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The Crimson White previews Ole Miss-Alabama

The Crimson White

The Daily Mississippian sports editor Austin Miller recently caught up with the University of Alabama’s sports editor Tony Tsoukalas to discuss Saturday’s Ole Miss-Alabama game.

Austin Miller: Talk about the Alabama football season to this point. What are the Crimson Tide’s expectations going into this game and for the rest of the season?

Tony Tsoukalas: I would say that Alabama expects to win pretty easily against Ole Miss. The expectations surrounding this team are off the charts. The Alabama defense is being called the best the school has ever had and offers a multitude of future NFL players.

AM: What makes the defense one of, if not the, best in the nation?

TT: First off, it is a Nick Saban defense, so it is not only going to be well coached but also hard for offenses to figure out. The players in it are experienced from last year and are used to playing together. Alabama probably has the best linebacker corps in the nation and also possibly the best secondary. Up front they lost (Marcell) Dareus but still have Josh Chapman, who has been a brick wall for opposing running backs.

AM: How did the quarterback battle between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims play out? Talk about McCarron’s improvement so far this season.

TT: McCarron won the battle at the quarterback position, and he has really matured throughout the season. You can see that he is more confident in his throws now than earlier in the season. He has not been turning the ball over and has also been spreading the ball around and giving multiple receivers a chance (to make plays), so the defense can’t key on one guy.

AM: How did the offense change from last season with the loss of Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones? How important are Trent Richardson and the running game to Alabama’s success on offense?

TT: Losing Jones hurt the most of the three big offensive losses. Alabama does not have anyone who can match his size or physicality at the wide receiver position. I don’t think the Tide lose much from the other positions. At quarterback, McCarron possesses a better arm than McElroy. His game management is not quite at the level of McElroy, but it is improving with every game. Richardson is no drop-off from Ingram either. Physically, he is stronger and faster than Ingram. With Eddie Lacy in the mix as well, the running game has not missed a beat. As far as Richardson and what he means to the running attack, he is extremely important. He is a guy who will bruise and tire defenses with every carry until he finds a hole, and then he possesses the speed to get past defenders for long runs.

AM: What are the keys to Saturday’s game? What will it take for Ole Miss to pull the upset?

TT: Hope the bus doesn’t make it to Oxford? All jokes aside, it will be tough for the Rebels to pull off an upset. Things are not going their way this year, and it doesn’t look like Saturday will be any different. If Ole Miss was to pull an upset, they would need to shut down Trent Richardson and make McCarron beat them. They would probably also need to score some points on special teams or on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, they would have to control the ball and win the turnover battle.