TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa aims to follow up a pair of record-setting performances when second-ranked Alabama hosts Ole Miss in SEC play on Saturday. Tagovailoa is the first player in Crimson Tide history to throw five touchdown passes in consecutive games and he has 17 on the season without being intercepted.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Alabama -35.5.
Alabama is averaging 50 points per game - outscoring opponents 200-43 - behind Tagovailoa, who has thrown at least three scoring passes in each contest. "Tua was a really good player last year," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said at a press conference. "I think this year he's a lot more confident. I think he does a better job and has a better understanding of what the defense is trying to do. I think that just elevates his ability to make good choices and decisions, not that he ever made bad ones before." The Rebels are coming off a 28-20 loss to California and are well aware they are facing a big task. "It's a huge challenge," Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said at a press conference. "They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, three of the best receivers in the country and obviously a good running back. So, they are just very talented. You can kind of pick your poison. They are very, very talented and very hard to defend."
ABOUT OLE MISS (2-2, 1-0 SEC)
Quarterback Matt Corral (844 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) suffered bruised ribs against Cal and fellow freshman John Rhys Plumlee sparked the offense by going 7-of-7 passing for 82 yards. Luke said it won't be known until later in the week whether Corral can play but he isn't overly concerned, saying "I think John Rhys showed he can go out there and handle himself." Junior defensive end Ryder Anderson and junior outside linebackers Sam Williams and Charles Wiley each have two of the club's 12 sacks.
ABOUT ALABAMA (4-0, 1-0)
While the offense has been the focus of attention, Saban is impressed with the solid defensive efforts of junior safety Xavier McKinney (team-high 28 tackles) and senior linebacker Anfernee Jennings (team-best three sacks). "I think both of those guys have played very well," Saban said. "They're both had really good production. But I think what you don't see is how they're impacting and affecting other players on the team who probably need their support. It helps the younger players have confidence when they feel like the older players are confident in them." Junior wideouts Jerry Jeudy (team bests of 30 receptions, 404 yards and six touchdowns), DeVonta Smith (20 for 263, three TDs) and Henry Ruggs III (16 for 350, four TDs) are all off to strong starts.
1. Alabama routed Ole Miss 62-7 last season and leads the series 54-10-2.
2. Crimson Tide junior RB Najee Harris had a season-best 110 yards - his second career 100-yard outing - in last Saturday's 49-7 win over Southern Miss.
3. Rebels sophomore WR Elijah Moore matched his career-high with 11 receptions against Cal and leads the squad with 29 catches for 380 yards and three touchdowns.
PREDICTION: Alabama 55, Ole Miss 17