Prior to 2014, the yearly game between Ole Miss and Alabama seemed nothing short of a chore. Alabama was the older brother picking on his younger, less-developed sibling.
However, after 2013’s embarrassing 25-0 shutout loss at the hands of the always-dominant Crimson Tide and its legendary head coach Nick Saban something seemed to change in the matchups between the two teams.
The 2014 season came, and Ole Miss shocked the world with a 23-17 upset that saw the students rush the field, tear down the goal post and parade it through Oxford.
The next year saw an equally stunning upset: a 43-37 electrifying victory for the Rebels in Tuscaloosa. Last year, the Rebels lost 48-43 at home. Having led at halftime, the heartbreaker proved again the Rebels could play alongside the very best, regardless of the outcome.
This weekend, the two meet again. The Rebels return to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, this time under new leadership with head coach Matt Luke.
While the circumstances have changed, one thing has remained constant: Alabama’s dominance.
At the familiar position of No. 1 in the nation, Alabama and Saban seem just as unbeatable as they did in 2013, and, truthfully, each of the years after. However, as the past three title fights have shown, the Crimson Tide and its legendary coach are still, in fact, capable of defeat — especially early in the season.
Luke, who served as the offensive line coach both years Ole Miss defeated Alabama, knows as well as anyone how to beat the unbeatable. A mobile quarterback, a fast-paced offense that stretches the field, deep-threat receivers and a knack for pulling off game-changing plays are the keys to defeating the best team and coach in the NCAA. Ole Miss checks each of those boxes.
Now, to be clear, Ole Miss is still the underdog this Saturday. Alabama handled a No. 3 Florida State team in week one and routed a respectable Vanderbilt program 59-0 last week, with dominance over Fresno State sandwiched in between. Ole Miss, on the other hand, struggled against South Alabama and UT Martin and lost to Cal. The odds, as they’ve often been, are in favor of Alabama.
This does not mean Ole Miss is out of the fight just yet. Shea Patterson has shown flashes of his once-in-a-generation potential, and the scary abilities of the Nasty Wide Outs make for an undeniably worrisome combo, especially with A.J. Brown, who went down holding his knee in Berkeley, expected to return to the gridiron.
While stopping Alabama and QB Jalen Hurts will certainly be an issue, the Rebels have shown they are not afraid to get into a shootout: Over the last three contests, the two teams have totaled 211 points.
Ultimately, the forecast prior to the weekend may look ominous for Rebel fans, but silver linings do exist. Fresh off a bye week and with more to prove than ever, Luke and his team have the ability to score on the best in the nation. While taking down Saban and the Tide seems like it would need the work of a miracle, recent history between the two suggests maybe such miracles do exist after all.