Players to Watch: Alabama vs. Ole Miss

Players to Watch: Alabama vs. Ole Miss


RB Damien Harris

Last season, Harris brought in only two touchdowns and through four games this year, he has already racked up six. Harris is the Crimson Tide’s leading rusher and is coming off a career performance against Vanderbilt where he earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors thanks to 151 yards and three scores on the ground. In last year’s shootout against Ole Miss, Harris ran for 144 yards and averaged nine yards a touch and will look to stay hot against an Ole Miss defense that allows opposing running backs to average over 4.5 yards per carry. 

OG Ross Pierschbacher

 Pierschbacher was awarded with Alabama Offensive Player of the Week honors after a dominant performance against Vanderbilt. How exactly do you follow up a performance in which you opened up holes for running backs so large that they ran their way to 496 yards on the ground in a single game, an Alabama record under Nick Saban? Well, it helps when you are set to go up against a defense that already allows 184 rushing yards a game, which is ranked 96th in the country. Ole Miss has given Alabama fits for the last three years, but the Crimson Tide offense has still found a way to get it done. In the last two meetings between these SEC West foes, Pierschbacher and the rest of the offensive line have allowed only two sacks. And so far this season, the Rebels have picked up only three. 

S Minkah Fitzpatrick

In the last three games against Power 5 opponents dating back to last season, the Rebels have failed to score over 20 points. So, there is a way to stop this potent offense that, overall this season, has averaged nearly 500 yards of offense a game. That starts with Minkah Fitzpatrick. Ole Miss loves to throw the ball around the field and second year quarterback Shea Patterson has proven he is more than capable of shredding a defense. So a lot of the pressure falls on the leader of the secondary, Fitzpatrick, who will be flying all over the field Saturday night. Fitzpatrick has failed to snag an interception so far this season and will be chomping at the bit to grab one when he faces an offense that averages over 40 pass attempts a game. 

K Andy Pappanastos

Pappanastos, Pappa-nasty, whatever you want to call him, call him solid, too. The former Ole Miss Rebel kicker gets his first shot at facing his former team Saturday afternoon and since missing two field goals in his Alabama debut against Florida State, Pappanastos has gone a perfect 7-for-7 on kicks in the last three games, one of which was a 46-yarder. The last three times the Crimson Tide and Rebels have met, the final has been decided by one score. This time around the outcome is expected to be a little different than in recent years, but do not think Nick Saban is telling that to his players. Pappanastos and the rest of the special teams unit will be ready to go at kick-off. 

Ole Miss

QB Shea Patterson

In each of the last two years, Ole Miss has scored 43 points against Alabama, the third-most Nick Saban’s defense has allowed in his 11 seasons with the Crimson Tide. With quarterback Chad Kelly, who sits third on the Rebels’ career passing list despite playing only two years, Patterson will have big shoes to fill. Coaches planned to redshirt Patterson, ranked the No. 1 dual-threat QB in the Class of 2016 by ESPN, last year, but when Kelly tore his ACL, Patterson became the first true freshman in Ole Miss history to start three games. He currently ranks in the top 10 in the FBS in passing yards, passer rating, yards per attempt and completion percentage and has had multiple touchdown passes in all four career games against Power 5 opponents.

WR A.J. Brown

The Rebels’ leading receiver will be a game-time decision as he recovers from a knee injury suffered against California two weeks ago. Ranked the seventh-best wide receiver in the Class of 2016 by ESPN, Brown signed with Ole Miss despite being from Starkville, home of rival Mississippi State. He currently leads the SEC in receiving by more than 70 yards; his 389 yards were accumulated on only 16 catches for a gaudy 24.3 yards per catch. He is also tied for the conference lead with four receiving touchdowns, three of which were more than 50 yards. He set a new school record of 233 yards in the season opener against South Alabama.

WR DaMarkus Lodge

The similarities abound between Lodge and his teammate and fellow receiver A.J. Brown. Each was the No. 7 receiver in his respective recruiting class (Lodge in the Class of 2015, Brown a year later). After catching only 16 passes in his first two years, Lodge is one of four Ole Miss receivers, including Brown, with at least 15 catches this year. Lodge ranks second on the team and third in the SEC with 284 receiving yards, already surpassing his career total before this year. He caught three total touchdowns in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but is currently tied with Brown for the SEC lead with four. Lodge has exceeded 100 yards in his last two games, the first two games of his career that he has topped the century mark. If Brown is forced to miss the game due to his knee injury, the passing game will run through Lodge.

S C.J. Moore

Only two players in the SEC have more interceptions than Moore’s two, which is one more than the rest of his teammates combined. He played as a backup safety and on special teams for his first two years, recording just 28 tackles and then missed all of last season after tearing his pectoral muscle in the fall. Since getting the starting role this year, though, he ranks second on the team in both total tackles (21) and solo tackles (13). Through three games, the Rebels' defense has mustered only three sacks. Their corners will only be able to cover for so long, so Ole Miss will need Moore at his best patrolling the back end of the defense if they can’t manage to pressure Jalen Hurts.

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