TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When No. 12 Ole Miss comes to face No. 1 Alabama this weekend, Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin and his offense will no doubt throw a lot of curveballs at the Crimson Tide's defense.
Kiffin is known for his high-flying offenses and cunning play-calling abilities, both of which were on full display last season in Oxford when Alabama came to visit. While the Crimson Tide triumphed 63-48, Ole Miss gave the team one of the toughest fights it had to handle last season.
On Tuesday, Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o and defensive back Jordan Battle previewed the Rebels and discussed how they're approaching one of the top offenses in the country.
"They’re a great team," Battle said to the media via Zoom. "They do a lot of formations on the boundaries, a lot of motion. They’re a great team. They have almost their whole entire team returning except for about two offensive players. They have the experience and the discipline to be great. They are being a great team this year, so we will have to maintain our focus and preparation this week."
The Crimson Tide had difficulties against the Florida Gators two weekends ago in large part to the pace of the Gators' offense. Ole Miss is similar in that it moves at a very high tempo, not allowing the defense time to adjust and, if done effectively, forcing the defense to eventually make mistakes and expose them for big gains.
"They definitely do a great job," To'oTo'o said. "Their entire offense does a great job. Fast-tempo offense, move the ball quick to try to get you out of place. So they definitely do a great job at that so preparation is key this week."
Both teams are undefeated heading into this weekend's game, with Alabama being 4-0 and Ole Miss 3-0. The Rebels had a bye week last weekend in order to prepare for the Crimson Tide, something that they didn't benefit from last season. Additionally, Ole Miss also has a full slate of spring and summer practices under its belt which, due to COVID-19, the team didn't have last year.
In order to combat an Ole Miss team that will have much more preparation than it did last year, Battle knows the key.
"Preparation," Battle said. "We have to prepare like we are playing a great team, which we are playing a great team. Just come out focused this week, prepare the way we need to, learn their offensive scheme in and out. Lane Kiffin is a great offensive coordinator, so we know he’s going to have some great plays for us. So just preparing."
After the close 31-29 victory at Florida, many critics began to describe Alabama as 'vulnerable'. While the game against the Gators certainly provided a closer win than originally anticipated, the Crimson Tide still left with a win. The conversation has now shifted to Ole Miss, though, and the likelihood that Kiffin and his Rebels can take advantage of that vulnerability that Alabama showed down in Gainesville.
To'oTo'o said that protecting the Alabama brand involves not focusing on last week's win, but rather shifting the players' focus to improving and correcting their mistakes.
“It’s a culture that’s built here," To'oTo'o said. "We don’t really focus on the win. We focus on what we can do each day to get better. We’ve been executing what we have to do, focus on the fundamentals, the hard work and the culture that has been built here. So, really, not focused on the wins, focused on how we can get better as a team.”