Ole Miss was no match for Alabama.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide put the No. 12 Rebels away in the first half after three failed fourth-down attempts by Ole Miss on the way to a 42-21 win in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
Ole Miss went for five fourth downs in the first half. It converted two of them. Both of those conversions came on the opening drive. That opening drive ended on a failed fourth-down attempt.
That turnover on downs put Alabama at its own six. The Crimson Tide responded with a 13-play drive that ended in a touchdown pass from Bryce Young to John Metchie.
Ole Miss almost got across midfield on its next drive but a fourth-down pass from Matt Corral to Braylon Sanders was incomplete. Alabama took 10 plays to go 47 yards but ended that drive with a one-yard TD run by Brian Robinson.
You don’t need us to tell you what happened on Ole Miss’ third drive at this point. Lane Kiffin decided to go for it with a yard to go on fourth down from his own 31. An option pitch to RB Jerrion Ealy on the outside lost four yards. Six plays later, Alabama was up 21-0 and Alabama could feel safe and secure at No. 1 for another week.
In case you were wondering, Alabama was 2-for-2 on fourth downs in the first half. Those conversions came on the Crimson Tide's second and third touchdowns.
Nick Saban now 24-0 against his former assistants
Lane Kiffin told CBS viewers to get their popcorn ready in a pregame interview. Hopefully Ole Miss fans had some really tasty popcorn to get them through the game.
You can’t blame Kiffin too much for being so aggressive on fourth down. You’re not going to beat Alabama on the road with field goals. And if Kiffin wasn’t confident that his defense could stand up to Alabama’s offense, it’s an even stronger argument to go for it.
Does Ole Miss beat Alabama if those fourth downs are converted? Probably not. Alabama completely overmatched Ole Miss at the line of scrimmage. But the game would have at least been competitive.
The win moves Saban to a perfect 24-0 against his former assistants. He can go to 25-0 in a week when Alabama heads to Texas A&M. Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher was an assistant for Saban at LSU.
Brian Robinson has scored in his last three games
Robinson finished the game with four rushing touchdowns and 171 yards rushing on 36 carries. He now has six rushing touchdowns and seven overall through four games after he scored two touchdowns against Florida on Sept. 18 before missing Alabama’s easy win over Southern Miss a week ago.
After biding his time behind running backs like Najee Harris, Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs, Robinson has turned into the next successful Alabama running back. He rushed for a career-high 483 yards in 2020 and will likely eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2021 as long as he stays healthy.
Ole Miss has a ways to go
Just like Arkansas learned against Georgia hours earlier, Ole Miss found out that it’s not ready to be a serious contender atop the SEC. A year ago, the Rebels lost to Alabama 63-48 in a wild shootout in Oxford, Mississippi. The Rebels entered Saturday's game as 14.5-point underdogs and had a reason to think the game would be close as long as the defense did enough to slow the Crimson Tide.
Corral’s Heisman campaign hit a speed bump with a fumble and a pedestrian passing line while an improved defense couldn’t make an Alabama drive end in anything other than a touchdown until there was 1:48 to go in the third quarter.
Ole Miss can still play spoiler in the West the rest of the way — it’s easy to see the Rebels finishing in the top three of the division if the offense continues to excel against defenses that aren’t Alabama’s. But any hope of a division title is now pretty much gone with Alabama effectively two games ahead of the Rebels in the standings.