TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It's shaping up to potentially be the biggest game of the regular season for Alabama football.
This Saturday, former Nick Saban assistant and current head coach Lane Kiffin and his Ole Miss Rebels come to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on the Crimson Tide. The Rebels gave the Crimson Tide trouble last season through the first half, seemingly going punch-for-punch with the 2020 national champions.
This season, Kiffin has ramped his team up a couple more notches and with Heisman Trophy frontrunner Matt Corral at quarterback, Ole Miss will present quite a challenge for the Alabama defense.
On Monday, Saban addressed the multiple strengths that translate as threats to Alabama's season that, thus far, has an untarnished record of 4-0.
"Ole Miss has an outstanding team, I think they've got like 17 starters back from a team that won [five] games last year," Saban informed the media via Zoom. "Lane does an outstanding job with their offense. Their overall team is improved in every category, defense, special teams. They really are playing extremely well. This is one of the best offensive teams in the country, no doubt."
Saban then went on to break down the Rebels' offense, position by position.
"The quarterback is a fantastic player, understands the offense well, does a great job of executing it," Saban said. "They've got really good running backs. They've got lots of speed. They've got good receivers. The offensive line is returning intact. So a lot of really good players that are really well coached and their whole fastball system is something that's always a challenge for the defense to you know get lined up and play with great poise and be able to focus on doing your job.
"So it's a real challenge for us from that standpoint."
So far this season, Ole Miss leads the Southeastern Conference in average offensive yards per game with 635.3 yards. The Rebels are also coming off of a bye week, otherwise they might lead the conference in overall offensive yards as well. They also lead the conference in most points per game, averaging 52.7 points in each of the program's first three games.
Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis feels that the process in practices this week is what will prepare himself and his teammates for what is sure to be an offensive onslaught this weekend.
“We have to bring that Bama standard all week long," Mathis said. "Get the guys rolling, and be ready to play come Saturday.”
So far this season, Corral is fifth in the SEC in passing yards with 997, but his stats are from three games, not four. He has also completed 66-of-96 passes, a completion percentage of 68.75 percent. He boasts the second-highest quarterback rating in the conference — second only to Alabama's Bryce Young — with a 186.92 rating.
Between him and his receivers, Corral also averages a gain of 10.39 yards per pass, which is also good enough for second in the conference.
When it comes to limiting Ole Miss' offense, there will be multiple facets to consider. The program is also solid in its running game, with running back Henry Parrish Jr. ranking third in the conference in yards per rush with 7.04. However, limiting Corral would be a good starting point for Alabama's defense in limiting the effectiveness of the Rebels.
While it's only Monday, Mathis noted what his defense is going to have to do in order to stop Corral and his offense.
“We have to contain him, make sure we keep him in the pocket," Mathis said. "As a defensive line we have to rush as all, everybody get his own gap. [...] Prepare for him all week long. We have to contain him well, the defensive line and linebackers control the gaps and push the pocket, get him uncomfortable.”