Alabama's secondary faces its toughest challenge yet vs. Ole Miss

McShay, Matich talk Alabama's run defense, Ole Miss' passing attack

ESPN's Todd McShay and Trevor Matich discuss their expectations for the upcoming game between Ole Miss and Alabama.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Ole Miss' passing game looks awfully dangerous through two weeks. Just glance at quarterback Chad Kelly's numbers. The former Clemson Tiger leads the country with a Raw QBR of 97.2, he’s the only quarterback in the SEC with a passing efficiency over 200 and he’s helped put two of his wideouts in the top five of the league in receiving yardage.

Neither of those receivers is named Laquon Treadwell, either. The star from Illinois and projected first-round draft pick will undoubtably be the focus of Alabama defense come Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. But that could come at a price given Ole Miss' depth. Quincy Adeboyejo, the slot receiver, has caught four touchdowns against UT-Martin and Fresno State, which is twice as many as the next closest player in the SEC.

Alabama’s secondary, for as much improvement as it has shown so far this season, is on the clock.

"I think we’ve played better in the first couple of games," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "I don’t think we’ve played against the quality of receivers that Ole Miss has, so this will be a challenge for them."

Last season, Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram combined for 126 yards and a touchdown to help the Rebels pull a dramatic 23-17 win against Alabama in Oxford. Stopping those two will be an important part of Alabama avoiding another upset.

"They obviously need to do a better job this year than we did last year," Saban said of his defense. "They make a lot of big plays, and they made a lot of big plays in the first two games. It’s going to be really important that our guys understand that we’ve got to not allow them to make big plays. That’s a challenge in and of itself with the skill level that they have."

Geno Matias-Smith, Alabama’s starting safety, said of Treadwell: "He's a great receiver. Big, physical, fast. I know he's going to be ready to come out and play this Saturday."

Senior cornerback Cyrus Jones said the key will be to stick to the game plan, which he felt like they struggled with during last season's game.

As far as defending Treadwell, Jones said his plan is to be "physical right back with him."

"You can't let him bully you, because that's what he's going to try to come in and do," he explained. "Whether he's on my side or [Marlon Humphrey's] side, it really doesn't matter. You can't let him manhandle his way around."

It was against cupcake opponents, granted, but Ole Miss’ 149 points through two games is nonetheless eye-catching. It’s more points than SMU scored all of last season.

But whether it’s this season's stats or a possible revenge factor based off of last season's game, Alabama’s defensive backs insist their focus isn’t on anything but the task at hand.

"You can't really look at that," Jones said of Ole Miss averaging more than 70 points per game. "You have to look at who they're playing. That's how I look at it. We know what type of defense we have. It's not about what they're doing. It's about what we come out and do, and how we execute what we're supposed to do.

"We don't get caught up in the big numbers that they're putting up, because even if we scored 70 points against Middle Tennessee State, I don't think our offense would be very excited because they know they still have to get better to play the teams they have to play. I don't think the numbers even matter."

Whether they matter or not, they’re all anyone has to work with heading into Saturday.

The Rebels haven’t played anyone the caliber of Alabama. But the Crimson Tide hasn’t faced a passing game the caliber of Ole Miss', either.

As they say, something will have to give.