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Hipp's Tips: Alabama

Can Ole Miss move the ball on Alabama’s defense?

In case you haven’t heard, Alabama is quite good on the defensive side of the football. The Crimson Tide are first in the country in scoring defense, third in in total defense, first in rushing defense and fourth in passing defense. The scary part about that is that for the most part, Alabama has played just base defenses so far this year. Ole Miss will have its hands full just trying to move the ball. Offensive coordinator David Lee talked this week about how junior quarterback Randall Mackey only feels comfortable in the shotgun, but struggles to adapt to defensive alignment changes right before the snap when in the shotgun. Mackey will have to be able to do that if Ole Miss wants to be able to move the ball. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is known for multiple schemes with a variety of blitzes and coverages.

Empty the bag of tricks

Because Ole Miss isn’t good enough to just line up against Alabama and beat them with traditional offensive sets (not many teams are), expect head coach Houston Nutt and offensive coordinator David Lee to use a good amount of trick plays and odd formations. Looking back to the Georgia game, the Rebels pulled off a couple of reverses, a reverse on a punt, a passing touchdown from the “Wild Rebel” formation and an onside kick. Ole Miss will need to do things like that to try and gain some momentum offensively. The Rebels have nothing to lose in game where they are 20-plus point underdogs.

Try to slow down Trent Richardson

While it is impossible to truly shut down junior running back Trent Richardson, Ole Miss must at least try to slow him down. Richardson has run for over 100 yards in five straight games, including a career-high 181 yards in a 38-10 win over Florida two weeks ago. The Rebels have talked all week about closing down gaps, not resorting to arm tackling and swarming to the ball when Richardson has the ball in his hands. All of these things are easier said than done, but Ole Miss simply can’t allow Richardson to break off big runs if they want to keep this game close. Stopping the run on first and second downs could put Alabama into some third-and-longs, forcing sophomore AJ McCarron to beat them through the air, where the Rebels have had success forcing turnovers.

Make special teams special

The special teams phase of the game is the one phase where Ole Miss can match up with Alabama. The Rebels leads the nation in punt returns with a 31.71 return average, and both sophomore running back Jeff Scott and Nickolas Brassell have returned punts for touchdowns this season. Junior Tyler Campbell also leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally in punting (46.67 yards per punt), including 12 punts of more than 50 yards and 12 punts inside the 20-yard line. Avoiding special teams mistakes, flipping field position and making explosive plays in the return game are a must, if Ole Miss wants to pull the upset Saturday.