The closest game to date for the Tide was a 27-11 victory over Penn State on the road, and every other victory has come by at least 24 points. Last weekend, 'Bama pitched its second shutout of the campaign, blanking Vanderbilt in a 34-0 decision. While that final score was obviously impressive, head coach Nick Saban wasn't thrilled with his team's performance.
"We obviously didn't play our best football game, especially in the first half," said Saban. "We certainly have a lot of things we need to improve on and we will continue to work on that. Everybody's got to take the same ownership and responsibility to do that so we can get better as a team."
As for Ole Miss, it has been idle since a much-needed 38-28 victory over Fresno State back on October 1. That win halted a two-game slide for the Rebels and enabled them to improve to 2-3 on the season. They have played just two SEC games to date, both of which ended in defeat.
"I was really proud of our team to come this far and play a game that took offense, defense and special teams," said Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt after the win over Fresno State.
Alabama owns a commanding 44-9-2 series lead over Ole Miss, which includes a 23-10 victory last season.
In the first half against Vanderbilt last week, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron threw a pair of short touchdown passes. He added two more in the second half, going 23-of-30 for 237 yards and no interceptions. Marquis Maze made nine catches for 93 yards, while star tailback Trent Richardson rushed for 107 yards and a score.
Judging by the fact that it pitched a shutout, Alabama obviously played tremendous defense against Vanderbilt. The Tide yielded only eight first downs in the affair and 190 total yards, including a mere 41 rushing yards.
"We try to shut our offense out in practice every day, so when we shut somebody out, we're kind of pleased with ourselves," said Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson after the victory. "But the way we executed today wasn't our best, so we're going to come back and work hard."
Overall this season, Alabama is racking up 37.7 ppg and 434.8 total ypg, impressive numbers for a tremendously well-balanced offensive team. The fact that the Tide is averaging 217.0 ypg on the ground and 217.8 ypg through the air is remarkable. Of the 26 touchdowns scored by the offense, 18 have come via the run, and Richardson paces the club with 729 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. As for McCarron, he has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions.
There are many standouts on the defensive side of the ball for Alabama, including Courtney Upshaw, who has already posted 8.5 TFLs this season. He and his fellow defenders are yielding a lowly 7.0 ppg and 191.3 total ypg, with just five touchdowns surrendered in six outings. The fact that foes are gaining only 39.8 rushing ypg at a clip of 1.6 ypc is staggering.
It will be interesting to see if Ole Miss has any success running the ball against that stout Alabama defense. Last time out, the Rebels compiled 216 rushing yards against Fresno State. Jeff Scott led the charge with a career- high 138 yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Bolden added two rushing scores of his own. Quarterback Randall Mackey completed a mere 8-of-18 passes, but his eight completions resulted in 214 yards and a touchdown.
"The offensive line was good, they created some running room for our guys and that was important," said Nutt. "We didn't have a running game or passing a game, it just didn't look like much of anything the first few weeks. I hope we can really build on this."
There is certainly room for the Ole Miss defense to improve, as the unit surrendered 444 total yards and four touchdowns to Fresno State. The Bulldogs found success both running and passing the football.
Through five outings, Ole Miss is generating 22.6 ppg and 275.2 total ypg while surrendering 24.6 ppg and 408.4 total ypg. The fact that the Rebels are making good on a mere 31 percent of their third down conversion attempts and 20 percent of their fourth down tries is obviously concerning. Scott has rushed for 350 yards and five touchdowns, as he has clearly been the best offensive player for the Rebels. Mackey has completed only 46.7 percent of his passes, as both he and Zack Stoudt have struggled mightily under center.