Aggies welcome the Rebels to College Station needing just one more win to become bowl eligible
An explosive spread attack offense verses a fiery pro-style barrage — that is what is in store for college football fans tuning in to see the Ole Miss Rebels (5-4, 1-4 SEC) take on the Texas A&M Aggies (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday as both teams try to put an end to two-game losing streaks in College Station.
Life on the college football gridirons in the SEC is never easy, as Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke can easily attest. In the last two games, the Rebels have been prolific on offense yet suffered a 31-16 loss to Auburn and a 48-44 defeat to South Carolina in Oxford. The Auburn game was frustrating — the Rebels put up 447 yards of total offense — but the loss to the Gamecocks was heartbreaking, as Ole Miss lost a 10-point fourth quarter lead. The Rebels allowed two fourth-quarter touchdowns and were held out of the end zone for the final 5:50 of the game.
The Aggies were shell-shocked in Starkville in Week 9, taking a 28-13 loss against Mississippi State. A&M could only muster 293 yards of total offense against MSU and then suffered its own disheartening 28-24 defeat against Auburn last week after letting a 10-point third-quarter lead slip away. The Aggies offense did rebound from the MSU setback, gaining 423 yards of total offense and 203 yards on the ground.
The SEC West showdown is important for both programs, as A&M seeks to become bowl eligible and Ole Miss tries to play the spoiler in front of a national television audience on CBS.
Ole Miss at Texas A&M
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas A&M -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Trayveon Williams vs. Ole Miss run defense
Junior tailback Trayveon Williams turned in a beastly performance against Auburn, rushing 17 times for 107 yards with two rushing scores and pulling in five passes for 75 yards with another trip into the end zone. Normally, that would be enough offensive production to secure a SEC win. For A&M to kick the two-game skid, Williams will need to compile a similar kind of output against the Rebels, but it may not be as easy as it seems. A&M has two question marks along the offensive line, as the status of Erik McCoy (leg) and Jared Hocker (leg) is unknown.
The upside for the Aggies: The Rebels defense is one of the worst in the nation according to the numbers. The Rebels allow 210 yards on the ground per game, ranked No. 108 out of 129 FBS teams. Williams enters the game second in the SEC in both rushing yards (931) and touchdowns (10).
2. The Ole Miss offense
Based on their offensive output, the Rebels should be a top-20 team. With senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu throwing and junior running back Scottie Phillips slipping past defenders, the Rebels offense is racking up 547 yards per game. Phillips is third in the SEC with 923 rushing yards and leads the way with 12 scores on the ground. Ta’amu is among the best in the nation at slinging the rock, passing for 3,001 yards, fourth best in the nation, with 16 touchdowns. That’s the good news. After the physical game against South Carolina, Phillips has an unspecified injury, leaving his status for the game unknown. Even more problematic, Ta’amu has an ankle injury, although he is expected to play.
Ta’amu and Phillips are the Ole Miss offense, with no proven second-string performers. Against MSU, A&M allowed 384 yards of total offense but then regrouped, holding Auburn to 278 yards. For the year, the Aggies defense is among the best in the nation, limiting the opposition to 325 yards per game.
3. A&M Penalties, turnovers and sacks
The Aggies won the battle against Auburn but lost the war. A&M outgained the Tigers 423 to 278 but coughed up five fumbles, losing two, and quarterback Kellen Mond threw an interception. Auburn did not turn the ball over. A&M won the time of possession 37:00 minutes to 21:19 but had drive-stalling penalties, picking up seven flags.
The Rebels hold the pigskin tenaciously, with only eight turnovers on the year. A&M has lost 12 total, five fumbles and seven picks. Giving this Ole Miss team extra opportunities to score will be costly.
Neither team takes the field with momentum, but A&M still has something to play for — a bowl game — and has home-field advantage. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has to keep his squad on point looking to break the Aggies’ “November slide” that they suffered year after year under former head coach Kevin Sumlin. Outside of ESPN games, this will be the first nationally televised game on a network broadcast for Ole Miss, giving the Rebels an opportunity to shine without a bowl game to play for this year.
Until last season, Ole Miss was a big part of A&M’s November losing ways, winning three consecutive (2014-16). The Aggies nailed a 31-24 win to the board in Oxford last season and should find a way to shut down the Rebels offense this year in College Station.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Ole Miss 28
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.