TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 1 Alabama remained undefeated by shutting out No. 21 Ole Miss at home on Saturday, 25-0, but what did we really learn about the Crimson Tide in the contest?
The defense is capable: The secondary is still thin. Beyond Deion Belue, there's not much experience at cornerback. John Fulton certainly isn't the answer, hence true freshman Eddie Jackson getting the start there ahead of him. But in spite of throwing a rookie to the flames, Alabama's secondary showed the ability to play well against Ole Miss thanks to Belue's emergence as an on-ball defender and a deep group of safeties that includes Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri and Landon Collins. Ole Miss had the players at receiver and tight end to make Alabama's secondary look bad. But instead, the back end of Alabama's defense shined against the Rebels.
Hope of a running game: Alabama's running game is still somewhat inconsistent, and the loss of center Ryan Kelly for the next few weeks certainly won't help in that respect. But against Ole Miss, the Tide running game finally got going. The offensive line, with Chad Lindsay in at center, was able to push the line of scrimmage and help open holes for T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, both of whom rushed for 100-plus yards and a touchdown each. The ability to run the football opened up the passing game in turn, allowing AJ McCarron to work effectively off of play action.
Finally, a complete game: OK, maybe it was just one complete half when you look at the struggle to put the ball in the end zone the first two quarters, but still, Alabama finally showed how good it can be at all three phases of the game simultaneously against Ole Miss. The offense moved the ball well, the defense was dominant and special teams was above average with Cade Foster kicking three field goals and Ole Miss never getting anything going in the return game. It was a game all coaches on Alabama's sidelines could be pleased with. And more than anything, head coach Nick Saban could look at his team's effort and be proud. "Our players did a really, really good job of being relentless out there with their effort, their toughness, the way they competed," Saban said, finally not having to throw in the caveat of some missing element in some phase of the game.