these teams mirror each other, this game should come down to Special Teams. Senior RB Jaylen Walton ranks fifth in school history with 3,518 career all-purpose yards and holds the school record for career kick return yards with 1,575. He needs 164 all-purpose yards to over-take Jeff Scott and Brandon Bolden and move into third place. Junior DB/PR Carlos Davis made his debut as the Rebels’ punt returner and had six returns for 80 yards (13.0 average) against UT Mar tin. Against UT Martin, junior DT Robert Nkemdiche recorded the Rebels’ first blocked field goal since 2010 (Allen Walker vs. Fresno State). Sophomore K Gary Wunderlich has converted his one field-goal attempt and all 17 PATs and ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring with 10.0 ppg.
Selection: Mississippi +7