On September 19, 2015, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ole Miss Rebels will meet for the 63rd time. Last season, Alabama fell to the Rebels 23-17 inside a raucous and hostile crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., in one of the best games of 2014.
This year, Alabama will look to return the favor inside the confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium in prime time on ESPN.
The Rebels offense last season was very successful against the Crimson Tide, accounting for 327 years against a tough Alabama defense. Ole Miss will return 10 of its 11 offensive starters that played in last season’s contest.
The lone offensive starter not returning for the Rebels is quarterback Bo Wallace.
Wallace went 18-31 passing with 3 touchdowns in last year’s contest. Mississippi became 5-0, and was poised for an opportunity in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
However, after starting the season off 7-0, the Rebels would go on to lose four of their last six games including, a 42-3 Peach Bowl loss to TCU.
Defensively, Ole Miss return eight of 11 starters from last season. It lost defensive backs Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson to the National Football League, but returns Tony Connor and Trae Elston.
As mentioned, the Rebels will only have to replace Bo Wallace, who was one of the best quarterbacks in program history. His replacement has yet to be determined, but it appears as if Ryan Buchanan or Chad Kelly will be under center for the Rebels.
Buchanan, a third-year sophomore, was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and passed for 75 yards with an interception.
He saw action mainly in mop up duty last season, however, Buchanan did pass for 1,468 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior year in high school
Kelly, a former Clemson Tiger, is new to Oxford this season.
He threw for 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season for East Mississippi Community College. His efforts earned first-team NJCAA All-American honors, as he led East Mississippi to the Junior College title game.
Ole Miss also returns wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Treadwell, who caught five touchdowns in nine games, is coming off a gruesome leg injury that he sustained in Ole Miss’s meeting with Auburn last season. He will be Mississippi’s primary target in 2015.
The biggest hidden gem in the Rebels offense might be on the offensive line in 6-foot-5, 305-pound Laremy Tunsil.
Tunsil is projected to go No. 1 in the 2016 NFL Draft by ESPN. He was a first-team All-SEC lineman last year. Tunsil will have his hands full against Alabama’s defense, as he will more than likely be matched up against A’Shawn Robinson of the Crimson Tide.
Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche is one of many impact players that returns to Oxford this fall.
Nkemdiche was a 2014 Lombardi Award semifinalist, and was voted first- team All-SEC last season. The Rebels return second-team All-SEC safety Tony Conner, who has recorded 64 tackles and an interception during his career in Oxford.
Ole Miss will have to replace two important contributors from last year’s defense in Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt. Both players received All-SEC honors last season, and were leaders on the defensive side of the ball for Ole Miss.
Senquez Golson, a first-team All-SEC cornerback, secured the game- clinching interception off Alabama’s Blake Sims in last year’s meeting in Oxford. He finished his Rebel career with 136 tackles and 16 interceptions.
Cody Prewitt received first-team All-SEC honors twice (2013-14).
He finish his career with 247 tackles and 12 interceptions, and was the vocal leader for Hugh Freeze’s defense last season.
Look for the Crimson Tide to try and open up its passing game, in order to create favorable matchups on the field.
Look for Hugh Freeze to have a balanced game plan for Ole Miss. Expect the Rebels to attack Alabama’s secondary with smart play calling and deep passes.
On defense, look for the Crimson Tide to create pressure. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will dial up some blitz packages, and complex coverage schemes to frustrate Ole Miss.
Ole Miss will have to be reliant on Nkemdiche’s leadership and experience in big games to lead this Rebels defense.
He must out perform his counterpart, All-American left tackle Cam Robinson for Alabama. As for Tony Conner, he will look to provide leadership in Mississippi’s secondary inside a hostile environment at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 19, 2015.
Solid play from the quarterback position will be pivotal for both teams. The program that can minimize mistakes, sustain drives and capitalize on scoring opportunities will win.
Game Prediction: Alabama 24, Ole Miss 17