Ole Miss' challenge steepens against No. 3 Alabama

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Ole Miss Rebels are off to their best start since 2002 despite playing three of their first four games away from home.

Returning to Oxford won’t provide much comfort if the Rebels don’t fix a few things before No. 3 Alabama visits.

Jevan Snead had his best game this season in throwing for three touchdowns in No. 20 Ole Miss’ 23-7 win Saturday night over Vanderbilt. But Snead also was intercepted a season-high three times, the Rebels gave up 143 yards on kickoff returns and allowed 171 yards rushing.

“We still have some work to do, and there is still room to get better in all phases of the game,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said.

Start with Snead.

Yes, the junior threw two of his TDs in the first half in building a 17-0 lead for Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference). That could have been a bigger lead if Snead hadn’t tried to throw into the end zone at the end of the opening drive of the game when he had plenty of room to run from 3 yards out. The Rebels settled for Joshua Shene’s 20-yard field goal.

Snead started very well, completing 14 of his first 23 passes for 188 yards. He completed only five more and was 19 of 34 for 237 yards. He connected with Shay Hodge on two of his TD passes, including a 48-yarder that set up his 12-yard TD to Brandon Bolden.

Nutt noted both Snead and the coach know the quarterback is better than he played in the second half. Vanderbilt, which picked off four passes in winning in Oxford last year, intercepted him twice in the second half.

“Then we started forcing things, and he needs to either drop it off to the back or throw it away,” Nutt said.

Snead admitted he forced a couple throws against the SEC’s second-best defense in pass efficiency.

“One came off really bad right when I let it go. I think that had i not been hit, it would have played our way, but that’s just something I will have to work on,” Snead said.

The Associated Press Top 25

The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 3, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking:
Record Pts Pvs
1. Florida (54) 4-0 1,486 1
2. Texas (1) 4-0 1,416 2
3. Alabama (5) 5-0 1,404 3
4. LSU 5-0 1,290 4
5. Virginia Tech 4-1 1,200 6
6. Boise St. 5-0 1,185 5
7. Southern Cal 4-1 1,108 7
8. Cincinnati 5-0 1,004 10
9. Ohio St. 4-1 994 9
10. TCU 4-0 940 11
11. Miami 3-1 931 17
12. Iowa 5-0 823 13
13. Oregon 4-1 676 16
14. Penn St. 4-1 564 15
15. Oklahoma St. 3-1 563 14
16. Kansas 4-0 513 18
17. Auburn 5-0 428 —
18. BYU 4-1 403 20
19. Oklahoma 2-2 370 8
20. Ole Miss 3-1 357 21
21. Nebraska 3-1 333 23
22. Georgia Tech 4-1 311 25
23. South Florida 5-0 238 —
24. Missouri 4-0 215 —
25. South Carolina 4-1 200 —

Others receiving votes: Wisconsin 157, Houston 142, Georgia 115, Stanford 50, Utah 31, Michigan 25, Boston College 12, Notre Dame 9, Pittsburgh 3, Arizona 2, West Virginia 2.

USA Today Top 25 Poll

The USA Today Top 25 football coaches poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Oct. 3, total points based on 25 points for first place through one point for 25th and previous ranking:
Record Pts Rk
1. Florida (57) 4-0 1,473 1
2. Texas (1) 4-0 1,408 2
3. Alabama (1) 5-0 1,366 3
4. LSU 5-0 1,273 4
5. Virginia Tech 4-1 1,141 6
6. Boise State 5-0 1,133 5
7. Southern California 4-1 1,123 7
8. Ohio State 4-1 1,072 9
9. TCU 4-0 965 10
10. Cincinnati 5-0 937 11
11. Miami (Fla.) 3-1 750 t21
12. Penn State 4-1 713 13
13. Oklahoma State 3-1 702 12
14. Iowa 5-0 655 17
15. Kansas 4-0 616 16
16. Ole Miss 3-1 460 18
17. Oregon 4-1 433 25
18. Missouri 4-0 386 23
19. Auburn 5-0 369 NR
20. Brigham Young 4-1 353 t21
21. Oklahoma 2-2 346 8
22. Nebraska 3-1 329 24
23. Georgia Tech 4-1 278 NR
24. South Florida 5-0 220 NR
25. Wisconsin 5-0 156 NR

Others receiving votes: Georgia 148; South Carolina 128; Notre Dame 57; Houston 52; Stanford 43; Michigan 33; Utah 31; Boston College 15; Pittsburgh 6; Arizona 2; Arkansas 1; Central Michigan 1; West Virginia 1.

Teresa M. Walker/The Associated Press