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Tide meets media darling Ole Miss

No sooner had Alabama ended its football season a year ago, Crimson Tide fans circled the game of Oct. 10 against Ole Miss on the 2009 schedule.

After all, the Ole Miss Rebels reeled off six straight wins to close the 2008 campaign, including a 47-34 pasting of eighth-ranked Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. The darlings of the national media, the Rebels were projected by some to win the SEC West. Some even gave the Rebs an outside shot at playing for a national championship.

Ole Miss was enjoying attention on a national scale not seen in Oxford in nearly 50 years.

Despite the Rebels’ early-season stumble at South Carolina, things really haven’t changed much.

Though heralded quarterback Jevan Snead has fallen out of Heisman Trophy talk of late, he remains a threat. The Ole Miss defense is as stingy as ever. And the Rebels have not forgotten the five-game losing streak to Alabama – the last four were decided by a total of 13 points.

No, things really haven’t changed. The circled date has arrived.

Unbeaten and third-ranked Alabama controls its destiny if championship aspirations are to remain alive. The recipe? Win them all. Leave no room for doubt.

Things really haven’t changed.

But the Crimson Tide will need to produce a more intense effort against the Rebels than the one displayed in Bama’s 38-20 conquest of Kentucky last week. The Wildcats carved out over 130 yards rushing and over 300 yards of total offense against Bama’s highly-ranked defense.

Alabama faces a serious challenge in stopping the Rebels. As was evident in practice this week, the rotation of players at linebacker to replace the injured Dont’a Hightower received much attention. The linebacker play in Nick Saban’s 3-4 defensive front will be vital in stopping Ole Miss’ dangerous Dexter McCluster and pressuring Snead in passing situations.

Offensively, the Tide may find running the ball a tough challenge against the Rebels’ solid defense. If Alabama thought its running game found the going tough against Kentucky, Ole Miss may provide a stiffer test.

It will be up to quarterback Greg McElroy, then, to continue his solid play using a multitude of talented receivers. The objective here would be to keep Snead and Co. off the field.

Bottling up McCluster, keeping Snead off balance, and ball control offense will get Alabama its sixth win of the year in Oxford – 31-14.