KICKOFF: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET
GAME DATE: 9/28/13
SITE: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
SERIES: Alabama has dominated the series with Mississippi, posting a 50-8-2 record in 60 meetings.
AP RANKINGS: Ole Miss No. 21; Alabama No. 1
KEYS TO THE GAME
Seeing Alabama at or near the top of the polls and contending for BCS titles has become commonplace during Nick Saban's tenure at Tuscaloosa. This Crimson Tide team has differed from other Saban-coached teams in a big way, however.
Saban has defined the identity of this program through a bruising running game, which has produced a slew of running backs who went on to play in the NFL. However, the machine that is the Crimson Tide's ground offense needs to undergo maintenance. With one-fourth of the 2013 college season in the books, Alabama's rushing offense has underachieved in a big way. Case in point? Last week's game against Colorado State, which saw the Tide muster just 66 rushing yards on 21 carries to log the team's lowest rushing total in almost three years.
Saban admitted as much after the 31-6 victory over the Rams, noting the Tide couldn't run the ball with consistency or effectiveness.
This isn't a new problem, either. For the season, Alabama ranks last in the Southeastern Conference and 90th in the Football Bowl Subdivision, averaging a modest 132 yards per game. Five of the Crimson Tide's previous six Saban-coached teams generated 200-plus rushing yards per game. The Tide currently average 4.1 yards per carry -- well below the 5.6-yard average logged in 2012. Alabama also has four rushing touchdowns, compared with nine TDs through three games in 2012.
This doesn't look like a get-better type of week for Alabama's rushing attack, either. The Tide prepare to host a nationally ranked Ole Miss team that has generated more buzz in Oxford than any team since a Manning was taking snaps under center for the Rebels. Not only have the Rebs had two weeks to prepare for Alabama, Ole Miss also ranks 29th in the FBS in rushing defense going into this game, allowing 114.3 yards per game, and held Texas to 124 yards in an impressive 44-23 win over the Longhorns. Ole Miss also features defensive lineman Robert Nkemidche, the nation's consensus top recruit in the 2013 signing class who has racked up four tackles for loss through his first three collegiate games.
Alabama is going for an eighth straight victory, extending a streak that dates to last season. Ole Miss is one of a plethora of teams in major-college football going to some version of the up-tempo spread offense. The best way to defend that type of offense is to keep it off the field. But Saban doesn't see any similarity to the Texas A&M team that put up 42 points two weeks ago.
"They're a completely different offensive team," he said. "Their No. 1 formation is three receivers and a tight end. They have a really good running game. They run for 250 yards per game. It's a completely different game plan than Texas A&M. There's not even an ounce of similarity."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB A.J. McCarron was a frustrated man after Alabama's 31-6 win over Colorado State, keeping his answers short and referring consistently to a lack of communication on offense during a testy postgame media session with reporters. Curious, considering that McCarron completed 20 of 26 passes for 258 yards against the Rams.
--Freshman DE A'Shawn Robinson has been a revelation for the Crimson Tide as a pass rusher, especially after Dalvin Tomlinson's season-ending knee injury. Robinson has two of Alabama's three sacks through its first three games in 2013, and the Crimson Tide has three sacks in three games.
--Junior WR Christion Jones made a splash earlier this season on special teams but enjoyed his best game ever as a collegiate receiver at Colorado State's expense, posting career bests for catches (nine) and receiving yards (90). No one else on the Alabama roster had more than three catches.
--RB Jeff Scott is 5 feet 7, 162 pounds, but he has gained more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage since 2010. He's a dynamic player who can do damage as a receiver and runs with more power than his size might imply.
--QB Bo Wallace said this week the Ole Miss offense will put some points on Alabama and promised a close game. Alabama is 11th in the SEC in pass defense at 250.3 yards per game and Wallace has skilled receivers to make his words stand up.