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Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He plays for a team that leads the nation in total offense with 635 yards a game. And he did throw for 365 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-48 loss to Alabama last season.
The Rebels’ 647 total yards in that game was the most ever surrendered by the Crimson Tide. And Ole Miss returning running backs Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy became the first tandem to each gain 100 yards against Bama in the coach Nick Saban era, which began in 2007.
So, Corral can be somewhat confident entering Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. CBS game between his No. 12 Rebels (3-0) and No. 1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC), which is a 14.5-point home favorite by FanDuel.
“We’re not worried,” Corral said on a teleconference Monday, then quickly called an audible. “I should rephrase that so you don’t take it the wrong way. We’re not worried about how we’re playing. We’re worried about how we handle each practice individually. We’re worried about today. We’re not worried about Alabama, even though they are a great team.”
The schedule has been light so far as the Rebels have wins over Louisville (43-24), Austin Peay (54-17) and Tulane (61-21). But Ole Miss does have impressive numbers. Corral is No. 8 in the nation in passing yards a game (332.3) and in efficiency with a 186.9 rating on 66-of-96 passing, 997 yards and nine touchdowns with zero interceptions.
The Rebels are No. 4 in the nation in rushing with 298.7 yards a game, and the defense is not near the bottom nationally as it was last year. Ole Miss is No. 59 in total defense (341 yards allowed a game) to Alabama’s No. 19 (283.5 yards).
“Alabama is the best team that we’re going to face this year, but we’re not worried about them right now,” Corral said. “We’re worried about getting the best practice we can today.”
Alabama is No. 21 in the nation in fewest passing yards allowed with 168 a game.
“Every single one of their defensive backs is physical, and they can run,” Corral said. “Those guys don’t get beat very easily.”
Ole Miss was open over the weekend, but Corral tried to maintain game faces anyway.
“I was definitely on top of everybody to make sure there was no lack of focus going on because we need to treat it like we were playing Alabama – like we had a game last week,” he said. “Just continuing to apply the pressure even though the pressure’s not even there because we’ve got a break.”
In other words, Corral may be from Long Beach, California, but it was not like he was going surfing during the off week.
“He’s here at 5:30 in the morning,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said of the senior who started every game last season and four in 2019. “He’s getting on the players when they’re not doing right, even defensively. He’s a leader.”
Corral will square off with another Heisman favorite and fellow southern California native – Tide sophomore quarterback Bryce Young of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana. Young is No. 5 nationally in efficiency at 188.5 on 88-of-122 passing for 1,124 yards and 15 touchdowns with one interception.
“I played him once when I was at Long Beach (Poly High),” Corral said. “They killed us. Mater Dei is ridiculous, but I mean so is Alabama. So, this is going to be a great team to go against. First time in Bryant-Denny Stadium. I love when the crowd’s crazy. I love that regardless of whether it’s ours or not ours – just having that energy. I love it. That’s college football. That’s not why I play, but that’s just a big plus. I love it.”
In the end, though, Corral said this game could come down to the smallest of things.
“Realizing how important it is to pay attention to the detail because of how big a difference it makes,” he said. “I think that’s the difference with us this year. Alabama is a well-oiled machine defense. It’s going to take a lot to bring them down.”