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Three Keys to an Ole Miss Three-Peat

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Three keys to the Rebels beating Alabama three years in a row.

Ole Miss faces a daunting task this Saturday as top-ranked Alabama will come to Oxford well-aware of what has happened the past two years. The Rebels, who beat the Crimson Tide in consecutive seasons for the first time ever last fall, will now go for a stunning three series wins in a row. A victory would do more than just extend history for Ole Miss, but also redefine their expectations after an Labor Day loss to Florida State. One more upset makes the Rebels the early team to beat in the mighty SEC West.

Below are three keys to victory for Ole Miss;

1. Win the Turnover Battle -- It's simple, but absolutely critical. Mistakes were the main reason the Rebels were able to win in Tuscaloosa a year ago; Ole Miss recorded three interceptions, recovered two fumbles and did not have a single turnover of its own. In the 2014 contest, the Rebels had a turnover margin of plus-one. Such miscues cost Ole Miss against the Seminoles, as the Rebels lost a 28-6 lead, in large part, due to turnovers. Ole Miss lost possession four times, including on their first three drives of the second half. It is already to difficult to defeat top-tier teams; doing so in the red in college football's most important category is near-impossible. Against Alabama, quarterback Chad Kelly must make sound decisions when throwing downfield and must make ball security, as the Crimson Tide will undoubtedly bring the pass rush, a major priority. Defensively, there will be opportunities to attack true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Stellar thus far, Hurts will make his first road start at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and obviously does not have much experience as this point in his career.

2. Develop a Running Game -- Ole Miss ranks 119th nationally in rushing attempts per game, with only 4.5 more per outing than Texas Tech. While the Rebels are a very dynamic passing team, some offensive balance will likely be needed versus Alabama. Situational effectiveness, at the very least, will be important. Even a modest commitment to the ground game can be important for a variety of reasons; from controlling the tempo of the game and keeping opposing linebackers and safeties off balance to taking pressure off of the quarterback and allowing your defense to rest, involving the rushing attack has many positive. Ole Miss isn't likely to find consistent success against the Crimson Tide as few teams do, and this is a team that has shown it can win in this series without big numbers. But running the football, even with designed sneaks from Chad Kelly, is a good way to slow Alabama's pass rush and maintain some possession. Akeem Judd is a talented option in the backfield.

3. Believe -- Week one's letdown was a disappointing one, sure. Conference play is underway, however, meaning a new season is virtually here. Every single one of the Rebels' summer goals are still within reach. Week three stands as a chance to make week one a distant memory. Impressively, Ole Miss has won two meetings in a row against the nation's premier program; the Rebels must play with that energy. In front of a rowdy home crowd, emotion and passion should be very real advantages for Ole Miss. Confidence must materialize itself for the Rebels, with a gameplan that goes right after the Crimson Tide and forces the pressure on the top-ranked team in the country and the loser of two straight in this series. Almost nobody has an intangible advantage against Alabama; Ole Miss might.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports