Ole Miss at Alabama Preview: Three most important matchups to watch

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Oct 4, 2014; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels fans tear down the goal posts after a win against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss at Alabama is the biggest game of Week 3 of the 2015 college football season. We take a closer look at three important matchups to watch.

Following their most recent meeting, which was one of the biggest upsets of 2014, the No. 15 Ole Miss Rebels and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide renew their rivalry Saturday in Tuscaloosa. It’s the biggest game of Week 3, and like last year, ESPN’s College GameDay will be on campus for the event – the 11th time the weekly pre-game show has travelled to the Alabama campus for its live broadcast, which is the third most of any school in the nation.

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Looking ahead to the game itself, both the Rebels and Crimson Tide come in following strong performances. Ole Miss (surprisingly) has the nation’s top offense following a 76-3 victory over UT Martin in the season opener and a 73-21 win against Fresno State last Saturday.

The Rebels are also still one of the best defenses in the nation, having allowed 12 points, 303 total yards, and 163.5 passing yards per game on average, though it should be noted that one of Fresno’s three touchdowns was a defensive score. Speaking of, the Landshark defense has already scored three touchdowns thanks to a trio of pick-sixes during the first to weeks of the season.

The Alabama offense might not have stats that are quite as explosive as the Rebels, but the Tide has averaged 517 yards of total offense and 36 points per game in wins over Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee. Alabama has also played very well on defense by holding the Badgers and Blue Raiders to an average of 13.5 points and 271.5 yards of total offense.

Ole Miss and Alabama are two very evenly matched teams. Both quarterbacks – Chad Kelly of the Rebels and Alabama’s Jake Coker – are new starters but are very talented and have performed well in the first two weeks of the season. The Crimson Tide has the edge in the running game with Derrick Henry, but Ole Miss actually leads the SEC in yards per carry (7.8) through the first two weeks of the season. Given the struggles the Rebels had running the football last year, that’s a great sign.

The Rebels have better receivers, but the Tide has tight end O.J. Howard and running back Kenyan Drake to help pick up the slack. Both offensive lines are solid and both defenses are elite. But there are three specific, most important matchups that are worth taking a closer look as Ole Miss and Alabama meet in an SEC clash of Top 15 teams.

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