Alabama at Ole Miss Oct. 15
This is a foe the Rebels know all too well. They do catch the Tide after an open date, something that concerns Nick Saban but hasn't mattered in a final score recently in a series in which Alabama has won seven straight.
The last Ole Miss victory in the series was in 2003 with Eli Manning at quarterback.
It's usually been close though. For three years Alabama was the game that made it look like Ed was turning the corner to some degree. He never beat Alabama but lost by just three points in each of his meetings including an overtime loss in Tuscaloosa in 2006 and the famous – or infamous – instant replay game in 2007. Red high heels sailed in from the south end zone in protest of the reversal of the Shay Hodge catch at the 4.
Both teams have changed a lot since then.
Alabama is a trendy pick for the national championship this season. Some believe they'll play SEC West rival LSU in the title game.
If Alabama wins the title, it will be the second in three years for Saban's Tide, the sixth straight for the SEC and the third straight for the state of Alabama.
This year, 10 returning starters on defense will off-set a new starter at quarterback. Alabama had a new quarterback in 2009 – Greg McElroy – when it defeated Texas for the national championship.
The Tide will also have a new starter at tailback, but it's Trent Richardson. How new is that? He ran for 700 yards and six touchdowns last year and was second-team All-SEC as an all-purpose back. He's been named preseason first-team All-SEC this season.
Richardson had the game-defining play against Ole Miss last season. The Rebels had a pretty good defensive game going until they gave up one of those “explosion plays” they talk about so much.
It was a 16-3 game in the middle of the third quarter when Richardson took a screen pass from McElroy, eluded tacklers, and ran 85 yards to the end zone. The Rebels eventually lost 23-10.
Led by linebacker Dont'a Hightower, Alabama had four defensive players make the preseason All-SEC first team.
Richardson and that new quarterback – either sophomore A.J. McCarron or redshirt freshman Phillip Sims – will get a boost from an offensive line ranked No. 1 in the nation by Phil Steele, the same analyst that ranked the Ole Miss line No. 2.
At QB, McCarron has the most experience. Sims redshirted last year. McCarron finished 2010 30-for-48 passing for 389 yards and three touchdowns.
Don't expect a lot of flash from this Alabama team, but do expect results.