No. 9 Alabama’s pride and legacy on the line at No. 11 Ole Miss

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Where does the ninth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide go from here? Does the Crimson Tide continue to fall into a deeper hole, or does Alabama come out and make a statement that it can still be the standard of college football? 

After its loss against No. 7 LSU last week, the Crimson Tide (7-2, 4-2 SEC) is in a position it’s not usually in. Alabama no longer controls its own destiny. More than likely, the Crimson Tide is out of contention for the SEC Championship, as well as the national championship. 

Is the motivation still there for a reeling Alabama team? We’ll find out Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi, as the Crimson Tide has yet another tall task in No. 11 Ole Miss. 

The Rebels (8-1, 4-1 SEC) still have plenty to play for as well. Ole Miss fell to LSU on Oct. 22, but remains in play for an SEC Championship berth if the Tigers fail to win their last two contests. Alabama needs LSU to lose to both Arkansas and Texas A&M, as well as win out in its remaining three games to have a chance at an SEC title. 

Head coach Nick Saban isn’t ready to give up on the season. 

“I know people have written us off to some degree, but at the same time, I think we have a lot of pride as an organization,” Saban said. 

“The pyramid downstairs doesn’t say win the SEC Championship, it doesn’t say, win the national championship,” he said. “It says, ‘Be a champion.’” 

So, what does being a champion mean? It doesn’t necessarily just mean winning championships, it seems. It means playing with a championship attitude and playing to the best of your ability every time. And that’s what the Crimson Tide plans on doing the rest of the way. 

Saban’s players aren’t going to be playing with their heads down, either. 

“I saw that we’re coming in here to finish,” safety DeMarcco Hellams said. “Last game, we lost. Some things might seem like they’re over with, but the season isn’t over with. We’re not quitting on ourselves as a team. I’m not quitting on anybody on our team. Nobody on our team is quitting on each other.” 

“There’s still a lot to be played for,” offensive lineman Javion Cohen said. “There’s still a season to play. We still have a standard to uphold. So, we’re just going to go out there and try our best every game.” 

“I think the mindset is just finishing the season out the way we should and the way we want to,” defensive lineman Byron Young said. “Just trying to play to the standard that we know we should be playing at every single game. You’ve got a lot of people that might be questioning what we’re playing for, might be questioning a lot of different things around why we’re still doing what we’re doing.” 

Alabama’s final road game won’t be an easy one. Ole Miss is very capable of taking down the Crimson Tide if it doesn’t show up ready and eager to play. The Rebels average 267.4 rushing yards per game — third in the country behind just the Air Force Academy and West Point, who run the option offense. Ole Miss ranks 16th in the country in scoring offense, averaging 37.4 points per game. 

“Ole Miss has a really good team,” Saban said. “Lane [Kiffin]’s done a great job there. They’re one of the best running teams in the country.” 

“They’ll do something different in every game,” he said. “You’ve got to try to expose your players to all those things during the course of the week. It makes a lot to prepare for, but you may not even see it in your game and you may see something completely different.” 

There’s been plenty of blame passed around the Alabama team this season. For some people, it’s offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. For others, it’s defensive coordinator Pete Golding. Or maybe it’s individual players. Maybe some of the blame needs to go on Saban — at least he thinks it does. 

“I hear every play that’s called, I hear every defense that’s called and I have the right to veto every one of them,” Saban said. “But ultimately, the responsibility for [what] happens on the field comes down to me.” 

There are some ready to say the Crimson Tide’s dynasty is over. That’s usually when Alabama makes its biggest statement. 

“We haven’t been in this position for a while, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of pride in what we do and want everybody to do it really well,” Saban said. 

Kickoff from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is set for Saturday, Nov. 12, at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]