Aggies and Rebels both look to rebound from losses against ranked conference opponents
An opportunity to rebound from a loss to a ranked conference opponent is at stake on Saturday night as Texas A&M collides with Ole Miss in Oxford. Just 1-2 in SEC play, Texas A&M has only had one true road game — on the road at Clemson — which it lost 24-10. Ole Miss, meanwhile, is 2-2 in the conference and has been sharp at home to the tune of a 3-1 mark, including wins over SEC foes Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
The Aggies enter off a competitive-yet-sizable loss to No. 1 Alabama as the Tide rolled into Kyle Field and won 47-28. Aside from Kellen Mond, who in addition to his 264 passing yards also led the Aggies on the ground with 90 more, the rest of the rushing attack — comprised of Isaiah Spiller and Jacob Kibodi — combined for just 35 yards on 12 carries against the ever-stingy Tide defense. Meanwhile, despite its 38-27 loss to now-No. 22 Missouri, running the ball was the Rebels' strongest asset as dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee threw for 103 yards and rushed for 143 more, accounting for all four of Ole Miss' touchdowns with two each in the air and on the ground.
Saturday's meeting will be the 12th all-time between the Aggies and Rebels, a series that began in 1911 but was only contested three more times — in 1914, '75 and '80 — until Texas A&M joined the SEC beginning with the 2012 season. Conference foes or not, the Aggies have held the upper hand, winning eight times to Ole Miss' one. (The Rebels vacated wins against the Aggies in the 2014 and '16 seasons.)
Texas A&M at Ole Miss
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Texas A&M -6
When Texas A&M Has the Ball
Kellen Mond is a big reason why the Aggies are sitting at an even 3-3 overall and at least within sight of a bowl game appearance. He's eclipsed 250 passing yards and notched at least two touchdowns in each of his last three games, including against Alabama. He's a threat on the ground as well, leading the Aggies in carries in all three of those games and twice in yards in that span.
Mond has done well to spread the ball around and keep defenses guessing, finding at least six different receivers in each game dating back to the loss against Auburn. Jalen Wydermyer made the most of his limited opportunities against Alabama, hauling in only three passes, two of which went for touchdowns. The ground game has hardly offered any support, as rushers not named Mond have totaled 30 carries for a paltry 87 yards in the loss to Auburn and the win over Arkansas.
Ole Miss' defense has had its share of good days and, well, not-so-good days in 2019. The Rebels held Memphis and Arkansas to just 15 and 17 points, respectively, to open the season, and two weeks ago held Vanderbilt to just six points on a pair of field goals. But Alabama hung 59 on Ole Miss in the final weekend of September and just last week Missouri rode a 23-point third quarter to its 11-point win. Luckily for the Rebels, their run defense that was just gashed by Missouri won't face nearly as tough a test in the Aggies' attack.
When Ole Miss Has the Ball
The story in Oxford has been the question surrounding the dual-quarterback system, most notably: Can it work? John Rhys Plumlee is living up to the billing as a dual-threat force, passing for only 99 yards on 18 attempts against Vanderbilt but rushing for 165 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. He also led the Rebels in rushing against Alabama, surpassing 100 yards both passing and rushing with three total touchdowns.
Plumlee has started each of the last three games since sharing the load with Matt Corral against Cal, but fans in Oxford are excited to see what the freshman Plumlee can offer going forward. Corral was solid in his own right, passing for 246, 239 and 266 yards in Weeks 2-4 but totaling just four touchdown passes in that span. Scottie Phillips has cooled off after a quick hot stretch against Arkansas and Southeast Louisiana when he ran a combined 52 times for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
Texas A&M has only held two teams under 24 points so far this season: Texas State (seven) and FCS opponent Lamar (three). In fact, Clemson's 24-point output is the next-lowest point total allowed by the Aggies' defense in 2019. Since the 62-3 win over Lamar, the Aggies have allowed an average of 34 points per game to the three deadly A's of the SEC: Auburn, Arkansas, and Alabama. Granted, two of those are top-15 teams, but Texas A&M's defense has been far from stellar as of late. Facing an Ole Miss offense that has only been held under 30 points twice, the Aggies will need to right the ship defensively — and quickly.
Both teams have shown flashes of excitement thus far, but they've also both shown their fair share of flaws. They've also mostly taken care of business against teams they were supposed to beat while losing but remaining competitive against some of the nation's best. This should be a high-scoring affair with plenty of points posted in the Oxford night.
Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Texas A&M 30
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.