Ole Miss: “Biggest Game in My Lifetime”

According to CBS’ Dennis Dodd, that’s how Ole Miss fans are approaching today’s game against Alabama:

“One of our biggest donors stuck his head in,” Freeze recalled, “[Saying], ‘Biggest game in my lifetime.'”

Here’s a little more of the Ole Miss perspective:

They can talk all they want in this state about Archie and Eli and John Vaught and StarkVegas and Egg Bowls past. This is, arguably, the most significant week in this state’s glorious football history.

“I think it’s probably the biggest,” said Rick Cleveland, 49 years a sportswriter in the state, now executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

They say Eli Manning’s last home game here against LSU in 2003 was a big deal. The Rebels and Bulldogs haven’t been ranked at the same time in 15 years. They haven’t been ranked together this high since 1958. The legendary Vaught had a fine run at Ole Miss from 1947-70. The schools battled for the SEC title in 1941.

For Alabama, it’s, uh…not.

As a Tide fan, I can definitely lose perspective about these sort of games since Alabama regularly plays in high-profile, high-stakes-type match-ups.  Bama has won championships and competed for national titles in every decade of my life.  For a guy that’s on the back side of 40, that’s saying something.  And from that perspective, it’s hard to really fathom what Mississippi fans must be feeling.  We may have gone through rough patches, but there was usually some sort of bright, shining light somewhere in the middle of the rough patch, even if it lasted only briefly.

For Ole Miss, that hasn’t been the case since since the early 1960s.  Yeah, well, except for the brief periods Mannings have been on campus and even then no championships were won.

As far as the game goes, I am a bit concerned.  Ole Miss has a good team and they are plenty capable of pulling off an upset.  When Alabama loses, the common denominator is often a quarterback that plays out of his mind for four complete quarters.  It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that this could happen to Bo Wallace.  The Rebel Black Bear defense is also sort of salty and I am a bit concerned about Blake Sims’ shoulder.  If he’s off, even just a tad, that could spell trouble for us.

Ole Miss will play with a ton of emotion to start the game, but we’ve seen that before.  Ultimately, for Alabama, it won’t be about the other team.  The game will come down to how Alabama plays.

 

 

 

First Thoughts on Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebel Black Bears are feeling pretty good right now heading into this week’s game against Alabama.  I guess they should.  After all, they are unbeaten through four games and are ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll.

They also have a pretty good defense.

But in 2014, these Black Bears will only go as far as their quarterback, Bo Wallace can take them.  Here’s what Dr. Bo has done so far this year:

BoWallaceThrough4Games2014So far, at least statistically, Wallace hasn’t had a bad year.  In fact, before last week’s game against Ole Miss (and through the bye week that proceeded it), folks were downright gushy about the RBB signal caller.  As the line went, Wallace had been on first since the second half of the Boise State game.

But I think the story goes deeper than just these numbers.  Let’s face it, if you look inside the big red sort of circle, you’ll see that Ole Miss’ competition this year ain’t all that grand.  You’ll also see that Wallace likes to turn the ball over, and those tend to come in bunches.  That’s something about Wallace’s play that isn’t new for 2014.

Of course, I also buy the line of thinking that Ole Miss, and Wallace, were probably looking ahead to Bama.  It’s hard to keep your focus on a team like Memphis when the big boys are rolling into your town the next week.

Most of us Bama fans look at the Black Bears and Wallace and aren’t all that concerned.  After all, this is a team that hasn’t beaten us since 2003.  But I look at this game as trouble.  The RBBs have a salty defense, they are playing at home, they have some momentum that comes from being 4-0, and, they do have a quarterback that is capable of getting hot and pulling a Stephen Garcia.

Saban and Begging

From Cecil Hurt:

If you’ve listened closely during Saban’s tenure, you know this is the truth.  During Saban’s early years at Bama, the team struggled to maintain intensity, especially on offense for entire games.  During the last couple of years, there’s been a struggle to keep the gas pedal down to keep up with certain teams.

The Jim McElwain offensive era sparkled primarily because the team won three national championships.  Don’t forget the 9-6 loss to LSU in 2011 came on his watch.  Last year’s team, in particular, seemed to under perform based on the offensive talent that it had.  That’s why, in my humble opinion, why last year’s offensive coordinator isn’t this year’s offensive coordinator.

This year, it appears, many of the problems have been solved with the addition of Lane Kiffin.  Many think he earned the job during bowl practice last season when he diagnosed several of the offense’s problems.  Then the Tide went out and stunk it up in New Orleans.  Then there was a spot to fill on the staff, and he filled it.

For the most part, I’m sold on Kiffin as a coordinator.  The offensive success so far – especially against Florida, leads one to believe that the guy can coach.  I don’t care who you are playing, when you can rack up points and yards as the team has done this year, that’s definitely a good sign.  When you can use the vast talent on the team in a plethora of ways, that’s definitely a good sign.  And when you can take what the defense gives you and beat them over the head with it, that’s a good sign.

There are more tests to come, though.  The season is only a third over and bigger, more important games to come.  There are still challenges.  But for now, Saban has what he’s wanted: an offensive coordinator that will open it up.

 

Big Offensive Day Against Gators Gets Even Better

The hits just keep coming for Blake Sims and the Tide offense:

Three days after he threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s 42-21 victory over Florida, Sims was retroactively credited with 27 more rushing yards than the 12 he had in Saturday’s stat book. That gave him 39 for the day and 484 total, putting him at No. 1 in program history for most yards in a single game.

That means the Bama offense had a day even better than first figured:

Sims’ 27 rushing yards were also added to Alabama’s team total, giving it 223 for the game and 672 total yards of offense. That vaulted the Crimson Tide from the sixth-most yards in a single game to second in program history. To break the program record, Alabama will need to top the 833 it gained against Virginia Tech in 1973.

The offensive numbers so far this year have really been mind-blowing.  I think that speaks to two things:  an incredibly talented roster and some nice coaching.  For some perspective, just look at how last year’s offensive coordinator is faring up north.

 

Tuesday Numbers, Week 5

Four weeks of the college football season are in the books, so let’s look at a few numbers.

For Alabama, the numbers are good.  The Tide ranks first in the league in total defense (250.3 yards per game) and second in total offense (587.5)  The Tide is converting third downs at a clip of 61.82%, good for second in the league, and is holding it’s opponents to a conversion rate of 24.00%, which is also good for second.

Tide receiver Amari Cooper continues to lead the league in receptions (43) and yardage (655) and continues on track to destroy all Alabama receiving records.

If you consider quarterback ratings, Bama signal caller Blake Sims is your man, with a league-best rating of 190.77.

About the only place where the Tide stinks is a turnover margin of -.75 per game, good for 13th in the league.

 

 

 

Game Day Thoughts: Florida

Man, what a week it’s been.

There was a trip to Minnesota early this week and then I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.  Next thing you know, it’s game day.

I griped quite a bit yesterday about the messy state of affairs in sports.  But today, Lord willing, we can just enjoy the game.  There was a time in sports when winning meant you expended more effort, planned better, practiced better, played harder and fought longer.  Winning made you feel good – even as a fan, because it represented a successful mission.  In today’s era, I think that message gets drowned out a bit.  Now, when we look at the “winners” we don’t exactly like what we see.

I know, I know.  I’m not trying to sit over here in a glass house and throw stones.  I know Bama hasn’t been squeaky clean over the years.  But I will say this.  I’d rather lose with a guy like Blake Sims as our quarterback than to win with one like the last two Heisman winners.  Blake may be the worst human ever, but at least he’s keeping it to himself and not disrupting the team.  You can tell by watching him over time that he’s put in the time and effort to get better and his teammates respect him.  Win or lose, I’m glad he’s our guy.

But I don’t think we’ll lose.  I think today the team will face a pretty good sized challenge and I think they’ll respond well.  We should beat Florida, but in games like these, you see the leaders start to step up and lead, or not.  That process should be fun to watch.

Enjoy the game everyone and Roll Tide!

Friday Thoughts: Florida and Some Other Stuff

First, the other stuff…

It hasn’t been a fun time lately being a sports fan.  It seems like the worst of sports has reared it’s ugly head, over and over again.  Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Jameis Winston have all made us check our priorities and adjust our perspective.

All three of these cases are different, but have at least one thing in common.  For each of these people, the focus quickly shifts away from the judicial system and onto their team and, in the case of Rice and Peterson, their league.  Yes, it is important whether or not these guys get to play or not, but the most important thing is whether or not the judicial system has done it’s job.

In the case of Rice, justice was clearly not served.  Whether or not he plays again in the NFL is beside the point.  In real life, he should have served time in jail.  In Winston’s situation – and by situation I’m referring to the rape allegations made against him – the judicial system clearly failed.  Is he guilty or not?  I certainly don’t know and the folks in Tallahassee didn’t want to find out.  Oh yeah, he also had that crab leg situation, which was caught on video, but once again the star quarterback was left with virtually no consequences.  Then Winston has the gall to use his bully pulpit of Heisman-winning, national championship quarterback to shout obscenities.  It’s almost as if he is trying to see how idiotic he can act before he is held accountable.

In Peterson’s case, the justice system appears to be working in the midst of his odd situation.  He readily admits to punishing his child and has apologized for going too far.  He even offers up that he was punished in the same way.  But our attention, turns from the justice system and turns to Roger Goodell to see how he will handle things.  It’s almost as if we could care less about the legal system because the suspension is what really matters.

This is frustrating to me.  This past summer, we saw a similar situation with Nick Marshall and his pot bust.  The actual crime was coded as minor, but the real uproars focused on the punishment to be handed out by Gus Malzahn.

This is a sinking ship folks.  Our priorities are all wrong.  Our attention should be on our system – the judicial system working, not on how much a player will or won’t play.  This won’t happen, though.  Not with all of the money involved.

***

Alabama hosts Florida on Saturday and, Lord willing, I’ll be there.  The Tide enters the game as about a two touchdown favorite over the Gators and if we play well, the sounds about right.

We’ve been point to the Florida game for a long time as a litmus test for this team and I think it’s true.  This game will tell us a whole lot about our Tide.  Win the game and we’ll think our problems are being addressed.  Lose the game and we’ll think the sky is falling.

***

The key to this game, I think, is cornerback play.  For both teams.  I don’t see Florida consistently running the ball on us.  That forces them to attack our weak spot – our corners.  We’ll see if Jeff Driskel can make the throws that can beat us.  I’m guessing Florida thinks they can load up and stop our run game and, therefore, force Blake Sims’ arm to beat them.  That means his favorite target, Amari Cooper, becomes the swing vote.  How Coop plays against Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves, III is definitely the match up of the game.

***

I don’t foresee the Tide offense breaking away from what they’ve been doing the last three games.  Make the run game work.  Easy throws for Sims.  Eat the clock.  As I mentioned above, Florida will load the box against the run game.  However, I don’t think we have the OL to simply run the ball if we want to.  I think Sims will start the game with the ball in the air – West Coast-style, and we’ll go from there.