When is a revenge game not a revenge game?
There’s really no such thing, but that’s the way the University of Alabama football team is trying to approach Saturday’s trip to No. 19 Ole Miss.
Two years ago, Ole Miss fans stormed the field to celebrate a 23-17 victory. Last season, the Rebels took advantage of five turnovers and some odd plays that went their way en route to a 43-37 outcome.
If No. 1 Alabama has wallpapered the locker room with inspirational posters from those two setbacks, no one’s admitting it. After notching two victories but feeling his team hadn’t played particularly well in either game, head coach Nick Saban was unusually calm and straightforward during his Monday press conference.
“Emotion doesn’t last in the game,” he said, which quickly became the theme along with attention to detail.
Besides, revenge obviously didn’t work last year.
“It’s not something that I usually use as a motivating factor,” Saban said. “To say that it’s not a factor, I’m not sure I’m a psychiatrist enough to know the answer to that question. What I would rather focus on with our players is not the emotion of the game.
“There will be plenty of emotion for the game, I think, being an SEC game, being a division game, being a team that we’ve struggled against the last couple of years.”
This is the second of five tough tests that the Crimson Tide will face away from Bryant-Denny Stadium this season, the first having been the neutral-site opener against No. 20 USC, a 52-6 victory at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Down the road, Alabama will also visit Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU. With the Razorbacks having upset TCU, all five opponents might be ranked when facing Alabama.
On the flip side, with Georgia visiting next week and Ole Miss already having a loss, this is the game that will set the tone for the rest of the Rebels’ season. While the fans always come out in force for Alabama anyway, it’s the first big game in renovated Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
One thing that’s different from a year ago is that Ole Miss has already been in a big game, losing 45-34 to Florida State in Orlando. Since the Seminoles play a similar defensive scheme to the Crimson Tide’s, Alabama already has a pretty good idea of how the Rebels will try to attack.
But rain is also in the forecast, which could alter both sides’ game plans.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 17
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Place: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Ole Miss IMG Network, Westwood One Radio, Sirius 112/84, XM 191/84
Spread: Alabama is an 11-point favorite, according to Odds Shark.