Alabama football hosts Ole Miss for conference clash

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

Alabama football will face the Ole Miss Rebels on Oct. 2 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. In yet another highly anticipated matchup, the Crimson Tide looks to stay undefeated for the season and in conference play.

The Marquee Matchup

It’s no secret that the quarterback battle between junior Matt Corral and sophomore Bryce Young is the marquee matchup for Saturday afternoon. Both players have impressed fans and analysts throughout the first month of the season. 

Both respect what the other brings to the field. 

“I’ve worked with [Corral] a few times,” Young said. “I’ve talked to him a few times, so I have a lot of respect for his game.”

Corral is extremely accurate. In three games, he has completed 68.7% of his passes, for 997 yards and nine touchdowns. Paired with his arm talent is his unflappable confidence in himself and his team. 

That confidence stems from adversity early in his career. In 2018, he only appeared in four games before he was redshirted. In 2019, Corral only started four games, despite being the team’s leading passer. Junior John Rhys Plumlee started six game the starter. What was supposed to be a two-quarterback system led to Plumlee becoming the lone signal-caller. 

Last season, Corral earned the starting position over Plumlee. He also learned an entirely new system as Lane Kiffin took over the head coaching job. 

From positional battles to coaching instability in Oxford, Corral has not been rattled by any of it. 

The same can be said for the quarterback in crimson and white. 

Young brings poise and awareness to the field and he manages the offense well. Young is constantly finding ways to get the ball to his playmakers, like wide receivers John Metchie III and Jameson Williams. He has only had one interception throughout his first four games. 

For this game, however, the stakes are even higher.

The Crimson Tide and the Rebels are two of five undefeated teams in the SEC. Ole Miss is trying to do what Miami, Mercer, Florida and Southern Mississippi could not do: beat the best team in the country. 

For Ruby Draayer of The Daily Mississippian, it’s crucial for each player to handle the pressure. 

“It will be really fun to watch who doesn’t let the pressure get to them when they mess up,” Draayer said. “There will be turnovers and bad throws, but the quarterback that shakes it off will probably win the game.” 

Young has already played under pressure when the Crimson Tide eked out a 31-29 victory over the Florida Gators on Sept. 18. 

Corral, however, has not. This is the Rebels’ first conference game of the season. The fans in Tuscaloosa are expected to be energetic from kickoff to the last play.

That does not worry Corral. 

“I think last year we were more worried about playing Alabama than we are this year,” Corral said. “We’re not worried about who we’re playing. We’re worried about how we handle each practice individually. We’re worried about today.”

Defending the Run

Although the quarterbacks will be the most intriguing players to watch on Saturday, other groups will be crucial as well.

That battle is between the Ole Miss running backs and the Crimson Tide front seven. 

“The Ole Miss running back room is stacked,” Draayer said. “A lot of fans have been calling it the four-headed beast. Having a dynamic offense is mandatory when you’re playing a team like Alabama. If the Rebels want a win, they will have to utilize people like Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner, Henry Parrish Jr. and Kentrel Bullock.” 

The Ole Miss running backs have combined for a total of 1,292 rushing yards this season. The best rushing game this season was against the Tulane Green Wave, where the Rebels rushed for 335 yards. The running backs combined for 239 yards. 

The Crimson Tide gave up 244 total rushing yards against Florida on Sept. 18. The other three teams Alabama has faced combined for only 217 yards. However, the Crimson Tide has not faced a team with the talent of the Rebels’ running backs. 

Fans can expect Kiffin to exploit any weakness in the defensive line. 

“Head coach Lane Kiffin has a special way of finding a weakness in a defense and exploiting it,” Draayer said. “I think that we’ll see a mixture of the offense on the ground, and Matt Corral sending it over the top.”

The Rebels had 268 rushing yards last year against the Crimson Tide. Alabama cannot let Ole Miss replicate those results or accumulate big plays.

That all starts in the trenches. The Crimson Tide must win the battle at the line. 

It’s another exciting SEC game. A game that could catapult Ole Miss into the national spotlight or reaffirm Alabama’s place.