No. 1 Alabama hosts No. 12 Ole Miss in key SEC West battle

Top-ranked Alabama got its defense back in order against a Mississippi-based school over the weekend, but it will have to be even better Saturday against a more formidable team from the Magnolia state.

The Crimson Tide will host No. 12 Ole Miss in a crucial SEC West Division game, with the winner possibly topping the standings as conference play kicks into high gear.

A week after allowing 440 yards of offense to then-No.11 Florida and edging the Gators 31-29 on the road, Alabama (4-0, 1-0) manhandled Southern Miss, 63-14, its 100th straight win over an unranked opponent.

Quarterback Bryce Young and the offense produced 606 yards, the defense allowed just 213 and Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams scored on three big plays – two on kick returns – in the rout of the Golden Eagles.

But coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding will need a good week of preparation for Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin’s explosive offense.

Saban credits Kiffin – Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016 – with being instrumental in changing the Crimson Tide’s schematic philosophy and carrying that up to Ole Miss.

Kiffin and Ole Miss (3-0, 0-0) will be bringing an offense that was outstanding in 2020 and has posted resounding wins against Louisville, Austin Peay and Tulane – although Louisville represented their only Power Five opponent thus far.

The Rebels top the nation with 635.3 yards of offense per game, are fourth with 7.65 per play and slot fourth in rushing offense at 298.7 per contest. They have committed just two turnovers.

In the process, quarterback Matt Corral has emerged as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, throwing for 997 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. He has rushed for five scores.

In its 63-48 win in Oxford last year, Saban’s squad could not corral the shifty Corral, who passed for 365 yards and two TDs.

“Matt Corral, he played really well against us last year,” Saban said. “He’s very elusive, he can extend plays, he’s a very accurate passer. He can make plays with his feet. He’s as talented as anyone we’ve seen run or pass in a long time.”

In total defense this season, Alabama is tied with rival Auburn at 19th among FBS schools, allowing 283.5 yards per game.

Kiffin said beating a No. 1 team on the road is a tough ask of his group.

“I don’t see any holes in (Alabama),” he said Monday. “It will be very challenging not just to play them but play there. We’ve never really played in front of a crowd in two years because of COVID.

“We’ll have our hands full. That’s why we’re a huge underdog for a reason.”

The Crimson Tide lead 55-10-2 in the SEC charter members’ series, but the most memorable meeting recently was the matchup six years ago in Alabama.

With Kiffin calling the offense for the No. 2-ranked Tide in a championship season, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly led the Hugh Freeze-coached team to an early 20-point lead and the No. 15 Rebels hung on for a stunning 43-37 win.