- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After roughly 24 hours of digestion, analysis of No. 1 Alabama's 33-14 win over Ole Miss:
On offense …
Ole Miss was not going to allow Alabama to run the ball effectively. The Rebels put eight men in the box most of the night and dared AJ McCarron to throw the football.
Doug Nussmeier continues to use crossing routes with remarkable returns. It's clear he's trying to take advantage of the speed Alabama has on the outside.
That said, screens have become more and more a part of the offense. It seems to be a direct response to teams overloading on the rush. The misdirection forces defenses play straight up.
McCarron had a very low yards per attempt number against Ole Miss with 6 yards per pass. But give him credit as he continues to play within the offense and take whatever the defense is willing to give. He broke the school record for consecutive pass attempts (191) without throwing an interception.
The reason Michael Williams not being very involved in the passing game? He's in on protection an awful lot. The staff even had him as the back in shotgun blocking.
Dee Hart has been getting much more involved on offense. He's done the little things to get more snaps. He threw a big block to save a sack and continues to play better on special teams every week.
Amari Cooper showed why he was a top-10 receiver coming out of high school. He has above average body control, hands and possesses dynamic athleticism.
Wast that a Brent Calloway sighting we saw? The former linebacker caught a pass and nearly had a long touchdown grab in the second quarter. With Jalston Fowler gone for the year, the opportunity is Calloway's.
Final thought: Alabama is going to a lot more short passes, getting the ball out of McCarron's hands quickly. It seems to be a response to the problems in pass protection and the returns have been positive. We've seen a lot of different looks from the offense this season, but the whole package hasn't been on display -- yet.
On defense …
Ole Miss had some success getting to the outside of the defense running the football. Credit Jesse Williams, Damion Square and Ed Stinson with clogging up the middle, but the linebackers have to do a better job hemming the backs back inside.
Jeoffrey Pagan gets better every week and it's evident by the increase in his playing time. He's done a good job being physical and disciplined at the point of attack.
Deion Belue got beat again on a 31-yard pass to Deonte Moncrief, but don't jump to conclusions as the junior college cornerback recovered quickly and lost to what was essentially a perfectly placed pass.
Bama's base defense might as well be the nickel this year. Vinnie Sunseri's been a mainstay at star with Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and Robert Lester at safety. Trey DePriest and C.J. Mosley have been the two constants at linebacker in the formation.
Pay attention how far Mosley gets back in coverage and how he gets from sideline to sideline. He's not an inside-the-trenches guy, but what he does well in space is nonetheless valuable.
Final thought: No doubt Ole Miss was the biggest test of Alabama's young season, scoring two touchdowns. But at the end of the day, Alabama gave up 14 points to a team that averaged 36.8 per game coming into the weekend. Ole Miss' first touchdown drive was kept alive on a third-down pass interference call against Nico Johnson. On the second touchdown Ole Miss had to catch a tipped pass and then convert on fourth down.
On special teams …
Jeremy Shelley has been perfect in the kicking game. He was 3-for-3 from 20-40 yards on Saturday. All told, Alabama's kicking game has been lightyears better than a season ago, converting 84.6 percent of kicks in 2012 compared to 63.9 in 2011.
As if Bama couldn't get more explosive than a season ago, Christion Jones returned his first kickoff for a touchdown. It was Alabama's first kickoff return for a score since Trent Richardson did so against Duke on Sept. 18, 2010.
5dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf