The rundown of elite quarterbacks Alabama has confronted underneath Nick Saban contains 5 Heisman Trophy winners — Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow — and most of the high passers in current Soccer Bowl Subdivision historical past, together with Deshaun Watson, Kyle Trask, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is in that class, Saban stated.
“He’s very elusive, he can lengthen performs, he’s a really correct passer. He could make performs together with his toes. He’s as proficient as anybody we’ve seen run or go in a very long time.”
Subplots abound main into Saturday’s assembly of No. 1 Alabama and the No. 12 Rebels (3:30 ET, CBS), which has the potential to set off a rippling affect throughout the competitors for the SEC and the School Soccer Playoff, the chase for the Heisman Trophy and even the jockeying for the high-profile Energy 5 teaching positions at present open or anticipated to open within the subsequent two months.
It is the matchup of immovable Alabama, homeowners of the longest energetic profitable streak within the FBS at 18 video games, and irresistible Ole Miss, which has the ability, expertise and offensive ingenuity to disrupt the established order within the SEC and turn into the Cinderella story of the 2021 season.
“I do not know that we’re intimidated,” stated Ole Miss linebacker Likelihood Campbell. “We now have a ton of respect for what they do. They’re harmful, so we perceive that and know that.”
An Alabama win would entrench the Tide’s place atop the SEC West and the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll at a second when most of the main preseason contenders for the playoff have both misplaced, equivalent to Ohio State and Clemson, or did not play as much as expectations, as within the case of Oklahoma.
However a loss would dramatically change the whole panorama of that debate, inserting Ole Miss within the driver’s seat within the West, making Georgia the clear favourite for an undefeated season and respiration new life right into a postseason chase not too long ago dominated by a predictable shortlist of behemoth packages.
A 12 months in the past, the Rebels went blow for blow with the Tide earlier than shedding 63-48, considered one of two video games throughout Alabama’s unbeaten season that remained unsure into the fourth quarter. As in final season’s shootout, Saturday’s assembly can be outlined largely by quarterback play.
A five-star recruit who started to blossom in the course of the pandemic season, Corral has flourished by three video games because the driving drive behind the nation’s high offense in scoring and yards per sport. With 9 touchdowns and nil interceptions, Corral has staked an early lead within the race for the Heisman.
Shut behind is Alabama first-year starter Bryce Younger, who has been a soothing presence for an offense that has undergone uncharacteristic struggles working the soccer within the transition to a largely new solid of beginning and supporting gamers.
The concept that Corral and the offense might ignite a monumental upset is rooted within the idea that Ole Miss has clearly improved, significantly on protection, whereas Alabama is less than the identical customary as final season’s juggernaut, even when the Crimson Tide stay the dominant drive within the SEC and past.
“Any time you go play a No. 1 group, particularly there, you are going to have to arrange very well, you are going to need to play very well, you are going to need to get some breaks go your method to have these kind of upsets,” stated Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. “That is why they not often occur. You must have loads go proper.”
Historical past just isn’t on the Rebels’ facet. Saban is 23-0 in opposition to his former assistant coaches — together with Kirby Sensible, Jimbo Fisher and Kiffin himself, to call a couple of — with a mean margin of victory of 25.3 factors. In solely three of these video games, every time in opposition to Sensible and Georgia, has the Crimson Tide trailed within the second half.
“Even when folks know the way his place works, he’s nonetheless undefeated, which is wonderful,” stated Kiffin. “It is not prefer it’s simply the varsity. It is one particular person. He is been in a position to preserve it by tons of various gamers, tons of various coaches. Extra teaching turnover than I wager anybody has ever had.”
Apart from Sensible, who spent greater than a decade underneath Saban at a number of stops, no assistant coach has had a extra profound affect on Alabama’s previous and current than Kiffin, who as offensive coordinator from 2014-16 helped orchestrate this system’s shift from pure physicality to the explosively inventive scheme that has bred Heisman winners, first-round ability expertise and one other run of nationwide championships.
“I realized a number of offensive soccer from him,” Saban stated. “It is a very well-orchestrated offense however it’s additionally not solely well-conceived however it’s additionally very effectively applied in a sport to reap the benefits of what the protection is doing.”
Kiffin’s three-year stint as an Alabama assistant helped rebuild a fame tarnished by his one-and-done stint at Tennessee and an uneven stretch at Southern California, which disintegrated on a tarmac at Los Angeles Worldwide Airport lower than one month into his fourth season.
Beating the Crimson Tide may take this reclamation mission full circle, making it more and more believable that Kiffin would turn into a contender for the opening at USC.
“Like I advised the gamers, there’s just one rating that ever issues,” Kiffin stated. “That is your last rating. All the opposite stuff means nothing. It is like being forward in three rounds in a heavyweight struggle the place you are going 12 rounds. It doesn’t suggest something. We now have an extended methods to go and a number of work to do and a number of issues to work on.”
Comply with schools reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg