Alabama sauntered into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi Saturday seeking to vanquish the nightmares of the last two seasons in their tilts against the Ole Miss Rebels. The Tide, ranked No. 1 in the country, was looking to avoid an upset as their highly-ranked peer Florida State could not earlier in the day in Louisville and get a victory over a proverbial thorn in their side hanging around in the SEC West.
Despite facing an early deficit and a case of deja vu, the Crimson Tide stormed ahead in the second half and although they let their opposition creep back into it, Nick Saban averted the wrong side of history as Alabama picked up a hard-earned 48-43 victory. Had Saban’s Tide lost, this would have marked the first time he had been defeated in three consecutive years by an SEC opponent, counting his years in Tuscaloosa and in Baton Rouge with LSU also.
Here’s what we learned from this tussle:
1. Alabama’s ground game is (still) something fierce: Alabama was able to run all over Ole Miss’ subpar run defense all afternoon. The Tide picked up 334 yards rushing with Jalen Hurts and Damien Harris each chewing up 140+ yards on the ground. Three of the touchdowns scored by the Tide were also of the rushing variety. As they say: The more things change, the more they stay the same. No matter who’s carrying the ball, it seems like Alabama will keep on being one of the top running teams in the country.
2. Evan Engram is a stud: It seems like this is a recurring theme through the first three games this year, and probably because it is. Engram’s broken out in a big way through the first three games of the 2016 campaign with two nine-catch performances this season including one on Saturday afternoon. He amassed 138 yards receiving against one of the best secondaries in the country, good for a mark of 15.3 yards per reception which included a 63-yard reception and a touchdown to boot. If Engram keeps this up, we may see him improve his draft stock when the NFL comes calling in 2017.
3. Ole Miss’ playoff dreams are likely up in smoke: Given both the process AND results, it doesn’t look like the Rebels will have much of a convincing change of pleasing the playoff committee. They held two large leads over two highly ranked teams (FSU, Alabama) and proceeded to cough them up in spectacular fashion. It’s still imperative that the Rebels regroup and still aim for high standing in the SEC West, but even a New Year’s Six bowl game seems a little unlikely given how things have played out so far.