College GameDay for the first time ever. The Grove. No. 3 Alabama in the house. Celebrities in the house. Possibly insane celebrities in the house. Massive recruiting stakes. The highest expectations and hopes for Oxford in decades. And the No. 11 Rebels delivered.
Ole Miss is now 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the SEC. The Rebels are assured of their highest AP ranking since at least 2009, when they briefly cracked the top five.
The ending was about as tense as it gets. After the Rebels hit a go-ahead touchdown with 2:54 to go, they missed two extra points -- the first was nullified by a penalty, and the second was blocked. That gave Bama a chance to win in regulation. The Tide drove into the red zone with about a minute to go, with another penalty sending them back to the Ole Miss 32. Alabama's Blake Sims heaved one into the end zone, where defender Senquez Golson made an incredible snag. Down goes No. 3.
The Rebels next head to Texas A&M, which just got crushed by Mississippi State after a physical bout with Arkansas. Bama has those Hogs up next, with Arkansas enjoying a bye week during the SEC West's Saturday of self-mauling.
Three things we learned
1. One more step to the SEC West title. Not to repeat our takeaways from this afternoon's Mississippi State win over Texas A&M, but the shakeout in college football's top division is going to be the theme of the day. This game, MSU's win, and the pending LSU-Auburn result combine to give us one big takeaway.
According to Bill Connelly's numbers, the probability of Alabama or Ole Miss finishing with a 6-2 SEC record entered Saturday at 46.9 and 43 percent, respectively. This game's result moves Ole Miss' to 56.2. Add in the fact that each will finish with a 4-0 record out of conference, and a New Year's Day bowl trip remains quite possible for both.
For the Rebels, it's time to start dreaming about the College Football Playoff. It just is.
2. Yep, Ole Miss' defense is legit. In case the first month of the season didn't convince you, consider that Bama is fresh off breaking Florida's all-time record for yardage given up -- a Florida team that surrendered all of nine points Saturday at Tennessee -- and yet managed just 396 total yards in Oxford, with most of that coming by volume. Bama averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on the ground and gave up the ball twice.
Praise was merited for Lane Kiffin's overhaul of the Tide offense and Sims' September performance, but entering the SEC West gauntlet means the standard soars.
The Rebels hit like hammers, flying down from the back seven as relentlessly as Tetris pieces. Take away one 53-yard busted play that saw O.J. Howard wide open, and Bama finished with 175 through the air.
Watch the celebrations
Watch the celebrations
3. Your concerns about Bama's secondary remain valid. Tide defensive backs, long thought of as the program's greatest strength, have had a down year. At least by Nick Saban's standards.
The erratic Dr. Bo Wallace had his pinnacle performance. CBS' Verne Lundquist at one point called him "Great Bo," a reference to his "Good Bo" and "Bad Bo" nickname alter egos. Great Bo put together 283 total yards and three scores without an interception.
An up-tempo offense with big wide receivers has been the kryptonite for Bama's defense for a couple years now. The Rebels exploited the weakness piece by piece -- their top two receivers on the day, Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell, both go about 6'2 -- then all out in the fourth quarter.
And then the winning touchdown ended up being this loft from Wallace to the 5'8 Jaylen Walton: