Saturday when Alabama and Ole Miss kickoff in Oxford the Tide will be looking to prevent the unfathomable, losing a third straight game to Ole Miss. No one associated with Alabama football whether they be a player, coach, fan, student, or alumni, has any interest in a world where Ole Miss has won three in a row over Alabama.
This game however isn't about revenge or redemption for Bama, it's about establishing the tone for what this season will be. There's a new quarterback in Tuscaloosa as well as no Derrick Henry and questions all over the offensive line. This game can't be about anything other than establishing who this team is, especially on offense.
Here are three keys to an Alabama win on Saturday, they aren't the only things Alabama will need to do, but they might be the most important.
- Play a clean game. It's really pretty simple, Alabama can't beat Ole Miss if they play like they did against Western Kentucky. Alabama has gotten out of the gate sloppy, plagued by false starts and dumb penalties. They also can't give up the huge plays that killed the Tide in this matchup last year. Bottom line is, Alabama has to play a clean, tight game Saturday.
- Find the running game. Nick Saban has asked we all give Bo Scarbrough the time he needs to develop as a player. Damian Harris showed some flashes against USC but then was a non-factor against Western Kentucky. True freshman B.J. Emmons has given us a taste of what he can do, but if the offensive line can't get it together the running game will be doomed. Jalen Hurts is immensely talented but he is still a true freshman and asking a true freshman with an ineffective running game and a shaky offensive line to win a game on the road against a tough opponent might be asking too much.
- Get to Chad Kelly. Chad Kelly may be the best quarterback in the SEC this year. He is a mobile quarterback who can present a dual threat and beat you with his feet. Kelly also has won this game two years in a row and will come out with a ton of confidence. Alabama has to get pressure on him with their front four to allow the secondary to contain the passing attack and Kelly's legs. If the Tide have to blitz too often it could open them up to those big plays that were such a problem last season. Bama has the talent to get to Kelly and Ole Miss hasn't seen spectacular play from its offensive line, so guys like Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams, and Jonathan Allen have to play to their ability.
There's no question this will be a tough game for Alabama, but the Tide have all the pieces to get this win. It won't come easy though and the Tide better come ready to play, because nobody wants to live in a world where Ole Miss has beaten Alabama three years in a row.