It’s no secret that Ole Miss’ quarterback Shea Patterson is quite good. He enjoys a compliment of high-powered receivers who can run and jump and catch all over the yard, which helps tremendously. His counterpart at Alabama, however, while probably just as talented and athletic, does not possess an arm with the accuracy, release, and firepower like Patterson’s. That’s fine. Alabama doesn’t ask Hurts to throw constantly, because Alabama can strangle you in myriad other ways.
To date in this young season, Jalen Hurts has thrown the ball 70 times. He’s connected on 45 of those attempts for a 64.3 percent completion rate. He’s tossed 4 touchdowns and gathered unto himself 550 yards. Not bad, and he’s fully supplemented by a run game that’s amassing more than 300 yards per game. The Tide rank fourth nationally in offensive success rate at 54 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, their 1.05 IsoPPP ranks just no. 23. That’ll assuredly rise as the season wears on, and certainly against Ole Miss’ porous run defense.
In contrast, Shea Patterson has attempted a full 122 passes thus far this season. He’s completed 86 of those passes for a stunning completion rate of 70.5 percent. He’s, in a word, accurate, and he gets good help from those brawny receivers on the outside. Further still, he’s already netted 1,281 yards through the air for 11 touchdowns on the year. The Rebs are currently no. 7 in Bill C’s explosiveness rating, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched but a quarter of Ole Miss football this year. He’s always a threat to run, and his four yards on 23 attempts tells two stories: (1) he’s been sacked quite a few times, which counts against his own rushing yardage; and (2) he’s staying in the pocket more this year, which is an improvement from the cavalier cowboy we saw scampering all over the damn place last year.
What Hurts lends to Alabama’s offensive attack is the ability to take off with the ball at any moment. This guy can run, and run well. In last year’s matchup, recall, he threw for 158 yards but ran 18 times for 146 yards. He straight up torched Ole Miss’ defense in the second half of a game where Ole Miss out-gained Bama 522 yards to 492 and still lost.
The Rebs at least forced the Tide into having to score 48 points to beat ‘em, and that was actually a lot of fun to watch, but Hurts’ ability to read situations and react with his feet in a hell of a hurry went a long way toward helping Alabama to outlast Ole Miss in Oxford. Remarkably, Hurts himself was not personally involved in scoring any of Alabama’s touchdowns that day, save for handing the ball off to Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and Calvin Ridley for their three respective TDs. Bama also had two defensive scores.
It’s common knowledge that the brick wall of Alabama’s defense can struggle when presented with the shithouse rat that is a spread offensive attack. That’s what Phil Longo and company run at Ole Miss, and to great effect. He’s got shiny, hard-to-defend weapons in the form of Patterson, D.K. Metcalf and others. AJ Brown is probably questionable, and if he does play it’ll be in a limited capacity. Either way, the Rebs can — and probably should, at least for a time — harry Alabama’s secondary to the point that Nick Saban might lose an ear out of pure anger. That’s what we’re rooting for, anyway.