Now, No. 21 Ole Miss has become a threat with its high-powered offense and the play-making ability on both sides of the ball from true freshmen in the most highly touted recruiting class in school history.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide and Rebels will square off Saturday at 5:30 p.m. from Bryant-Denny Stadium in a prime-time spot on ESPN.
“This is a very good SEC team, and we’re certainly going to have to play our best football to have any kind of success against them,” Tide coach Nick Saban said during his Monday news conference.
The Rebels are averaging 490 yards of total offense a game (240 rushing, 250 passing) and scoring 38 points a game.
The Tide has prepared all season for the uptempo offenses it will face week in and week out. One would think that having a game against Texas A&M would give Alabama a sense of how to defend Ole Miss, but Saban doesn’t see “even an ounce of similarity” between the two offenses.
“They’re different offenses completely. It’s not really anything the same,” Saban said. “They’re a completely different offensive team. Their No. 1 formation is three receivers and a tight end, a very good tight end who is a very good receiver.
“They have a really good running game. They run for 250 yards a game. So it’s a completely different game than trying to defend Texas A&M. There’s not even an ounce of similarity.”
Tide safety HaHa Clinton-Dix sees only one distinct difference between the Aggies' and Rebels’ offensive attacks -- Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.
“Like I said, they have Wallace,” Clinton-Dix said. “He’s not Johnny Manziel, but he’s a great runner and he’s a great thrower. I’d say that's the only difference they have.”
Clinton-Dix said Wallace is a “big, physical runner and a thrower.” Wallace will be looking to improve on his showing against Alabama from last season when he completed 15 of 26 passes for 123 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Ole Miss gained 218 yards and committed three turnovers in a 33-14 loss in Tuscaloosa last season.
But that performance isn’t stopping Wallace from feeling confident about his team this time around.
In Oxford, Miss., on Monday, Wallace didn’t mince words when discussing the Rebels’ chances against the Tide. Wallace told reporters he thinks it’s “going to be a close game” Saturday.
Wallace shot down any comparisons between the Rebels' and the Aggies’ offense.
“I think we have better receivers than A&M,” Wallace said. “They want to talk about Mike Evans being so good, but we have Donte (Moncrief) and I think (freshman) Laquon (Treadwell) is going to be that way. We have better players on the outside than A&M does.”
Evans torched the Tide’s secondary for 279 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions in College Station in a 49-42 loss in College Station.
Through three games, Moncrief has 11 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging 15.7 yards a catch. Treadwell has 16 grabs for 154 yards.
Moncrief had two catches for 37 yards against Alabama last season.
“They have a great set of wideouts at Ole Miss and they’re a dominant offense,” Clinton-Dix said. “We’re facing a great challenge this week.”
Wallace was asked about the Tide’s secondary and how he felt they would matchup with the Rebels wideouts.
“I wouldn’t say (there has been) a drop off, but when you have first-round corners every year, I don’t know if (the guys they have now) are exactly first-round corners,” Wallace said. “But if you have a guy going in the top 10, you’re going to have a little bit of a drop off the next year.”
Wallace said he believes Ole Miss won’t have much trouble scoring against Alabama’s defense.
“Yeah, I think we can put points on them,” Wallace said. “I think we can put points on anybody. We just have to show up and play. It’s the same thing every week, let’s stay on schedule, control the tempo and don’t have any turnovers.”