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Tide continues to ride crest of perfect storm

Published 10:04am Thursday, September 26, 2013

After three games, the winds of a perfect storm are holding up for Alabama. In surfing terms, the crest of the wave is holding up and as long as the winds blow offshore.
Alabama has played three games, and if you look at their opponents you will see where I am going here. Virginia Tech has a shutdown defense, but their offense is nonexistent. Historically, the Hokies are usually balanced and have a good offense. The Hokies are ranked 102nd in total offense.
Texas A&M, even with Johnny Manziel, can’t stop anyone with an offense. It usually ends up in a shootout.  The Aggies are ranked 110th in the nation in total defense.
The Colorado State contest showed (exposed) an Alabama team that was in trouble all Tuscaloosa afternoon. The preseason poll’s No. 95-ranked Rams were only trailing 17-6 entering the fourth quarter. Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson fumbled the ball on a bang-bang play, which showed the ball dislodged after hitting Grayson’s knee when he was going down. Bama turned this into a score and then added a late tack-on score to secure a comfortable outcome. I have been told that Alabama didn’t play six starters.
Note to Bama fans: they were playing the Colorado State Rams from the Mountain West Conference, not the Saint Louis Rams from the NFL.  This is the same CSU team that is currently ranked 75th in total defense, gives up an average of 410 yards per game and ranks No. 99 in total offense.
Alabama is sitting at No. 56 in total defense, giving up an average of 373 yards per game. UA is No. 84 in total offense and yet, they are 3-0.
In comes No. 21 Mississippi this Saturday with a 3-0 record, and it is well-rested from a week off.  What stands out about this year’s Ole Miss team is that they have won two big games on the road at Vanderbilt and at Texas, while virtually shutting down both the Commodores and the Longhorns in the second half by a 56-14 margin.
Here’s what we do know about Mississippi. They have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. They always get the skill players open and they will put you in tough situations the entire game.
This will be the best balanced team Alabama has faced so far this season. Offensively, the Rebels are ranked 25th, averaging 490 yards per game. On the defensive side of the ball, they are a respectable 33rd in the nation, giving up 332 yards per game.
What Bama needs to do to win this Saturday is very simple: reestablish the running game.  When you sit at No. 90 in the nation and only average 132 yards per game rushing, you are not playing Alabama football, nor are you going to be successful in the run-oriented Southeastern Conference.
The other key factor will be third down conversions. Mississippi has converted 21 of 41 third down attempts (fourth in the SEC), while Alabama has only been successful 11 out of 33 attempts (13th in the SEC).
Finally, the Crimson Tide rushed for a measly 66 yards and converted on 2 of 10 third downs against a fourth-rate Mountain West team.
“Consequently, they stayed in the game, and we could never put them away,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Predictions time for this week: No.4 Ohio State losses to No. 23 Wisconsin at home in the “Shoe.” I really like the Badgers running game, and I am not convinced the Buckeyes are that good, based upon who they have played.
The No. 6 LSU Tigers defense will resemble bamboo this Saturday. The bend but don’t break zone coverage will outlast No.9 Georgia and Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray.
No.14 Oklahoma and their fifth-ranked defense will be too much for No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish..
No.21 Mississippi at No.1 Alabama- sorry Rebels, this will not be your big day. Bama and the offensive line will finally find itself, just in the “Nick” of time.
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.

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