TUSCALOOSA -- In order to breakdown Alabama's opponents, each week we're reaching out to beat writers who cover the opposing teams. Hugh Kellenberger covers Ole Miss for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Q. Ole Miss is off to its first 3-0 start in a long time. Are the Rebels for real or is the hot start because of weak competition?
A. Weak competition? Ole Miss went to Vanderbilt on a Thursday night to start the season, and played in front of 100,000 at Texas. Southeast Missouri is Southeast Missouri, but every school plays an FCS team. No, this start is very much for real -- how many teams have won twice on the road already? The Rebels are doing everything they want to do as a program: play fast on offense, have a 50/50 run/pass percentage and limit big plays on defense.
Q. Who is Ole Miss' most important player not named Bo Wallace?
A. Right now I would say Jeff Scott. The senior running back has not been a dependable player up to this point in the career, even if he did lead the team in rushing as a sophomore and junior. But he made key lifestyle changes in the offseason, and has been his best ever since. He's fifth in the league in rushing, and first in yards per carry. And it was 75-yard run that beat Vanderbilt and punt return touchdown that broke Texas' comeback hopes.
Q. Has Bo Wallace improved enough since last year's game to beat Alabama on the road? Has Ole Miss' offense improved enough?
A. Whether or not he actually does, I think he's in much better position to do so. A year ago Wallace had just shown up at Ole Miss from East Mississippi Community College, having never played major college football. Games like Texas and Alabama overwhelmed him. He's been through it before, and feels much more comfortable this year. Also, post-shoulder surgery, he's improved his throwing mechanics and is overall making better decisions. That's the best thing to happen to this offense: he threw 17 interceptions a year ago, and has zero through three games.
Q. Give Alabama fans an offensive and defensive player that could surprise the Crimson Tide.
A. On offense, Evan Engram. The freshman tight end is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds soaking wet, but Ole Miss uses him in the slot and he's an eager blocker on the edge (and a capable one, with his long arms). And he's also caught 11-of-13 passes thrown at him this season.
On defense, Mike Hilton. The sophomore moved from husky (Ole Miss' hybrid/safety linebacker position) to cornerback three weeks ago, and had a good game against Texas. He's not very big (5-8), but was able to play husky because he is so aggressive and willing to attack the guy he is covering.
Q. Who wins, why and what's the score?