Saturday night’s matchup between Ole Miss and Alabama in Oxford promises classic college football spectacle. Ole Miss’ bowl-banned and documentaried athletics program, Alabama’s glitzy, national-champion presence. #RollTide on the road. Primetime on ESPN.
More to the point, though, Ole Miss’ style of play — especially on offense — could disrupt the Tide to points of apoplectic vexation. The Rebel offense is good — if the defense is bad, sure — and Bama’s got a real test on its hands this week on the road. Let’s have some fun.
With Ole Miss’ defense currently in shambles, Jordan Ta’amu and his legion of receivers will have to keep up with Bama’s offense if the Rebs have any hope of hanging with the Tide. That of course also means that Ta’amu and company will have to best Bama’s defense with abandon at the same time. That’s not to say that Phil Longo’s shop can’t do it, but do it they must.
Fresh off a clunky 76-41 win over Southern Illinois, Ole Miss enters their bout with Alabama sporting the second-best offense in the country, racking up more than 405 yards per game. Ta’amu has picked up right where he left off from last season, and he’s quickly established himself as one of the premier deep-ball passers in the game. Here are his stats on passes for 20 yards or more from just the SIU game.
Jordan Ta'amu on deep shots yesterday pic.twitter.com/FdwciZ5JLz— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 9, 2018
Ta’amu’s opposite at Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa, is just as lethal downrange, and his efficiency on passing downs is about as perfect as a quarterback could produce.
This is pretty decent... Tua Tagovailoa on 3rd downs this season: 10-for-10, 207 yards, 4 TDs.. His QB rating is 405.88.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) September 9, 2018
Ta’amu and Tagovailoa both run explosive offenses, and both could go off on Saturday.
Here’s a breakdown of the two studs’ passing numbers. While Ta’amu takes the cake from a total volume perspective, Tua stands out in terms of efficiency on passing downs.
QB Passing Comparison
This kind of deeper look, plus what Feldman alluded to in the tweet above, should lead Bama’s future opponents to a scary realization. What was once an issue that elite defenses could exploit has disappeared under a new signal caller. That is, Bama’s consistently lacked a deep arm for use on passing downs (like third-and-long), but Tua Tagovailoa has virtually erased that liability.
One defensive key to beating Bama in the past has been to force them into passing downs. But under a small sample size, Tua doesn’t appear to have the same weaknesses Jalen Hurts or anyone else has shown in these situations. He’s been accurate, efficient, and hasn’t turned the ball over. He’s tossed six TDs and currently averages 13 yards per attempt. THIRTEEN.
Both these slingers come to the SEC West by way of Hawaii, and they’re gonna battle on Saturday night in Oxford.
Ta’amu’s path to the division has been more circuitous than Tagovailoa’s. A lightly recruited three-star prospect from a 2A program in the nation’s furthest west timezone apparently doesn’t attract much national interest. Tagovailoa, on the other hand, was rated the best quarterback in the state of Hawaii in 2017 and apprenticed, as it were, under none other than the Titans’ Marcus Mariota before stepping into Tuscalosa. They throw well, and they’re going to have to throw well on Saturday to beat the other guy. It will be swell.
Both guys are good, and they’re throwing hard against one another on Saturday night. TAKE THE OVER.