TIDE, TAKE THREE
Three tidbits regarding top-ranked Alabama entering this week's night game against visiting Ole Miss:
1. Alabama has scored in 31 consecutive quarters, a streak that began with the second quarter of last year's game at Mississippi State.
2. AJ McCarron is the first Crimson Tide quarterback with 10 touchdown passes through the first four games. Kenny Stabler had the previous high of eight in 1967.
3. Alabama has scored on all 18 of its trips to the red zone this season.
Saturday night's college football clash between Alabama and Ole Miss at Bryant-Denny Stadium could be framed as the known vs. the unknown, but there are still things Nick Saban could learn about his top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Such as how they would respond if they ever fell behind.
In its emphatic 4-0 start, Alabama scored the first 31 points against Michigan, skunked Western Kentucky and Arkansas by a combined 87-0 and scored the first 40 last Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
"We're constantly trying to teach our players to play the next play and to not be worried about the scoreboard or about the circumstances of the game, because those are external factors," Saban said Monday. "We try to focus on what we need to do to execute the very next play. Whether you're ahead in the game or behind in the game, it really doesn't matter.
"That's something that we're constantly trying to instill in our players from a competitive standpoint, but if they've never been in the situation, you don't know how they're going to respond."
Alabama certainly responded in Oxford last season after the Rebels scored a touchdown less than three minutes into the game. The Tide roared back for a 52-7 rout that was highlighted by Trent Richardson's 76-yard touchdown run featuring a back-and-forth juke of Ole Miss safety Senquez Golson.
Those were Houston Nutt's Rebels, who lost their last seven SEC games in 2010 and all eight last season.
"Ole Miss really is a much, much, much improved team," Saban said. "I think the offensive numbers that they've been able to put up against everyone that they've played have been very, very impressive. Their no-huddle style is a little bit like what Auburn used to be when Gus Malzahn was there [as offensive coordinator].
"They're playing hard, and they're playing with a lot of spirit. This is a team that is completely different, and I think Hugh Freeze has done a really, really good job."
Using a slew of zone-read options and quarterback runs, the Rebels lead the SEC with 259.8 rushing yards a game. Diminutive junior tailback Jeff Scott tops them with 268 yards and 8.6 yards a carry, and he is followed by starting quarterback Bo Wallace (179, 4.1), quarterback-turned-tailback Randall Mackey (172, 4.8) and backup quarterback Barry Brunetti (153, 5.7).
Wallace, who redshirted at Arkansas State two years ago when Freeze was the offensive coordinator, has completed 55 of 86 passes for 717 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. His favorite target is Donte Moncrief, who has 19 receptions for 343 yards (18.1 per catch) and four scores.
"They're going to be fast-paced, and I'm pretty sure they're going to get to the ball quick," Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "We just have to be fast and communicate and just get to the ball and play physical like we always do."
Ole Miss has lopsided wins over Central Arkansas (49-27), UTEP (28-10) and Tulane (39-0) to surpass its victory total from a year ago, and the Rebels have a lopsided loss against Texas (66-31).
"We're thrilled to be heading into SEC play at 3-1," Freeze said. "Hopefully we've matured some since our last experience in prime-time play against Texas. It's just another step along the way in our journey, getting to play a great football team with a great staff.
"They're the gold standard in football right now."
Alabama's only player questionable for Saturday, according to Saban, is backup nose guard Brandon Ivory with a sprained ankle.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.