Johnson: This Is Saban’s New Alabama, So Expect More and More Points

Johnson: This Is Saban’s New Alabama, So Expect More and More Points article feature image

Aug 4, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban arrives for team photos at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory credit: Mickey Welsh/Advertiser via USA TODAY NETWORK

  • Former Alabama offensive lineman Mike Johnson is learning to love and appreciate this new Tide offense that's putting up record numbers.
  • But Ole Miss has an excellent offense of its own, led by maybe the country's best wide receiver unit and an underrated offensive line.
  • That's why you should take a close look at the total, despite how high it looks for an Alabama game.

Year in and year out, Alabama-Ole Miss always seems to be the most intriguing and entertaining game in the SEC West. While Alabama has historically had its way, the Tide have taken one too many losses recently for their fans to feel too comfortable this weekend.

This year, both of these teams have pretty much lived up to their billing for far.

They both ripped a hole in nonconference Power 5 defenses in Week 1, and both teams shredded the defenses of FCS and Group of 5 opponents in Week 2.

Yet, for some reason or another, this game, and the lines coming out of Vegas, seem like they are the furthest thing from what we have grown to expect.

Rebels Offense Is for Real

Has anyone in the country featured a more prolific passing attack than the Rebels? Nope.

The trio of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Braylon Sanders have been absolutely stellar through two weeks.

Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has left fans in Oxford happy Shea Patterson left for Michigan, passing for 784 yards and seven TDs. The biggest number from Ta’amu’s stat line however may be his zero interceptions.

He has been a precise and effective decision maker. Wasn’t this offense supposed to be reliant on Hugh Freeze’s expertise?

And did you think I would forget about the big fellas up front? The Ole Miss offensive line is a perfect example of how much an experienced unit up front can help your team.

The wide receiver corps is by far the best group, but there is little doubt this offensive line is what makes this offense go. Only one starter has played fewer than 22 games, and Javon Patterson and Greg Little make up what might be the best left side in the conference, if not one of the best in the country.

And the most impressive part is how well-rounded this unit is, dominant in many short yardage situations on one hand and surrendering only three sacks this season on the other hand.

If it seems like I am hyping up this Ole Miss offense, I am. And the Rebels deserve it. But here’s what is scary for Ole Miss fans — as good as their offense has been, their defense has been that bad.

How Much Should You Worry About Ole Miss Defense?

Through two games this season, the Ole Miss defense hasn’t been just bad, it’s been downright awful. The 486 yards of offense allowed in Week 1 against a rebuilt Texas Tech offensive attack could’ve been forgiven, but the 629 yards surrendered last week to Southern Illinois was downright embarrassing.

Enter Tua Tagovailoa.

For everything Ta’amu has done at Ole Miss through two weeks, Tua hasn’t been far behind. It seemed impossible for Tagovailoa to live up to the hype, but after a much-anticipated Week 1 debut, it became clear that Tua was the future for the Crimson Tide.

It has been years, maybe decades, since Bama fans have seen distribution like this. Ole Miss’ wide receivers are no doubt elite players, but the trio of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs have begun to make a name for themselves as well. Freshman Jaylen Waddle has also exploded onto the scene, looking like a threat to take it to the house at any moment.

If it seems like I’m being really kind to both offenses, I am.

This Isn’t Your Ordinary Saban Team

When this line opened, my eyes almost came tumbling out of my head. An over/under at 71? I’m not sure Vegas has ever been bold enough to roll out a line that big when a Saban-coached football team has been involved.

But this is no ordinary Saban team this year in Tuscaloosa. This program has evolved. The dynasty that Saban built in Tuscaloosa has a different look in 2018.

No longer are we seeing a team that bases its offensive attack around time of possession, turnover ratio and a strong running game. Those things are all still very much a part of Saban’s fabric, but the emergence of Tua has allowed Michael Locksley to open up a passing game that would make Mike Leach blush, even getting tight end Irv Smith Jr. involved in all the fun.

To be clear, I am taking Bama to win this game. The Tide are too balanced and well-coached to think they will be in much danger of taking their first loss this weekend in Oxford, plus the strong residue of last year’s 66-3 pounding is still weighing strongly on my mind.

This is no doubt a different version of the Ole Miss Rebels, but Bama has made changes as well. A spread of twenty one points, however, just seems like it could be a little too risky for my liking with the game being in Oxford. I’ll be looking for a garbage-time touchdown (or two) from Ole Miss to cover.

So this is where we lay the money down. Remember my eyes falling out of my head after looking at the projected point total? I’ve grown to understand it. And I love it.

These two passing attacks will create plenty of fireworks. Bama has had one of the best defenses for the better part of the last decade, but I expect Ole Miss to take full advantage of a ton of new faces in the back end for Bama.

While I still think Raekwon Davis is one of the best interior pass rushers in the league, he has had a relatively quiet first two weeks, and Ole Miss’ offensive line will not be caught off guard the way it was a year ago when it went into Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Tua’s team will win the game, but Ta’amu’s team will make its presence felt.

This matchup is going to be a fun one to watch. Many plays, many playmakers, and many, many touchdowns.

Prediction: Alabama 52-Ole Miss 28

Play: Over 71