PARRISH ALFORD: Rebels believe … but confidence alone won’t beat Alabama

PARRISH ALFORD

PARRISH ALFORD

OXFORD

Got an email last week from a reader who asked if I was a believer. When I read the one-sentence message I thought, “I am,” but it turned out we were on different theological wavelengths.

Each Thursday for our Ole Miss blog, I do an analysis of the game ahead and offer my guess at the end. I picked Ole Miss to play close at Texas, not to win, and several people I heard from reacted like a cat does when you stroke its fur the wrong way.

So when the Rebels continued what has now become a trend of execution on offense and halftime adjustments and dominated Texas in the second half, I received the belief question.

As Ole Miss prepares to face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, here’s what I believe about the Rebels:

• Execution on offense is a result of quarterback play. The effort Bo Wallace has made to reduce his interception total is noticeable. He’s now gone 102 passes without a pick dating back to the Compass Bowl win over Pittsburgh. Wallace’s job will get harder, and he jumped into the spotlight with his Monday comments comparing the Ole Miss wide receivers to those at Texas A&M.

He didn’t set out to “punk” the A&M receivers. That was a by-product of his expression of confidence in his teammates which he could have handled better.

• Senior running back Jeff Scott is playing the best ball of his career. It will be harder for him to get the corner against Alabama the way he did against a Texas team that struggled early to stop the run.

Maintaining possession against Alabama may require more running between the tackles, and you may see more of sophomore I’Tavius Mathers. Running back is a deep position at Ole Miss that hasn’t been fully utilized yet as Scott and Wallace have performed at such a high level with the read option.

• I like the way the defensive front is playing, and end C.J. Johnson looks like he’s getting stronger. The Rebels need more consistent pass rush and took a step forward with that against Texas.

• The pass rush is necessary to help cornerbacks who are learning their way (Mike Hilton), just getting healthy (Senquez Golson) and just getting back in the mix after an arrest (Charles Sawyer).

The biggest thing to know about this Ole Miss team is that it believes in itself. That confidence alone won’t be enough to help the Rebels win in Tuscaloosa. Throw in some early success, make the halftime adjustments, have self-doubt creep in for a couple of Alabama players, mix all ingredients and stir … that could be the recipe.

I’ll pick a close game for Ole Miss this week, not a win. The most important thing for the Rebels, though, is that they pick themselves.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.

  • Missouri Rebel

    P.A. — I’m glad you stated what you “believe” about the Rebels. I must admit, I started to get a bit nauseous when I read your title to the article….the whole “WE BELIEVE” statement reeks of another program from last year…That shouldn’t be associated with the Rebels in any way…I prefer “Win the Day” or “Fins Up”…I’ll keep the faith but pass on “Believe”.

    • Parrish Alford

      Missouri, believe is too big a word for one program to own. Lot of confidence coming from Ole Miss right now. Confidence won’t guarantee the Rebels will upset Alabama, but rampant doubt would guarantee they wouldn’t.

      • Missouri Rebel

        You probably right, I’ve just heard believe tossed around this week in a negative manner. I do like the confidence factor though. Confidence and a little swagger can be just what the doctor ordered for a game like this one. These Rebels are ready to step up and see how they measure up with the Tide. There’s no reason the Rebels shouldn’t be confident, Alabama may be a better team than Texas but I guarantee that the Rebs won’t be facing any better quality athletes than they did in Austin.

  • Noggin

    I prefer “cautiously optimistic”
    we expect things to turn out for the better
    (optimistic) but there are a lot of things that could stop that from happening
    so it is far from a certainty (cautious).

  • pdreb

    You just can that “believe” stuff. Be confident, intense, enthusiastic and give 110% for 60 minutes. That’s what works. We are 16 point underdogs playing at Tuscaloosa and are supposed to lose. “Believing” gets you nothing. Playing an all out smart game does.

  • Kevin

    Last year, I think State College had all these “we believe, 8-0″ signs all over town. I didn’t believe then, and I don’t believe now. Why not? It has nothing to do with lack of support for in-state teams. Rather, it has everything to do with the talent level on the Bama squad. The best Rebel fans can hope for tomorrow evening is that it’s not over by halftime.

    Oh, is it just me or does this “believe” crap merely point to how football constitutes some kind of religious fervor? Moreover, if we say the team should give 110% then why not implore the team to give 10,000% or 100 million%? These percentages are mere coach-speak and mean very little. It all boils down to talent and I don’t see a team filled with freshmen and JUCO transfers beating the hands-down best team in the nation on their home turf.