Fascinating games

Toughest regular season games of 2022, part 5

One of my unpopular opinions is that the Nov. 12 game against Ole Miss could be the toughest test of 2022 for Alabama football.

Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels Might Be Crimson Tide’s Toughest Challenge

Many wrote off Lane Kiffin’s team after the departure of quarterback Matt Corral, along with its top three running backs and top two receivers.

It’s a massive production loss, but Kiffin still seems to be fielding a high power offense and he reloaded skillfully through the transfer portal.

Former USC quarterback Jaxson Dart is likely to be the offensive captain, and former TCU running back Zach Evans could become an SEC star. SMU transfer Ulysses Bentley will spell Evans, and tight end Michael Trigg has agreed an overall deal with Dart. Trigg has a high ceiling as an athletic tight end who can both be a safety valve and generate explosive plays. He hopes to use those skills to fill the role that Kenny Yeboah provided on the Ole Miss offense two years ago.

An even bigger project for Kiffin will be bolstering the porous defense the rebels deployed last year. While I don’t think Ole Miss will end the season with a better team than Texas A&M or even Arkansas, I could see this game going to be tough for the Crimson Tide for several reasons.

Football in Alabama: a difficult environment

Alabama will return to Oxford for this game. Much like Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, weird things seem to happen when Alabama goes to Vaught-Hemingway. Many remember the rebels stealing consecutive wins against the Crimson Tide in 2014 and 2015.

That 2014 game took place at Oxford, much like the 2016 and 2020 games that Alabama won despite huge defensive struggles. Both were bizarre shootout-type plays in which Bama’s defense couldn’t seem to stop.

Kiffin still has a pocket of tricks and gimmicks, and he’ll have extra motivation after suffering an embarrassing loss in the 2021 game between Bama and Ole Miss.

The game received a lot of hype, but ultimately never came close. Kiffin was criticized for his decision making early in the game, repeatedly trying to convert on 4th downs and being turned away by the Alabama defense. Was it confident aggression or anxious desperation?

It certainly looked more like the latter, especially when Kiffin persisted with this audacious strategy even after the first two failed attempts. Regardless of his motive, I expect Kiffin to take a much more level-headed approach in this year’s contest.

Football in Alabama: tough schedule break

The 2022 game at Ole Miss will be the second consecutive SEC road game for Alabama football, which travels to Baton Rouge the previous week. The LSU crowd will be loud and the game will be physical. While it’s not yet certain how good the Tigers will be, this game could impact the tide.

Alabama and Ole Miss don’t typically play this late in the season, and that should make for an exciting game that potentially has SEC West implications. It’s too early to classify an opponent as a ‘trap play’, but I certainly don’t think the Rebels should be overlooked. Alabama football fans will likely be most concerned about LSU and Auburn in November, but Ole Miss has snuck in on the tide before.

Fortunately, this Alabama team should be very motivated. I expect the team to focus on the laser every week, regardless of their opponent. While it’s hard to imagine the 2022 Crimson Tide losing games in the regular season, hard-fought wins are key to building the character of a championship team.

It will be fascinating to see which opponents can test Alabama’s football this season.