Friday, October 8 2021

Good news for college football: Alabama looked human on the road against Florida and its sky-high crowd on Saturday afternoon.

Bad news for college football: Crimson Tide took the win despite being outscored in the second half at the home of a top 10 team.

The two elements share as a reminder of the hill Ole Miss, or any program, must climb to beat the reigning national champions. Dan Mullen kind of provided a shot, but the execution of his attack wasn’t quite right in the big spots. Quarterback Emory Jones returned him early and Gator’s defense didn’t have a quick response for Bryce Young and company as UA took a 21-3 lead. After a valiant comeback, Jones was undecided at the point of mesh during the potential tie conversion and Nick Saban’s post-match smile indicates how narrow the victory was.

But it was still a win and Alabama still leads the polls.

The Gators have better-known players on the roster compared to the Rebels, but Lane Kiffin’s schedule has clear advantages over Florida’s on Saturday, beyond the coaching relationships that the casual observer will continue to point out. . And yes, not a single assistant to Saban has returned to beat him in Alabama – we get that.

But it has to start somewhere, right?

An easy to see difference between UF and OM lies at the heart of the game’s most important place. Matt Corral – who, ironically, was taken off Gator’s pledge list in favor of Jones when Mullen has taken over the program – is far from a more accomplished, experienced, and in 2021, cautious quarterback. Corral can feature similar racing elements that worked for Jones while providing much better passing ability at the second and third levels in a more explosive pattern than Mullen’s.

READ MORE: Ole Miss Rises to 13th in Latest AP Top-25 Poll

Where the Gators and Rebels are roughly even, perhaps with minimal advantage over Ole Miss, is in the position that really bothered the Alabama defense on Saturday: the running back. Florida used a trio of fullbacks Malik Davis, Dameon Pierce and Nay’Quon Wright to harass all seven Crimson Tide defenders in missed tackles. The rebel group of Jarrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish could be even more talented, although their main function resonates with the Gator group. Davis is the balanced back, like Ealy, while Pierce is the power broker like Conner, and Wright is the South Florida native, just like Wright.

Upfront, the group that should be commended for helping Florida take the lead by edging Alabama 258-91, feature a combination of experience and classic trench size. Ole Miss is not far off, although the rebel pass protection is likely a notch higher than Florida’s over three games. Both groups are unsung heroes, despite some reshaping, for their respective infractions with the SEC’s dreams in Atlanta still technically within the realm of the possible.

Defensively, conventional wisdom reminds us that Florida are ahead of the curve here, especially in high school, although the unit has had some tough times in the past year and a half of football. Beyond Kaiir Elam, who has been outstanding against Alabama and is expected to be the favorite to be the first cornerback taken in the upcoming NFL Draft, is an alpha on one side of the field that Ole Miss cannot. not match. But elsewhere, especially when it comes to safety, the Rebels fared better than the Florida squad in terms of coverage, as well as in the fundamental tackle element, which was a major issue for Todd Grantham’s unit early on and on. late against the Tide.

Elsewhere on D, the Rebels can stack all the way to Florida, with proven rushers like Sam Williams leading the charge. He has four to his name, and the unit has nine to three games, the same number as UF’s. Each group completed the top four well with linebackers and blitzers rushing to this point in 2021. Relative to the race, Florida shone against the No.1 except in the last practice, as the power of Brian Robinson has helped visitors with everything but missing the clock. Florida were noticeably better against the run overall, even with the Alabama game factored in, perhaps a source of concern for DJ Durkin and the defensive staff.

Watch the game again in the swamp, though, and it won’t be long to realize that Alabama’s biggest X-factor on the field was one of the youngest players on the field. It was Bryce Young, who shone on his first test drive despite some communication errors with his cross, stretching the third down a bit and getting the ball back from Jones and UF. Elsewhere he was precise and never showed signs of being physically shaken, rushed or panicked despite that atmosphere present during his first real road start.

READ MORE: Heisman Watch: A New Vegas Favorite?

So how can Ole Miss bother Young?

Real aggression makes the most sense against a young quarterback. Yes, the Californian is mobile and precise on the run, but he has been devastating with a clean pocket and effective against conventional blitzes. Florida brought fans to the routine on Saturday and it didn’t affect much. Young was sacked twice in the afternoon but did not return the ball. The only time there was a chance was a huge missed opportunity for Brenton Cox, the defensive end who fell into the area of ​​coverage late in the third quarter. Young never saw it and threw it in Cox’s chest, but he jumped in excitement and dropped the safe turnover. Alabama would go on to convert a fourth down and score a touchdown.

Every point, and by proxy, every opportunity to come off the field against Alabama, is critical. Even forcing Alabama to settle for a field goal, Florida is soon after and dramatically increases Florida’s ability to win in what was a two-point game at the end. The other major failure for Florida on the scoreboard was an extra point rod, again something that is inexcusable at the SEC level and against this team.

Can Durkin disturb Young? The blitz and rushing passes help, but there’s more success to be had in diversifying coverage regimes against what is starting to look like a pass offense in Alabama. Florida have played straight more times than not, failing to move before the snap and thus allowing Young to hint at cover before the ball was in their hands. Ole Miss doesn’t have to do the same, and it doesn’t have to be terribly exotic. The entire secondary does not have to move until the ball is broken. A subtle and less obvious cover-up disguise may work better.

Move the leverage of nickel from the inside to the outside, or vice versa. Roll a safety down when the cadence begins. Cornerbacks can flirt with a press glance and back down just before the ball is broken. Mature defenders can create uncertainty with any carry over from conventional. Some also should not be communicated by the coaching staff. As long as a player does not disguise his cover responsibility, which happens, the chances of a stoppage are higher than normal.

With the Ole Miss high school experience, as most of the contributors are upper class students, coupled with the extra prep week at the start of the week off, Durkin and the staff can push for more creativity to limit Young. mentally as well as physically. Of course, Alabama is pretty talented on the outside with their top duo John Metchie III and Jameson Williams delivering top speed as well. Alabama also uses two tight ends, with Cameron Latu as conventional and Jahleel Billingsley as flex. The latter was in the doghouse at the start of the season but appears to be back in Saban’s favor, catching a touchdown on Saturday via a wheel route.

Alabama doesn’t have the benefit of the week off as Southern Miss heads to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to grab a big check as well as an L, but Saban won’t tell you he’s going to fight in an actual game, something that can be seen as an advantage. Alabama’s offensive line, especially on the right side, showed some room for change against Florida. The same can be said for the body of linebackers, confused by simple passes, another area where Saban should expect Ole Miss to challenge.

Let the chess match between legend and fan favorite disruptor begin.

CONTINUE READING: Is Ole Miss the best offense in the country?

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