Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: Alabama Crimson Tide at Ole Miss Rebels Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/29/2014
Alabama Crimson Tide at Ole Miss Rebels, Saturday Oct. 4, 2:30 p.m. ET
The big time will be making a relatively rare appearance in Oxford, MS, this weekend as the Ole Miss Rebels play the biggest game they have played in far too long against Alabama. Hugh Freeze pulled in an impossibly-good recruiting class two years ago, and as those players mature and the momentum of that success builds the results are showing up on the field. Suddenly - at least through four games - a team that was very easy to forget is nationally-relevant. With a win here at home they could really launch themselves into the big time.
The scope of this game creates perhaps the biggest disparity for the team. It's the top game of a very packed weekend. "College GameDay" is coming to town, and along with it is a level of attention and spectacle that Ole Miss just isn't used to. For Alabama, though, this stuff is old hat. They play in the biggest game of the year for the home fans almost everywhere they go, and they are so used to the spotlight that they barely notice any of it by now. Nick Saban and company won't even think twice about this game, while for Freeze and company it could easily be overwhelming.
It will be especially important for the Rebels to keep the game in perspective. A win would be huge for their program, but it is not the only thing that matters. Not even close. They are on a journey, and they realistically aren't going to peak with their current personnel until next year. It's okay - great, really - that expectations have changed, and a team that has not been competitive against the Tide the last two years now thinks that they can beat them. A strong performance that they can be proud of is what matters more, though. Remember that, and they'll be fine.
Alabama at Ole Miss Betting Storylines
The obvious storyline here is a battle between two units ranked fourth in the country for their performance - Alabama's offense against Mississippi's defense. Alabama is averaging more than 594 yards per game and a very solid 7.62 yards per play. They are explosive, multi-dimensional and dangerous. They made a high-profile coaching change, and it has paid off in a big way - former offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is redefining offensive incompetence in Michigan this year. Ole Miss, meanwhile, has given up just 248 yards per game - albeit against a lesser level of competition. The defensive front seven for Ole Miss are fierce, and Alabama has running back depth that is almost comical. Alabama QB Blake Sims has been airing it out impressively, and the Rebels already have nine interceptions. This should be an epic showdown. To add intrigue, there is also a good sibling rivalry here. The much-maligned Lane Kiffin is the architect of this surprising offense, while his brother Chris is the defensive line coach for Ole Miss and the guy who received top marks for his recruiting effort in hauling in 2013's ridiculous class. Needless to say, neither guy will be too interested in losing this one. They know each other well on the field, too - Chris was on Lane's staff at USC.
For Ole Miss, a huge priority has to be containing the Alabama pass rush as well as they can. Bo Wallace is a good quarterback, but he could be better at avoiding mistakes, and pressure obviously won't help. Only one team in the SEC has allowed more tackles for a loss than the Rebels have, so their offensive line is obviously an area of concern. Relentless pressure is a favorite trick of Alabama up front, and given the likelihood that it can be effective here they are certain to double up their efforts. That is not good news for the Rebels - unless they can find a way to neutralize the efforts or distract Alabama's attention elsewhere. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, the best way to do that is to establish a strong running game early, but their running game ranks much closer to the bottom of the SEC than the top. It's a real problem for this matchup.
Alabama Crimson Tide at Ole Miss Rebels NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Alabama favored by 4.5 points. More than 80 percent of bets have come in on the Tide, though, so that line has moved up to 6.5 relatively quickly and is even beginning to flirt with the key number of seven. I'd be surprised to see it go any higher than that level, though.
Alabama has not played on the road yet this year, but there is a trend in their favor - the road team is 5-1 ATS in the last six editions of this showdown. Five of the last six games have also gone "under" the total. The Rebels have gone under the total the last four times they have played a team with a winning record.
Alabama Crimson Tide at Ole Miss Rebels Predictions and Expert NCAA Football Picks
I really want to pick against the evil empire - I'm a sucker for a good underdog story, and I am tired of Alabama's dominance. When only giving up a touchdown or less, though, I can't do it. Ole Miss is really going to struggle to score points because Wallace is going to be running for his life all afternoon. The Rebels are a young squad at the core, too, and the immensity of this game is going to weigh on them. Alabama isn't going to run away with it, but they have so many tools and so many ways to score that it's unfortunately too easy to imagine them scoring at least a touchdown more than their opponents. The Tide are the pick.
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