With the 2009 college football season well underway, and Florida clearly out in front in the race for the SEC championship, two other teams are hitting the practice field in anticipation of what could be one of the best games of the season. Both Alabama and Ole Miss have fairly easy schedules up until their meeting in Oxford on October 10th.
Alabama is no stranger to being named a top ten team in pre-season rankings, and this year was no different as they again came into the season with one of the top ranked defenses and a couple of sophomores who define the term game changer; receiver Julio Jones and running back Mark Ingram. While Alabama is making news all across the country, Ole Miss has managed to slide under the casual fan’s radar and begin their season as a top ten team for the first time in what seems like forever. According to the AP Poll Archive, Ole Miss has not began their year with a higher pre-season ranking since they started the 1970 season at number 5. So far, both teams have held up their respective ends of the bargain, with Alabama defeating the likes of top ranked Virginia Tech, and Ole Miss dismantling a respectable Memphis team.
As far as their position match-ups are concerned, on paper, Alabama looks significantly better. Number one receiver, 6’4″ Julio Jones, will draw double coverage almost every time he steps on the field, which leaves Ole Miss’ shorter corners with the tall task covering Alabama’s other talented receivers, Mike McCoy and Darius Hanks (Both posses good speed and are each listed at or above 6’0″ on the official roster provided by RollTide.com). Previous games have shown that Jones’ presence will open up the field for the other receivers, and first year starting quarterback, Greg McElroy, has already proved that he is not shy about checking down to the number two or three receiver.
Ole Miss does have two major trump cards tucked up their sleeve however, and their names are Greg Hardy and Jevan Snead. Hardy is arguably the single best defensive end in college right now, so you can count on seeing him cause some havoc in Alabama’s backfield. Junior quarterback extraordinaire, Jevan Snead, has a year of experience under his belt, and many experts consider him to be one of the better game managers in all of college football. His name has garnered mention in the same sentence as quarterbacks, Zac Robinson, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy on multiple occasions.
Ole Miss also has a duo of talented receivers, including NFL prospect, Shay Hodge, as well as undersized speedster, Dexter McCluster. Although these two players do have the quickness to separate themselves from coverage on short and medium routes, Ole Miss may struggle getting the ball deep down field against the likes of Alabama’s elite defensive backs, Kareem Jackson and Javier Arenas.
While the down field match ups should be interesting, it stands true that both of these teams gain a lot of their offensive production on the ground, especially Alabama. All four of Alabama’s running backs could easily start at most schools in their conference, and should give Greg Hardy and the rest of the Rebel defense quite a work out. It is no secret that Alabama will continuously send hard running sophomore, Mark Ingram, straight downhill in order to challenge Ole Miss’ linebacker corps.
On the other side of the field, the Rebels will attempt to run through an interior defense laden with All Americans and experienced Seniors. Alabama’s enormous Senior nose tackle, Terrence Cody, will definitely test the Rebel’s offensive line, as he will surely manage to draw attention from all of the tight three interior offensive lineman at various points throughout the game.
When you don’t consider these two team’s national rankings, this appears to be a fairly lopsided match up; but anyone who watches SEC football knows that Ole Miss has the ability to make quite a big splash as the underdog (just ask Florida about last season). No matter what college football game you plan on watching on October 10th, I highly doubt any of them will top this SEC battle.
“Mississippi Preseason AP Rankings.” AP Poll Archive
“2009 Alabama Football Roster.” RollTide.com