OXFORD • Opportunistic defensive backs looking to pick off a pass in Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon may have a bit of a problem.
Or maybe not.
Who will be behind center for Ole Miss as the Rebels take on No. 2 Alabama is a bit of a mystery, but this much is known: The three quarterbacks from both teams likely to see the most action have combined to throw just one interception in 233 pass attempts.
Crimson Tide junior Tua Tagovailoa has thrown 17 touchdown passes with no interceptions, not terribly surprising for an Heisman frontrunner.
More unexpected is the fact that Ole Miss redshirt freshman Matt Corral has thrown only one interception in 114 pass attempts and is currently on a streak of 104 passes without a pick-off. His lone interception came early in the third quarter at Memphis.
“The quarterback’s playing really well for them,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “The backup quarterback came in and played even better last week.”
It may be the backup quarterback – true freshman John Rhys Plumlee – that the Crimson Tide sees this week.
Corral left the Rebels’ 28-20 loss to No. 23 California last week with just less than 6 minutes remaining with bruised ribs. He’s been extremely limited in practice this week.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke has not announced a starter. Plumlee this week has had the greater amount of shared first-team reps with another true freshman, Grant Tisdale.
What Ole Miss will face from the Alabama quarterback is much more known – and concerning. Tagovailoa is completing passes at a 77.6 success rate.
Last year he set an Alabama single-season record in touchdown responsibility with 48 – 43 passing, five rushing.
Climbing the ladder
At his current passing yardage pace he will rise to No. 2 behind A.J. McCarron on Alabama’s career list by season’s end, moving ahead of Andrew Zow, Brodie Croyle and John Parker Wilson along the way.
Alabama has had just two turnovers this season, one fumble and one interception thrown by backup quarterback Mac Jones last week in the Tide’s 49-7 win over Southern Mississippi.
Tagovailoa says ball-protection is a team-wide focus.
“No interceptions is good as an offense. We try to do this thing weekly with no turnovers. I think we’re doing pretty good. We’ve only had two so far.”