Ole Miss travels to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to play Alabama in what is shockingly a battle of top-25 teams. I say shockingly because anyone who had Ole Miss rolling into T-town undefeated is a liar and/or heavily medicated to limit dangerous behavior.
Due to this unexpected success, Ole Miss fans can currently be found buzzing around the exosphere, dodging satellites that bring us quality television programs and allow bad guys in movies to make phone calls that are untraceable and make sure the movie reaches two hours. And said buzzing is justified because, before last season's scattered bursts of success, Ole Miss football was in very dark pit of giggity hell.
But, with this season's early exceeding of expectations, the talk of beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa has quickly accelerated. While most of that is the result of Ole Miss' good start, some of the talk can be attributed to Alabama not looking like the elite soul-crushing group of the last two years, despite crushing everyone but Texas A&M, who, if not for a late T.J. Yeldon fumble, they would've beaten by two touchdowns.
While this is certainly Ole Miss' best chance to beat Alabama since we were relying on the head and arm of Jevan Snead and the play-calling of Houston Nutt (SWEET FANCY MOSES), let's not ignore how extremely difficult that will be.
First, and most obvious, the last time Ole Miss won in Tuscaloosa was when it was coached by Billy Brewer and trap plays ruled the day. Since then, the closest Ole Miss has come to winning was a 20-17 overtime loss under Tommy Tuberville in 1998, and an overtime loss in 2006 (26-23) under the direction of Ed Orgeron (!!!!!!!!!).
I've been to Tuscaloosa six times and seen Ole Miss lose 20-17, 45-7*, 42-7*, 28-7, 26-23, and 23-10. And in the first three of those, Ole Miss had comparable talent with Alabama and failed miserably (most notably in 2000 when Alabama had a 3-8 team and won by 38 points).
*David Cutcliffe getting-his-ass-kicked special
But it's not just Ole Miss that has been miserable there (THOUGH IT MOSTLY IS). The last five teams to beat Alabama at home are:
2012 Texas A&M
2010 Auburn (PAAAWWWLLL)
2007 Louisiana-Monroe (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL)
Excluding the 2007 results, which were against a team that was without the standard Nick Saban four and five-star talent, the last three teams to win there were a combined 38-3, one of them won a national championship, and one of them made it to the national championship game. So, you know, to win there in the Saban era, you have to be PRETTY GOOD WITH LOTS OF GOOD PLAYERS.
While Ole Miss does have some talent, it falls short of the last three teams to win there. In fact, since I've heard chatter and such that this game could be 2013's version of the 2012 Texas A&M game for Alabama, let's take a look at who played in that game for A&M for a sampling of the players you need to win in Tuscaloosa as of late.
-Johnny Manziel, QB – Heisman trophy winner
-Luke Joeckel, T – 1st round (#2 overall) NFL draft pick
-Christine Michael, RB – 2nd round
-Demontre Moore, DE – 3rd round
-Sean Porter, LB – 4th round
-Ryan Swope – 6th round
-Jake Matthews – 1st round pick in 2014 (would've been a high pick in 2013)
And throw in Mike Evans, who will most likely go in the first few rounds in 2014. As you can see, that's a strong to quite strong collection of talent to send against Alabama's talent.
What will Ole Miss have in terms of NFL Draft talent when it takes the field on Saturday? Something like this:
-Donte Moncrief – first few rounds of 2014 (assuming he comes out)
And that's the only sure pick. Emmanuel McCray might be a late pick and Tyler Campbell as well, but that's about it for Ole Miss. A few others will get free agent looks, but nothing guaranteed.
There may be a few more draftable players in 2015 (C.J. Johnson, Aaron Morris, Cody Prewitt, Senquez Golson), but those guys aren't "NFL-ready" as of now (and may not be at the end of next year). So clearly, Ole Miss isn't loaded with experienced high-level talent like previous victors at Alabama.
However, the lack of success in Tuscaloosa and overall talent shouldn't completely remove any excitement and lead to resignation about an impending loss. We're still getting to play the number one team in the country, are 3-0 for the first time since Billy Brewer was about to get Ole Miss on probation a second time, and SWEET HOME ALABAMA IS A TERRIBLE SONG (THOUGH I LIKE THE PART WHERE THEY ATTEMPT TO PUT NEIL YOUNG IN HIS PLACE).
Just prepare yourself for the possibility of loss, especially one where we lose on something like a punt return blocker accidentally touching the ball, leading to an easy touchdown, or a replay official botching a triple overtime review. This is only the fourth game of the season and you don't need a core-shattering experience to affect the rest of the season.
Eight games left and we have a real good chance to not play Pittsburgh again in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Adjust your expectations for this game accordingly so you'll be around when we all have a good UGH CAN'T BELIEVE WE LOST LIKE THAT and yell about SEC Alabama conspiracies at the bar before our bowl game not in Birmingham.