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Week 3: Alabama vs Mississippi Preview

Ole Miss Baseball vs LSU on November 21, 2015 in Oxford, MS. Photo by Ellen O'Nan/Ole Miss Athletics
Notes:
Since 2011, Alabama has won three of the last 5 games by an average margin of victory of 29.6 points per game. However, Ole Miss has won the last two games by an average margin of victory of six points per game.
The Crimson Tide,  the favorite to win this year’s National Championship, are sitting at the top of the polls entering this matchup and are looking to defend their only loss in 2015 during their National Championship run as the favorite. Ole Miss stunned Alabama in Tuscaloosa and will be looking to win its third straight over Nick Saban’s crew. If the Rebels can upset the Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon, the National Championship will be up for grabs and allow other teams to solidify their position in the polls.
This game has huge implications in the SEC and will have many college football fans tuned in for this match-up on CBS.
Alabama:
The Crimson Tide have looked strong in back to back wins against USC and Western Kentucky. Alabama has outscored their opponents by a margin of 80-16. The offense has averaged 287 passing yards per game and rushed for 183 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts has eased into the starting role and has completed 61% of his passes for 405 yards with 4 touchdowns and one interception. Hurts has also made plays with his feet and his mobility can put pressure on Ole Miss on Saturday. Through two games, Hurts has rushed for 51 yards with two touchdowns.
Look for running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough to be utilized more in the running game this weekend to take the pressure off of Hurts in a tough road environment. Harris leads the team with 183 rushing yards while Scarborough has two rushing touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide has not missed a beat without defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. The defense has been rock solid in run support giving up 43 yards per game and has surrendered 173 passing yards per game through the first two games. Alabama led FBS in rushing defense (75 yards per game)and sacks (53). This year, the defense has been stellar getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has recorded 7 sacks this season.
In order to get the victory on Saturday, the defense cannot allow quarterback Chad Kelly time in the pocket. They must force Kelly into quick throws and force him into reading coverage. Last year, Kelly took advantage of big throws down the deep middle of the field that challenged the Crimson Tide secondary.
The Crimson Tide is even in turnover margin entering this match-up and will look to have takeaways on the road.
Ole Miss:
The Rebels are averaging 120 rushing yards per game and are passing for 272 yards per game.Quarterback Chad Kelly has completed 62% of his passes for 532 yards with 7 touchdowns and 3interceptions.  Kelly will need to attack the Crimson Tide secondary early to loosen up the front seven of the Crimson Tide. Kelly has done an excellent job of distributing the football to a number of different receivers and  has thrown touchdown passes to seven receivers this year. Kelly has been sharp on third downs and that can be a key factor whether the Rebels have success on Saturday. Ole Miss has converted 62% of their third down attempts this year.
Tight end Evan Engram has been Kelly’s main target this year and has caught a team leading 11 receptions for 164 yards with one touchdown. Engram is a tall receiver that can be matched up on linebackers and nickel backs which can create offensive opportunities for Ole Miss in this ball game.
The offensive line has allowed 5 sacks and must be able to protect Kelly to give him time in locating his wide receivers. That will be the match-up to watch on Saturday afternoon.  Defensively, the Rebels have allowed 197 rushing yards per game and 245 passing yards per game. The Rebels will be challenged by a balanced offense in the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss enters this game with a -4 in turnover margin and must be able to force Hurts into mistakes.
Ole Miss has struggled on third downs and has allowed opposing offenses to convert 44% on third down attempts this season. The defense has recorded three sacks through the first two games and must be able to force Hurts into quick reads. Defensive lineman Marquis Haynes can be the X-factor for the Rebels. He is an experienced pass rusher that has one sack on the season and can utilize his quick feet to collapse the pocket on Hurts.

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