Mississippi will enter Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend with its guns blazing.
It’s averaged 74.5 points per game in two matchups combined, but Alabama’s defense presents a different challenge. Junior college transfer Chad Kelly has been top notch, completing 29 of 40 passes for 557 yards with six touchdowns to one interception.
His goal will be to get Ole Miss’s receiving corps involved early, but can he be efficient against the Crimson Tide’s secondary?
Alabama will enter Saturday’s game holding opponents’ to an average of 4.05 yards per play.
It’s generated five turnovers in two games, and has held opposition to a 36.4 percent conversion mark on third down. Safety Eddie Jackson leads Alabama’s defensive backfield with nine tackles and an interception. Senior Geno Matias-Smith and true freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick each have eight tackles. Cornerback Cyrus Jones has totaled three stops and a pick. In Monday’s press conference, Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban said it’s all about preparation.
“The key thing that the players and everybody needs to understand is in playing a team that we are going to play this week [Ole Miss] it’s going be necessary for us to play better in this game, execute better, be more consistent and have better fundamental execution,” Saban said.
Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee State were able to create some big plays on offense, despite losing. Saban said Mississippi’s offense is conceptually the same, even without Bo Wallace.
“They have always been a team that likes to use the quarterback runs. Kelly has run the ball a few times and he is a very effective runner,” Saban said. “Kelly does run it some, probably not as much as Bo, but when it comes to throwing the ball and execution, he’s been fantastic.”
Laquon Treadwell, Evan Engram and Cody Core are three marquee names for Mississippi, but a fourth receiver that will be involved is junior Quincy Adeboyejo. He leads the group in touchdown receptions with four, and has totaled 153 yards on eight catches.
Cyrus Jones looks to show mainstream media that he’s one of the more consistent cornerbacks in college football. He and true sophomore Tony Brown both took on Treadwell last season.
“Playing a team like Ole Miss definitely opens your eyes and gives you that extra motivation in getting you prepared for that passing game this week,” Jones said on Monday.
“As a whole defense, not just the secondary, we need a team effort to be on the same page when comes to making adjustments and calls on the field. We must have our A game.”
Jones registered his sixth career interception last week against the Blue Raiders, but Alabama must create turnovers and negative plays against the Rebels. Physicality, tackling and fundamental ball skills will all serve a purpose Saturday. The Crimson Tide has to frustrate Ole Miss’s wide receivers and tackle well in space. Most importantly, it has to face the football.
Chad Kelly has played in a power five conference before (Atlantic Coast Conference), but this year is the first time that he’s been appointed as “the guy.” Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State don’t have the caliber athletes that Alabama has. Crowd noise will be an issue, but everything will come down to Kelly being effective in surveying the field.
Can he get it done this week?