By Parrish Alford
Alabama coach Nick Saban says anyone who wants to evaluate his team needs to abide by one very simple guideline:
Look at the Crimson Tide in the present, not the past.
“Everyone has gotten overwhelmed with expectations,” Saban said. “Everybody doesn’t just need to sit around and say, ‘Wow, what’s wrong with these guys?’ These guys need to develop, and they need a lot of positive energy around them.”
Expectations go with the territory when you’ve won back-to-back national championships and are playing for a third straight.
There have been some issues – communication among players during games one of them, Saban says – that have some questioning whether No. 1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) has the goods for a three-peat.
No. 21 Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0) visits the Tide Saturday for a 5:30 kick.
In a 33-14 loss in Tuscaloosa last year the Rebels converted two touchdown drives of 70-plus yards, at times bothering the Tide with an up-tempo offense.
Three turnovers kept Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze from praising the Rebels’ offensive performance. There was more confidence taken from that game for the Rebels’ defense, which was aggressive from the opening bell.
Ole Miss hopes to duplicate that performance this season and could regain a key defensive player for the game.
Outside linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, second-team All-SEC a year ago, hasn’t played since sustaining a sprained MCL (knee) in the opener at Vanderbilt.
After a week of practice swelling in the knee has been little or none, and the outlook for Nkemdiche’s return is promising.
Under the watchful eye of trainer Pat Jernigan Nkemdiche’s rehab appears to be ahead of schedule. When his injury was disclosed next week’s Auburn game was the original target date for his return.
“They said (the Alabama game) was possible. And if it was possible I said, ‘I’m going to try and do everything to make it happen. I want to rehab as much as possible. Pat , what do I have to do, what do I have to do?’”
Nkemdiche says he’s felt no pain in this week.
He had a huge game against Alabama last year with 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron hopes improved communication from he and his teammates will keep any Ole Miss player from having similar success.
“We’re getting better. We can’t have peaks and valleys all the time. This can’t be a roller coaster. We have to find a level plane and stay on that,” he said. “We have to be consistent. We can’t have negative plays that take us back 15 yards. We feel like as an offense that every time we’ve been stopped it’s been (because of) us.”