Settle It: Alabama vs Ole Miss, who will win this SEC West showdown?

Photo: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

A mere two years ago, Ole Miss, lead by former head coach Houston Nutt, served as nothing more than SEC West cannon fodder for the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide.  With the Rebels headed to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, not much has changed within coach Nick Saban’s program. Except, of course, the talent level may have gotten even better.

Something is a’brewin’ in Oxford, however, and that something has the Rebs poised to take a real run at the defending national champions in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Second-year head coach Hugh Freeze led the program to a shocking seven wins in 2012 and carried the momentum through the recruiting season and into this fall.

But can No.21 Ole Miss remain undefeated against the toughest opponent it will face all year? The program has already beaten Vanderbilt and Texas, but quarterback Bo Wallace has yet to see a defense this loaded.

Led by linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the Tide boasts talent and experience at nearly every position. Safety Vinnie Sunseri has already returned two interceptions for touchdowns through the team’s first three games.

Could turnovers be a deciding factor on Saturday? As a sophomore in 2012, Wallace threw a whopping 17 picks. However, he has been sparkling in the early going this season, tossing four touchdown passes compared to zero interceptions. Of course, it helps to compliment star junior wideout Donte Moncrief with not one, but two spectacular pass-catching freshmen. Laquon Treadwell was widely considered one of, if not the, top wide receiver recruits in the nation coming out of high school. He leads the team with 16 receptions and his 154 yards rank third. Moncrief’s 173 rank second and there’s a shocker at No. 1: Even Engram, a 6-foot-3 freshman tight end out of Tennessee, who boasts 175 yards and two touchdowns on 11 receptions.

This unit, along with running back Jeff Scott’s 330 rushing yards, could make life extremely difficult for Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart’s unit.

That being said, if there is anything we learned from Bama’s 49-42 win on the road at Texas A&M, it is that this version of the champs can win high-scoring affairs, as well as smash-mouth games.

That is in large part due to the right arm and experience of senior quarterback A.J. McCarron. The only passer in the history of the sport to ever win back-to-back BCS national championships (and the only one that ever will, seeing as the BCS is set to be scrapped after this season) completed 20-of-29 passes for 334 yards, four touchdowns and no picks against A&M. His passer rating finished at a sparkling 211.23 in outplaying reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.

If McCarron can outplay Johnny Football, he should have the firepower to score enough points to take down Bo Wallace. Especially with T.J. Yeldon taking handoffs out of the backfield and fellow sophomore Amari Cooper stretching the defense.

Ole Miss’ star linebacker, Denzel Nkemdiche, will be watching from the sidelines, which should make life easier for Bama’s offense. Nkemdiche collected a team-high 82 total tackles as a redshirt freshman a year ago, but was hurt against Vanderbilt in the season-opener.

Instead, a rebuilt Bama offensive line will have to focus on Nkemdiche’s “little” (we use the word extremely loosely in this case) brother, Robert. The No. 1-ranked high schooler in the country in 2013 measures in at 6-foot-5 and 294 pounds – but he’s got speed. He has already recorded four tackles for a loss and even took a fake punt 11 yards for a first down.

The Kouandjio brothers, Anthony Steen and the rest of the Tide offensive line will have their hands full with him. Has Bama’s big uglies improved enough to barrel through another tough SEC unit? If not, can McCarron continue to prove he is more than simply a “game manager” and out-duel another elite conference quarterback in Bo Wallace?

What about Hugh Freeze? He has proven he knows how to build a program from the ground up, but does he have enough tricks up his sleeve to blow up Alabama’s season and head back to Oxford with a team-defining win in the process?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps you do. It’s time to settle it.

[poll id=”227″]

Photo: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

  • bamminer

    Ole Miss–don’t like them and wonder how anybody “black” or that has any black friends can go there with only their recent change of heart on the slavery mascot/flag issue(before that change of heart they had a team that was not only awful in the SEC but also losing to awful teams elsewhere); seems like their agenda was to get top black recruits and they fell in hook; line; and sinker and have forgotten already–seems like the fab five freshmen thing all over again. They are talented enough to seemingly challenge for the West title this year! Especially, with how inconsistent Alabama and A&M have looked this year. Alabama–with all the open passing and running zones there that they were afforded against A&M–may find this game a bit challenging–if not an upset watch! If Alabama doesn’t suck it up, then they West title may come down to an undefeated LSU or Ole Miss playing an SEC and national title! On another note, when do we get Belue and Smith both back[rhetorical]–if ever–in game shape?! If we are to make history, it’d better be sooner rather than later! If Ole Miss is not just another one of these shell-shocked teams that have grown accustomed to losing to us, then we’d better have one of those WE’RE BACK kind of games. If they are rolling coverage to Cooper’s side(or he’s just having the proverbial soph. slump) then why aren’t they letting Howard loose[rhetorical]? Can the other guys show up[rhetorical]?

    • E Kyle Rogers

      Get over it. You are as antiquated as your hate speech.

      • bamminer

        That name sounds Caucasian. If so, you don’t get discriminated against on a daily basis(or have white ancestors who were severely discriminated against/enslaved/killed by black people) and there is no symbol of racism that is infamy for you. We have some: the reb x flag; the kkk; slave owners; taskmasters; blacks being depicted as animals or in overexaggerated caricatures! What happens when Jews see the swastica or anything representing Hitler or nazi Germany? Get over what, exactly?! I’m black and from Mississippi, so I know what it’s like to have both tread lightly around whites(especially authoritative like cops) and be discriminated against! You don’t have to worry about someone putting something in your food; coughing on your change; being rejected for a loan; or being pulled over, just because of your skin color. Sure, whites are discriminated against in black gangs, but you can avoid them easily most of the time–just don’t flash and stay out of their neighborhoods where they frequent! Some of these want revenge for mistreatment! We can also avoid mob-like(white) gangs using the same methods.

        However, blacks can’t avoid going to work, going to the bank, going to the store, being pulled over by the cops(if cops want to pull them over), eating in restaurants, we can’t avoid Uncle Toms/Aunt Tonis(who are lured to be your sympathizers by your popularity and authority–you don’t have to deal with these people amongst your own people), etc. Ole Miss had–up until recently: 2008–the very symbols that blacks justifiably look at and turn their heads in disgust at and–which–symbolize utter black dehumanizing by whites in every aspect of life and OLE MISS KNEW IT!!!!!!! And even in times when white public perception had LONG moved away from that, they were like isolated in this thinking for at least 4 more decades. It’s BEEN time to move on–not all the way in 2008! Heck, the first black QB in the SEC appeared way back in ’72! Immediately after(within 5 years), Ole Miss started getting top black recruits.

        To me, this was their bigoted agenda with that action; it lacked sincerity–to use blacks and carry on the tradition of their ancestors for their own betterment(albeit in a much smaller way than on the plantations, because they can no longer operate with that brutality)! I guess some blacks are even more blind than the Uncle Toms and Aunt Tonis circa mid 1960’s and before. At least, those people can honestly say they were fearful of being attacked/killed or having their family attacked/wiped out at a moment’s notice! These newer black kids are willingly going with it hook, line, and sinker as if Ole Miss had long represented itself as it does now. That isn’t the case. Maybe 2028 or 2038; it’s just too soon now! I would not, but- -then again–I’m truly black. Ole Miss smirked at and fervently continued the very things that people like MLK, Jr. advocated against–people who are invaluable as far as the freedoms(still unrequited) that blacks enjoy today. Some blacks have forgotten or don’t care about how we got here! It’s a shame!

    • Armyguy007

      You must be an total idiot, I would call you a racist, but since I’m white I don’t think that I’m allowed to. Are you like ten years old and was raised by racist. I figure the only reason you actually believe that crap you are saying is because your parents told you that. The most racist ppl now days are blacks. The only ppl that are getting discriminated against are middle aged white men. Blacks can say what every they wan too and it’s okay, just like what your doing. While if your white, you have to watch what you say or everyone will think your a racist. Like when the a white person says he didn’t vote for Obama, the media and blacks say he is racist then. All you are doing is bring up shit that happened decades ago. And not all of what you said is even true. I love how you say how you are discriminated against, we all know that bullshit. I lived in MS all my life. We know what goes on. I have black friends that would beat your little as for all that dumb shit your saying. You don’t even know what it means or feels like to be discriminated against. I was in the army for 8 years add have been all over the world. You need to go to some of the places that I have been too, then you would shut the hell up and really know what it means to be discriminated. I know a lot of blacks that think they are owed something because someone in their family might have be a slave. That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I guess you don’t know that it was your own ppl that actually sold you into slavery either. You need to actually learn some history kid. I also hope you are proud of the first black president, he will go down in history as the worst ever. But anyway, you and the ppl that think like you are the reason that racism won’t ever go away. Because blacks like you are the most racist ppl out there. You going to have to get over it and stop hating white ppl. Ignorant ppl like you just make things worse, you will always be looking for a reason to holla racism, when in fact it is you that are the racist. You can say all you want about Ole Miss. But it is a fine University and has great ppl that attend it. But If you ever meet me in person, I would watch what you say, because I fought for this great country that is going down the drain right now because of our first black presidents policies, but you better keep that racist shit to yourself if you every meet me, because if you don’t, you may not be able to call me a racist for a very long time after I get done with you. I can’t stand a dumb ass, especially a racist dumb ass.

    • hottytoddybody26

      you are an ignorant dumb shit. just because you right a damn page doesnt make you smart. If we are really that “racist” then how come we are the safest campus in the country? Or was does alabama and lsu have higher instances of hate crimes?