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The weather in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday night is expected to be wet and windy as Hurricane Delta run its course. If that ends up being the case, the outcome of the Alabama-Ole Miss game could be drastically impacted.
Both team’s offenses rank at or near the top in the SEC, especially the passing offenses. The Rebels currently rank No. 2, averaging 381.5 passing yards per game. The Crimson Tide are not far behind. They sit at No. 3 while putting up 369.0 yards per contest.
So, how will things shake out should the weather create one-dimensional, run-heavy offenses? That is the million-dollar question.
Alabama should be in a better position to succeed — at least on the surface.
The Tide’s veteran offensive line returned four of the five starters from last year’s impressive group, including projected first-round pick Alex Leatherwood. Combine that with talented runners such as Najee Harris, and it should allow Alabama to have success offensively without its typical passing game.
That idea especially holds true considering the Ole Miss run defense ranks almost dead last in rushing yards allowed per game (302.0) and allowed 408 yards against Kentucky in Week 2.
But there are also a few things the Rebels can do in order to create success on the ground. One of those things includes utilizing now backup John Rhys Plumlee more at the quarterback position — at least for this game.
It might seem counter-productive to take starter Matt Corral off the field after his success through two games, but weather is going to play a factor here.
Nick Saban made several points on this earlier in the week. He expanded on the different between wet conditions versus windy conditions.
“Everybody says you won’t be able to throw the ball if it’s raining,” Saban said during his Thursday night radio show. “If it’s a bad field, and if it’s raining, it’s much easier to play offense and pass the ball than it is to play pass defense because the defense is at a disadvantage in reaction.”
It is an excellent point by the Alabama head coach. If it was only wet weather, there wouldn’t be much of an issue for Corral and the Ole Miss passing attack. That won’t be the case, however. Wind will also be a factor, which tips the scales back towards using Plumlee.
“Now, wind, which there may be some wind with this, is probably the one thing that’s most difficult in terms of throwing the ball,” Nick Saban added. “With the wind, against the wind, crosswind, swirling wind. Same thing in the impact that the wind can have in the kicking game can be really a tremendous factor in having the wind at your back in certain circumstances and certain situations in the game.”
The weather conditions are the result of a hurricane, so there’s going to be a wind factor involved. That will more than likely force both offenses to rely heavily on the run game, which plays a sizable advantage for the Crimson Tide.
If Plumlee gets involved, however, it could even the playing field. The sophomore rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown against Alabama in 2019, after all. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season with 12 scores, making him one of college football’s premier running quarterbacks.
That could be useful on a Saturday when both team’s passing attacks are limited or for the most part eliminated. Alabama’s defense wouldn’t be able to focus solely on talented running back Jerrion Ealy in the Rebels backfield, which could tip the scales in their favor compared to a non-mobile quarterback like Mac Jones.
Lane Kiffin is going to need to get creative in this game to give his new team a chance. Plumlee might be a big part of that creativity.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.