College breakdown: No. 21 Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0)
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Sep 27, 2013 | 1782 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) communicates with running back Kenyan Drake (17) during the Tide's game with Colorado State. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) communicates with running back Kenyan Drake (17) during the Tide's game with Colorado State. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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When: 5:30 p.m., today

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

Line: Alabama by 14.5

TV: ESPN

Radio: 95.5 FM

Four-down territory

1. Run to pass:
It sounds simple, but Alabama’s running game has to be better to take pressure off its passing game. The Tide ran the ball only 21 times against Colorado State. Expect that number to exceed 30 this week. Running the ball well will make Ole Miss’ safeties have to creep up and, AJ McCarron and his receivers will have opportunities to make big plays. The Tide is currently the worst rushing team in the SEC, while Ole Miss’ run defense is third in the league.

2. One dimensional: Ole Miss’s offense has been incredibly balanced so far this season, averaging 490 yards with 240 coming through the air and 250 on the ground. Alabama has to take away or at least slow one of those areas down. Alabama’s defense allows 250.3 passing and 122.7 rushing yards a game.

3. Third-down conversions: Alabama was 2 of 10 on third-down conversions against Colorado State and didn’t convert the two until its final drive of the game. That stat has to improve against a quality SEC opponent.

4. Catch your breath: Ole Miss’ offense averages a play every 21.1 seconds, which is good for 17th fastest in the nation. Alabama’s defense won’t have much time to rest or get its calls in. The Tide has prepared all offseason for the uptempo offenses and the early season game against Texas A&M should help with adjusting to game speed.

Key matchup

Alabama’s secondary vs. Ole Miss’ wide receivers:
But not for the obvious reason of being able to stop the Rebel’s passing attack. Ole Miss’ running game is built around perimeter runs with running back Jeff Scott. Ole Miss’ wide receivers are big, talented and physical blockers. If Alabama’s cornerbacks and safeties aren’t able to get off blocks, Scott could break a few big outside runs.

Prediction

This could be a statement game for Alabama. Through three games, the Tide hasn’t looked like a complete team and what better way to silence critics than against a conference opponent on national television. It will be close early, but Alabama will find away to pull away late. ... Alabama 31, Ole Miss 20.
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