Alabama @ Ole Miss: Third Time is the Charm?
The third time is always the charm, or so we’re told. That’s not been the case for teams trying to beat a Nick Saban-coached team in the SEC. Since Saban arrived at LSU in 2000, no team has beaten his team three straight seasons.
Ole Miss has that opportunity on Saturday afternoon in Oxford. The Rebels came from behind in 2014 on a weekend when nearly half the top ten was upset. Hugh Freeze’s team registered the highlight win of the weekend as his Rebels knocked off Alabama in an emotional win at home. Last year, the Rebels lit up the scoreboard and got a little luck to go its way in a 43-37 win in Tuscaloosa.
That win for Freeze gave the Rebels back-to-back wins over the Tide, which was only the second time Alabama lost back-to-back games to any team in the Saban era. LSU beat Alabama in Baton Rouge in 2010 and then again in Tuscaloosa in 2011, but that win is often forgotten because Alabama returned the favor in the 2011 BCS National Championship game.
In contrast, the two Rebels win stand out more than ever because they were the only two regular season losses for Alabama in the past two seasons. Can Ole Miss make it three in a row? Only one team has victimized a Saban-coached team three consecutive years – Purdue 1997, 1998 & 1999. Purdue’s quarterback in those last two seasons? Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. In fact, Brees is the only quarterback to beat a Saban-coached team in back-to-back seasons and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly aims to put his name right next to Brees’ after this much awaited matchup on Saturday.
If Ole Miss loses, the team ranked eleventh to start the season will fall to 1-2 with 16th ranked Georgia on its way to Oxford the following week. Then, after the bye week on October 8th, Ole Miss travels to Arkansas and LSU on consecutive weeks. That’s four games against ranked teams in five games (Memphis, which beat Ole Miss last year, is the meat in that ranked game sandwich).
Alabama players and coaches have veered away from the revenge game talk, but Ole Miss may be the more desperate team, given the October that awaits it.