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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is going all out at ‘Bama best for Rebels?

COLUMN: Bo Wallace has a bad shoulder and has been limited in practice this week. The fact he’s Ole Miss’ best and most complete quarterback for head coach Hugh Freeze’s system is reason enough to think that the coaching staff might let him rest a while (or an entire game) to preserve Wallace for the rest of the year.

The other reason is Alabama. Saturday, Ole Miss will travel to play the best and most complete team in college football today, as they add another chapter to arguably one of the most dominant runs in any era of the sport. Alabama is mistake free, a machine of fundamental efficiency.

They’re “well-coached” to a degree of which no other team approaches. They are undefeated, capable of dismantling competition without shifting out of their first gear and they will beat the Rebels soundly on Saturday. This is not a bold prediction: Ole Miss has only beaten Alabama nine times in school history.

There are tongue-in-cheek suggestions from media members and fans alike that, in order to preserve a fragile squad with rail-thin team depth, playing — and maybe even starting — some backups wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world if Ole Miss is serious about finding six wins and making it through 2012. Certainly it won’t happen: No coach would risk signaling they were giving up out of the gate. The blowback would be immediate and deafening, and the PR would be a nightmare.

Then again, none of that means it’s a bad strategy. If you were fooled into buying the hype that a distraction-heavy Texas game week offered and felt fooled by their eventual 66-point wallop of reality, understand that this reckoning will be that much worse.

Strong lineup
The Tide usually don’t run up the score because they don’t need to. They beat you in every possible phase of the game. Matters as small as perfect fundamentals in run blocking ensure those extra 2 yards a carry. They’re disciplined, so you’ll turn the ball over first. And second. And probably third, and that one will probably come before halftime.

It isn’t news to say that Ole Miss has no business trying to compete with a Texas at the moment. By rule of law in the SEC, they don’t get a choice with Bama. Still, for a team that’s a meager four games into a massive rebuilding effort, playing the Tide seems more unfair than Texas, even though Ole Miss signed up for that one.

Freeze won’t sit Wallace or anyone else unless they’re physically incapable of playing, because that’s the spirit of the game. The Rebels will struggle immediately and often, and will risk injury against the physical Tide front.

Argue in the face of this certain reality if you’d like, but ask yourself this: With the newfound opportunities ahead in the wake of Arkansas and Auburn’s dual implosions, a previously unthinkable six-win campaign seems attainable. Are a bid to the Liberty Bowl and the Rebels going all-out in a hopeless effort at Bama mutually exclusive? Not necessarily, but if the latter would at all affect the former, wouldn’t you elect to ride this week out in the name of greater good? Just a thought.

(Steven Godfrey can be contacted at sgodjr@gmail.com.) (September 28, 2012, Page 7A)

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