Alabama vs. Ole Miss score, takeaways: No. 1 Tide salt Lane Kiffin's popcorn, stifle No. 12 Rebels
Nick Saban improved to 24-0 against his former assistants in another big Bama win
No. 1 Alabama held the high-flying offense of No. 12 Ole Miss to just 291 yards in a 42-21 beatdown of the Rebels on Saturday that showed how the Crimson Tide's push for a national title repeat will feature plenty of defense. When these teams met last season, Alabama outscored Ole Miss 63-48 on its way to a 13-0 season, but Saturday demonstrated how the Tide have improved defensively since that high-scoring affair.
The Tide's defense held the Rebels to just 78 yards rushing (2.3 per attempt) while dominating up front on both sides of the ball. Fifth-year senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. led his team with a career-high four rushing touchdowns and 171 yards on the ground as he surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career. Alabama took command in the first half by denying Ole Miss on a trio of fourth-down conversion attempts and forcing a fumble that led to a touchdown.
From there, Alabama never looked back as it opened up a 35-0 lead in the first few minutes of the third quarter. The victory moves Alabama to 5-0 ahead of a road showdown at No. 15 Texas A&M next week. Ole Miss will return home to host Arkansas.
Saban improved to 24-0 against his former assistants as Ole Miss coach Kiffin fell to 0-2 against his former boss since taking the Rebels job. Kiffin said to CBS Sports' sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl before the game, "here we go, so get your popcorn ready." But in the end, his offense, which entered leading the nation with an average of 635.5 yards per game, was held to less than half that total on a humbling afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
1. Alabama owns the trenches
Alabama holds an advantage on the offensive and defensive lines against nearly every team it plays because of its top-notch recruiting and player development. But that advantage isn't always as evident as it appeared to be Saturday. After moving the football well on its first drive, Ole Miss struggled to find any semblance of run-pass balance for the rest of the first half. The issue was the push generated by Alabama's defensive line, which manhandled the Ole Miss front and kept its offense one-dimensional. Kiffin often fights back against the narrative that the Ole Miss offense is merely a passing attack, suggesting that establishing the run is critical to their plan. Alabama kept them from doing just that on Saturday because it was the stronger, more physical team.
2. "Ole Miss-cues"
Despite its struggles on the ground, the Rebels were able to move the football. However, they made too many mistakes for a team living on a thin margin of error on the road against a top-ranked team. While it's hard to blame Kiffin for chancing it on fourth downs, he should never have been forced to attempt so many fourth-down conversions in the first place. On their first drive, a pair of penalties put the Rebels behind the sticks and negated a Corral completion to Dontario Drummond that would have given Ole Miss a first down at the Alabama 11-yard line. The Rebels entered Saturday tied for 117th nationally with 30 penalties, despite having played just three games. Against the Tide, they were penalized eight times. The other game-altering miscue came when Alabama defensive end Phidarian Mathis forced a Corral fumble, which Justin Eboigbe recovered at the Ole Miss 14-yard line with 2:39 left in the first half. Alabama then quickly scored to take a 28-0 lead into halftime.
3. Alabama is certified elite
Alabama's narrow 31-29 victory over Florida two weeks ago suggested that perhaps this Crimson Tide team was vulnerable by the standards of a vaunted program. With college football enjoying an early season surge of parity, it felt plausible that perhaps this group was merely great but not truly elite. Saturday's result suggested otherwise. On the heels of No. 2 Georgia's dominant 37-0 win over No. 8 Arkansas, the Crimson Tide put forth a similarly authoritative effort against a quality foe and showed why they still belong at No. 1 in the polls. With No. 3 Oregon struggling against Stanford on Saturday, it seems clear there are just two elite teams in college football, and Alabama is one of them.
Ole Miss scores
Trying to cut it to a 21-point deficit late, the Rebels couldn't convert on -- you guessed it -- fourth down. But a PI penalty gives Ole Miss a first-and-goal from the 2, and finds Chase Rogers for a TD. So perhaps the final score won't reflect the dominance. But unless Ole Miss recovers an onside kick, it will not reach 300 yards in this game.
Brian Robinson Jr. is up over 160 yards on 30+ carries. He's out now, but my goodness. What a day for him. Alabama has done a nice job of bleeding some clock here and taking the air out of the football. The party is on in Tuscaloosa with 4:22 remaining and the Crimson Tide facing a fourth-and-short while leading 42-14.
Brian Robinson's career-high
This is Brian Robinson's fifth-year in the program, and that patience is paying off as he's gone over 100 yards rushing in a game for the first time. Those four touchdowns are also a career-high. Big-time showing for BRO this afternoon
Alabama safety Jordan Battle was hobbled there and left the game. No need for him to return, even if he's able. There is no drama in this outcome at this point. Although I'm sure Nick Saban would have preferred to keep Ole Miss out of the end zone there, the Rebels punch one in with Snoop Conner. Now 42-14 Alabama with 8:43 to go.
Penalties strike again
Ole Miss stopped Alabama and would have forced a punt, but a defensive holding gave the Crimson Tide a first down and gave life to another Alabama scoring drive early in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss entered as a heavily penalized team but hadn't paid for it any significant way. Penalties have been a killer for the Rebels today, however. Now it's 42-7.
Kiffin chooses punt
Facing a fourth-and-1 deep in Ole Miss territory, Lane Kiffin decides to punt despite pleas to go for it from Matt Corral. Great punt flips the field position to begin the fourth quarter as Alabama will seek to bleed some clock and put this one on ice. A TD drive from Ole Miss after Bryce Young's red-zone INT would've made it moderately interesting. But the Rebels faced a tall order backed up on their own 1.
Ole Miss on the board
The Rebels go 75 yards on 11 plays to make it 35-7 with 8:25 left in the third quarter. Nice answer from a team that could have mailed it in. Matt Corral ran it in from 10 yards out. It feels like if Ole Miss played Alabama 10 times, it might be good enough to pull an upset somewhere in there. But its fourth down shortcomings and a critical fumble simply kept it from really contending here, though plenty of time still remains.
Ole Miss driving
No quit from the Rebels here, who have crossed midfield after converting on a third-and-12 via a quick screen to RB Snoop Conner. Corral dropped a dime into the lap of Braylen Sanders that would've been a TD if he'd come down with it. He was blanketed in coverage, so a catch probably would have been a bonus. But the throw -- under duress -- was pretty incredible.
Running clock please
If this were a high school game, the running clock would be starting. Alabama leads it 35-0 after a six-play scoring drive to begin the third quarter. Brian Robinson punches it in for his third TD. This is just an absolute beatdown. And it raises the question once again over who truly is the second-best team in the SEC West. Arkansas or Ole Miss would have been the popular choice entering today. But perhaps that distinction will be determined by the winner of Auburn-LSU tonight.
Arch Manning in the house
Considering that Lane Kiffin recently unfollowed everyone on Instagram except Arch Manning, it's pretty safe to say he's a big fan of the top QB prospect in the class of 2023. But the Rebels aren't exactly putting on a convincing show for the Ole Miss legacy talent. Arch is considering Alabama among his options, and the Crimson Tide's recruiting pitch has been a good one so far today.
Total yards: Alabama 201, Ole Miss 109
Corral is 12-of-15 for 92 yards and hasn't been picked. But he's been pressured so much and is navigating life without Jonathan Mingo. It's clear he's uncomfortable. Bryce Young is 12-of-16 for 101 yards, two TDs and 0 INTs. Has distributed the ball to seven different receivers and looks really comfortable. The big difference has been on the ground, where Alabama has been plugging away for 4.2 yards a carry and Ole Miss is stuck at 0.9 per carry.