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Beat writer Q&A: Breaking down Alabama-Ole Miss

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Levi Wallace (39) returned an interception for a touchdown during Alabama's win over Ole Miss last season.
Levi Wallace (39) returned an interception for a touchdown during Alabama's win over Ole Miss last season. (Vasha Hunt)

In advance of Alabama's matchup with Ole Miss on Saturday, we talked to Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal to break down the Rebels.

Here's what he said about Ole Miss and the game:

What's the vibe around the program heading into this game?

Players profess to be positive and upbeat, and I have no reason to doubt that for those on offense. They're extremely confident and should be. It would be really hard for defensive players to keep from having a little self-doubt creep in after the Southern Illinois performance.

What have been the big problems on defense through the first two games?

With two games on record, the Ole Miss defense has been pretty good in one and pretty bad against a lower-level opponent in the other. 

It's not surprising that Texas Tech would get yards and points, and they did. Ole Miss forced five punts in that game, but more impressive was their fourth-down stops, one in the red zone and another near mid-field in a quick change after an Ole Miss fumble.

Coaches say eye discipline and lack of respect for the opponent was the problem against Southern Illinois.

They say that game was all about lack of mental focus and not about scheme, but they were unable to make adjustments on the fly. They got some stops after halftime, but Southern Illinois had more yards in the second half than the first.

What do you like most about Jordan Ta'amu's game? What are his biggest strengths as a QB?

Ta'amu's decisions are better this year. He's in his second year in the offense -- though he still hasn't completed a full season as a starter -- and it shows.

He's mobile and usually effective when he runs, because he picks his spots carefully.

I think his strength is the deep ball. He places it well, and he's got receivers who can go get it.

What's different about the offense with Ta'amu at QB compared to when Shea Patterson was in there?

His mobility for one. Patterson scrambled to keep plays alive and try to hit the big one downfield. Ta'Iamu scrambles for yardage. When Ta'amu took over last year, pass completions to tight end Dawson Knox surged. Knox has only one catch for a 6-yard gain in two games. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo says that's because of the looks defenses have shown.

What's your expectation for the game?

Alabama will score 50-plus again. What I think they should do is focus on the run game, ball-control and keep the ball away from Ole Miss. I expect they'll mix some passes in, though. 

Ole Miss has been very impressive offensively. I am interested to see if they can get in the end zone three or four times in this game.

I think a best-case scenario for Ole Miss would be a clean and proficient game on offense, score some touchdowns and leave with the confidence that this offense is for real while the defense comes around and contributes more down the road.

For more from Parrish, follow him on Twitter -- @parrishalford.

Source : https://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2018/09/beat_writer_qa_breaking_down_a_3.html

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