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Early 2021 Crimson Tide Opponent Preview: Ole Miss

What will Lane Kiffin have cooked up this time when he gets another shot at Nick Saban? We can only wonder.

It pretty much goes without saying that Lane Kiffin would love to be the first former Nick Saban assistant coach to beat his former boss. 

The Ole Miss head coach came pretty close last year before Alabama finally pulled away in the fourth quarter. 

“All these people say it’s an advantage because I worked with them," Kiffin said at the time. "I don’t really understand that because he’s 20-0 against coaches that worked for him. So if working for him gives you an advantage, you’re not a very good gambler then because 20-0 is a pretty strong record."

Saban is 23-0 now. It could go up to 25-0 if he can defeat Kiffin and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher again on back-to-back Saturdays (Oct. 2 and 9, respectively). 

But what makes Kiffin's previous role so interesting regarding this matchup (besides being a general thorn in Saban's side) is what was said after last year's 63-48 shootout in Oxford.  

"It seemed like everything we did though they had an answer for," Saban said after his team gave up a whopping 647 yards. "I don't know if they had our signals or what. That's not anything unusual. It seemed like every time we called something, they had the best play that they could have against it."

He added: "We didn't do anything well. We didn't stop the run. We gave up some plays on the back end. ... Just didn't play very well."

Linebacker Dylan Moses echoed his coach: "They had an answer for everything, what we were lined up in."

Considering Kiffin had been Alabama's offensive coordinator from 2014-16, knew the Crimson Tide's personnel and had seen all of the defensive adjustments every day in practice (along with the adjustments to the adjustments), it only made since that the Rebels would have a big day offensively. 

The 48 points were the most Alabama had allowed to an unranked opponents in the poll era (1936). The 111 combined points set an SEC record for a non-overtime game.  

However, with Kiffin's former colleague and friend Steve Sarkisian on the other sideline, Alabama's 723 yards of offense were the second-most in SEC history.

Don't be surprised if Ole Miss plays Alabama tough again, at least for a while. Just don't expect quite the same offensive firepower. 

The Rebels return 17 starters, including quarterback Matt Corral. Playmakers like Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Dontario Drummond all return, along with four of the five starting offensive linemen. 

In 10 games last season, including nine against SEC competition, Corral threw for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns, and completed 70.9 percent of his passes. But he also had 14 interceptions, including six in the 33-21 loss to Arkansas. 

He has to be more consistent for the Rebels to move up the SEC standings. Against Alabama, he'll probably see a tougher Crimson Tide defense. 

The other thing the Rebels have to do is stop the run.

Ole Miss gave up 206.9 rushing yards, 38.3 points, and 6.7 yards per play last season. It lost leading tackler Jacquez Jones, who transferred to Kentucky, yet the rest of the two-deep is back along with some new additions.

Which brings us back to Kiffin. 

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Ole Miss opens against a Louisville team coming off a 4-7 season and didn't play in a bowl. It then faces Austin Peay and Tulane before having a bye the week before visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

An offseason to prepare. The first really big game of the season. An extra week to implement, and veterans players who have been in his system for more than a year. 

It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with. 

Ole Miss at Alabama

Date/TV: Oct. 2/TBA

Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium

2020 Record: 5-5 overall, 4-5 SEC

Final 2020 AP Ranking: None

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin, second year 

Number of returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense

Key returning players: Offense: QB Matt Corrall, T Nick Broeker, RB Jerrion Ealy, WR Dontario Drummond, RB Snoop Connor. Defense: LB Lakia Henry, DE Sam Williams, LB/DB Otis Reese, CB Miles Battle, NT Quentin Bivens,.

Key departures: WR Elijah Moore, OT Royce Newman, LB Jacquez Jones (transfered to Kentucky).

Last time out: Corral threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns to lead Ole Miss to a 26-20 victory over No. 7 Indiana in the Outback Bowl. The Hoosiers were without quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (knee), while the Rebels didn't have Moore (opted out). 

Series: Alabama leads the all-time series 52–10–2. The Crimson Tide has won five straight. Kiffin will once again try and be the first former Nick Saban assistant coach to beat his former boss. Combined, they're 0-23 (although Kiffin also lost to Saban at Tennessee, before he became the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator). 

Last meeting: Although the score was tied at 42 early in the fourth quarter, Alabama pulled away for a 63-48 victory. Running back Najee Harris has 23 carries for a career-high 206 yards and five rushing touchdowns, tying a Crimson Tide record. Mac Jones was 28-of-32 for 417 yards and two touchdowns, while both DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle had 100-yard receiving games.  

BamaCentral is previewing every Alabama game of the 2021 season. Check out the rest of the series:

Miami 

Mercer

Florida

Southern Miss