Tide begins 2nd half on the road
By Josh Cooper
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Alabama coach Nick Saban's opening statement during his Monday news conference lasted nearly 11 minutes.
During that time, Saban addressed his team's lack of consistency, maintaining its intensity, players who have played well, and what Ole Miss brings it to the table.
Call it the "State of the Tide" address, but with Alabama (4-2, 2-1 SEC) now halfway through the season, the Tide will look to get its second half off on the right foot at Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3) on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11:34 a.m.
"We're going to have to play our best football against every team we play for 60 minutes to give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful, and it will be no different in this game," Saban said. "I promise you."
Ole Miss could be the perfect team for Alabama to re-establish itself on offense and defense.
Although Alabama averages 30.7 points a game on offense, the Tide's attack has struggled to remain consistent. And when the offense has its troubles, the defense stays on the field longer.
The Rebels rank last in the SEC in scoring offense at 21.7 points a game and 11th in scoring defense, allowing 27.5 points a game.
Even in the Rebels' 24-0 homecoming win last weekend against Louisiana Tech, they gained 232 yards compared to 301 by the Bulldogs.
"We have to show that we can tackle. We have to show that we can stop the run. We have to show that we can be a physical football team to be able to beat Alabama," Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said.
"They are going to come in here, and they are going to be a good football team. I know that. I expect that, and I expect my team to play well."
Gone from last year's team is the linebacking duo of Patrick Willis and Rory Johnson, both of whom are now on NFL rosters. But returning is running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
He ranks fifth in the SEC in total rushing with 570 yards in six games and will provide a good test for the Alabama front seven with his bullish, straight-ahead running style.
The game also will be the first true road test for the Crimson Tide. Vanderbilt saw more Alabama fans than Commodore fans in the seats, and the Florida State game was played at a neutral site, with ticket distribution split in half.
All these factors have the Crimson Tide ready to begin the second half with a win.
"They are definitely an SEC smash-mouth football team," Tide defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "It's going to be a violent game, but at the same time, it's going to be a fun one. We're back in the SEC on the road. What better way to go get it?"
Alabama (4-2, 2-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3)
When: Saturday, 11:34 a.m.
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
Line: Alabama by 61/2.
TV/radio: The game will be broadcast on WZDX-54. The radio broadcast can be heard on AM-1400, AM-730, AM-770, FM-93.9 and FM-92.5.
Players to watch: Alabama center Antoine Caldwell. It’s tough to watch an offensive lineman, but Caldwell could be playing his third position in three weeks, filling in for Justin Britt at left guard. Caldwell’s versatility is something to marvel at, even if he doesn’t play a skill position.
Ole Miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the SEC’s fifth-leading rusher. At 95.0 yards a game for a team that doesn’t have many other options, Green-Ellis is the main man for the Ole Miss offense.
Key matchup: Green-Ellis against Alabama’s front seven. Green-Ellis is a powerful running back who packs quite a punch in his 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame. Alabama’s front seven will need to get ready for another SEC smash-mouth style game with Green-Ellis as the centerpiece of the Ole Miss offense.
Weather: Sunny and 68 degrees.
Last meeting: Alabama 26, Ole Miss 23 on Oct. 14, 2006.
Prediction: Alabama 21, Ole Miss 16.
Josh Cooper, Daily Sports Writer
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