Predictions Anyone?

I do a lot of rambling here on Thursdays, but I’m not going to bury the lead today.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you I’m picking Alabama to win.

I think it will be close. I think Ole Miss will compete and will have a chance to win.

But when we turn in our picks for the paper we aren’t given space to say we “almost” picked somebody. I almost picked Missouri on the road at South Carolina last week. Just the winners please. Just the facts mam.

Since this is my blog, I usually take advantage of free space to offer a little rationale for picks here from week to week.

I think Ole Miss is better equipped to compete in this game than at any time since 2008 when Alabama won 24-20 in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels had the ball last and made a little progress on what could have been a winning touchdown drive but bogged down before reaching the red zone as I recall. Sometimes my recall is not correct, but I’m thinking Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster and that bunch were not inside the 20 for those final plays.

I agree that Ole Miss is deeper than it has been at some positions. That depth took a hit this week with the departure of Anthony Alford. Freshman C.J. Moore and sophomore David Kamara – one of them is next up behind Trae Elston – don’t inspire the same confidence right now.

I think Ole Miss is more talented, experienced and mature than it has been.

Cody Prewitt is right in that this Alabama team doesn’t appear to be as strong as some of its recent brethren.

What I keep coming back to is the running game. You simply cannot be one-dimensional and win a game like this. Not just against Alabama. You’ve got to do both things a little bit to beat most teams.

Hugh Freeze’s first two teams have struggled mightily to run the ball against Alabama averaging just 2.3 yards per carry two years ago and 1.8 yards per carry last year,

The past could be forgiven if there was a greater body of work running the football this year. I thought there would be. I thought the Rebels would be farther ahead in the run game than they are right now – even with a transitioning offensive line – because of the depth at running back.

They were better against Memphis with more of the 4- and 5-yard runs that are so important to set a good pace for drives. They had several long runs against ULL, but the consistency overall wasn’t good against the Cajuns or Vanderbilt or Boise before them.

It’s not only about inconsistency for Ole Miss. While Alabama may give up a few plays in the passing game it still defends the run exceptionally well. It’s rushing yards allowed average is 62.0 yards per game, No. 1 in the SEC and more than 20 yards better than No. 2 Mississippi State.

It’s possible that last week’s game against Memphis with 178 yards on 42 carries really will be a launching point to more production. It would be better if the Rebels had just one more game to test that theory before launching into Alabama.

I look for Bo Wallace and his receivers to make some plays in the passing game. I think Wallace will have a cleaner, more efficient game because his ball-protection awareness is back on high alert after a three-turnover performance (2 INTs, 1 fumble) against Memphis.

I like the Rebels’ chances to slow Alabama’s run game. The Ole Miss secondary has been very good this year and will get its biggest challenge from Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. He had eight catches against Ole Miss two years ago, just three last year. Also, the Tide’s 254 rushing yards against Ole Miss last year were more than double the 125 they posted two years ago.

The biggest difficulty in the Cooper matchup will be the fact that Ole Miss defensive backs know they’re turning their backs to a mobile quarterback. If they are enticed into breaking off coverage because they think Blake Sims is about to take off he can pull up and hit Cooper with just a little bit of open space. That’s how big plays are born.

If the Rebels clean up the mistakes they made against Memphis, run the ball enough to keep the Tide honest and keep away from big plays on defense they’ll be in the game in the fourth quarter.

If it works out that way they’ll have a chance to win. Maybe the big home crowd, the electricity of the atmosphere will propel them to make that game-deciding play.

I think they can get there. That in and of itself puts them in better position in this series than they’ve been in quite sometime.

Prediction: Alabama 23, Ole Miss 17

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

Posted in Football
  • Johnny Football Prognosticator

    Parrish, my man, I admire your analysis on several fronts. First, you are an honest observer. You want the Rebels to win, but have publicly predicted the Tide as the victors. I like both your heart and your head. Second, you go right to a couple of very credible points to justify a growing confidence in Coach Freeze’s work: better depth and improved defensive play. And, as many point out, it’s college football and anything can happen when one is dealing with the emotions of 18-22 year-old guys. Nevertheless, let me make a couple of points by first asking this question: Did you really WATCH ALL of Alabama’s games against West Virgina and Florida? I can’t believe you did. And, I’d bet Cody Prewitt hasn’t either. But you know who did watch? A bunch of those coaches who vote in the Coach’s Poll and who are ahead of the curve on this one and who have elevated Bama to #1 in the nation.

    What do those guys see that no one else does so far this year? The answer, in summary, is Cody’s analysis is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. While, this Alabama defensive squad remains a work in progress, it’s front seven are BETTER than last year and BETTER than the team that beat Notre Dame 42-14 in the 2012 BCS National Championship. PLUS, their deep guys, particularly in nickle and dime, are already better than last year’s crew. Still, the secondary is their weak spot and Wallace and company will have to hit the long ball several times to stay in the game this weekend.

    But the terrifying thing about Alabama, is how quickly Nick Saban has changed the make-up of his team. How quickly he has adapted his football philosophy. No longer are the defensive starters these enormous giants that seem unmovable. On the contrary, Saban now wants them to move — and quickly! But he hasn’t shrunk his players’ weight by 20% a la the Pac-12. Instead, he’s recruited his front seven to be, on average, about two inches taller and a whole bunch faster. The result is with each passing week it appears his defense will end this year as both the most improved and the best squad in the country.

    I haven’t even mentioned Alabama’s offense which is looking a lot like Kiffin’s first one when he was the OC at USC in 2005. That team beat Arkansas 70-17. (That Arkansas team later beat Ole Miss 28-14.) Which is about what the Bama-Florida game could have been if Alabama had not had four turnovers and 11 penalties. (Can you imagine any other SEC school playing another SEC school, committing those atrocious statistics and winning in the manner the Tide did two weeks ago?!)

    So, here’s the summary: Ole Miss can’t run the ball, so Alabama will rush three or four, stay in the nickle and dime packages virtually the whole game, and dare Wallace to win it. He can’t because he doesn’t have enough weapons around him. When Alabama has the ball, the Rebels are likely to slow the running game enough to force Bama to throw on lots of third downs. They have shown they can do that very, very well — and not just to Amari Cooper.

    Parrish, I admire your heart. And, it has influenced your mind. But you, Cody and other Rebels have this one wrong. We are witnessing the growth of a bear. Not the Ole Miss bear. A new one from Tuscaloosa. And the Tide will likely win this weekend by at least 17 points against the best Ole Miss team in nearly half a century.

  • bornarebel

    Johnny Football Prognosticator has way too much time on his hands. Who writes a 2 page prediction? Alabama will probably win simply because they are really good and Ole Miss never beats Alabama. But Ole Miss is much improved and this should be a ballgame. As an Ole Miss fan I have to pick Ole Miss.
    Ole Miss 20
    Alabama 17

    • Johnny Football Prognosticator

      Born, I think you are right. Perhaps a Life Coach is in order. But you know how it is: To love college football is a beautiful thing.

  • Penny Oakley

    I also expect a good game. But I’m going with Bama, too. ‘Bad Bo’ will resurface and a turnover will give the Tide the win. Alabama was idle last week and should be much fresher, so that means they win the fourth quarter.

  • Lee814

    Since Johnny wrote his book, I guess all of us Rebel fans should just stay home. None of us want to go see a huge defeat. Fortunately, the game is not played on paper, it is played on the field. I agree that Bama has the edge on paper, however not near as much as Johnny seems to think. But strange things happen on the field that the paper can never predict. It may be a little wishful thinking on my part, but I am going to go and cheer on my Rebels whatever may happen.
    Ole Miss 24- Alabama 23

    • Johnny Football Prognosticator

      Lee, six paragraphs is a book to you? You must be a State grad!

      Okay, I’ve acknowledged I went a bit overboard with the analysis. Still, my critique wasn’t based on how these two teams stack up on paper. That’s what we all do prior to the season. Instead, four games into 2014, I’ve referenced very specific on-the-field qualities of both teams. And, I’m telling you, there’s a better chance of a Bama 42 – Rebs 10 game than Ole Miss winning 24-23. UNLESS, Sims goes down with an injury. Then anything can happen. … You know, these same two teams starting almost the same group of players played to a 25-0 Alabama win last year. Yes, I see a strong front seven for the Rebels. But Bama is hands down better on offense than last year. Exactly, what’s the magic that changes the outcome?

      • Lee814

        Johnny, or whatever your name is, I rest my case! Glad I was there to see this great win!

  • TheGiantRebel

    Most folks say bama by 2 touchdowns at least. And they may be right, but just like last week, I’m gonna go wih my tribute to Chucky and go with the # 38 again. As in total points in the game. So I’ll go with Rebs 21-17. Reb D gets a pick six and Wallace for 210 yards and 2 TDs. One to Sanders and one with his feet…

  • papatoLC

    Speak with my heart this week. Ole Miss 21 Bama 17

  • JB

    Ole Miss 24 Alabama 21 are there about, with the Rebels a winner

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