Coming into Saturday, both the Aggies and the Rebels will be in incredibly similar situations. Both are going to need a win to realistically stay alive in the SEC West divisional race, and even then both will be have to wait a week to see the result of the Alabama/LSU game in Tuscaloosa to get a clearer idea of what they’ll need to do to make it into the SEC title game in Atlanta at the end of the season. For A&M, things are looking pretty grim. Sure, they only have one loss, but that loss is to Alabama, a team that also only has one conference loss and outside of a possible slip-up against LSU, is almost a lock to win the rest of their games. However, for the Rebels, this game doesn’t completely matter. Yes, they did just got whooped up on by a really good Memphis team, however if they can get past A&M and take care of business against Auburn and Arkansas, they’ll find themselves with a chance to win the division outright when LSU comes to town. Of course, they’ll still have to handle Mississippi State to deal with, but considering the Bulldogs have already lost to both LSU and A&M (two teams that the Rebels will have to beat) that game would theoretically be in Ole Miss’s favor, all college football mystique aside and whatnot.
This Game Will Be Won Or Lost In The Aggies’ Secondary
Texas A&M can’t defend the run, as was evidenced by Derrick Henry tearing them up for 236 yards and a pair of scores last weekend. Of course, A&M has struggled in the past with stopping the run as well, but a problem that they had said at the beginning of the year would be fixed clearly isn’t. Luckily though, that won’t matter in this game. Ole Miss hasn’t gotten to where they are by running the ball often, nor did they name Chad Kelly the starter this season so he could hand the ball off. The Rebels have the 10th best passing offense in the nation, and even with the Aggies inability to stop the run, there’s not much reason to think they’ll get away from doing that. The positive of A&M’s defense is that they’ve got a solid secondary, however there’s one glaring issue: they don’t take the ball away very often. The Aggies currently have a -1 turnover margin and only three total interceptions at this point. While they’re a solid unit that can hold opposing offense to minimal yards through the air, they’ll need to be better about taking the ball away from Kelly and this offense to keep themselves in the game.
Kyle Allen Needs To Have A Big Day
The one major positive for Aggie quarterback Kyle Allen this week is that it’s going to be hard to have a worse game than a week ago. Sure, he did throw for 263 yards and a score…but he also through three picks, all of which were returned for touchdowns. But if the Aggies want to regain their footing in the West, he’s going to have to do much, much better. But luckily for him, the Rebels defense is a pretty good opportunity for him to get back to throwing touchdowns to the proper team. Of Mississippi’s two losses this season, both quarterbacks had fantastic days throwing the ball. Florida’s now suspended QB Will Grier threw for 271 yards and 4 scores, and Memphis’s Paxton Lynch threw for 386 yards and 3 scores. Even Jake Coker, who hasn’t looked anything beyond decent so far this season threw for 200 yards and 3 scores against the Rebels, however he also threw a pair of picks. If the Aggie defense does their part to limit Ole Miss’s opportunities and aerial attack, then Allen will need to go to work picking apart their secondary to find them chances to score. This task may be a little easier than usual, as Rebel defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche still hasn’t been cleared to play, after suffering a concussion in last weekend’s loss to Memphis. Without him bringing pressure up front, Allen could have a little more time to find and make the throws he’ll need to for the Aggies to win.
Whose Loss Actually Proved More
Both of these teams are coming off of tough losses, although one was to an Alabama team that certainly looks like a national title contender, and the other was to a Memphis team that is certainly good, but not necessarily at Alabama’s level. The Aggies loss to the Tide showed that they can’t stop the run and that it’s really hard to win when your quarterback is throwing touchdowns to the wrong team. However Ole Miss showed that it really can’t defend the pass and that if Kelly’s production is limited, it’s difficult for them to win anything.If that’s really the case, then there’s no reason that A&M can’t win this game. Of course, they’ll need some help by way of LSU beating the Tide next weekend to give them a realistic shot at winning the division, plus they’ll still have to try and stop Leonard Fournette in the final game of the regular season (which almost certainly won’t happen), so maybe a win this weekend won’t really be enough for the Aggies anyway, but they have to believe it will be.