Week 10 of the college football season gives us a loaded slate of games. One of those is Ole Miss vs Texas A&M, and while it may not be the best game of the weekend, it’s certainly an intriguing one nonetheless. The Rebels find themselves at 7-1 and ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff committee’s first poll. Texas A&M, on the other hand, comes in at 5-3 on the season and presumably is just outside the Top 25.
In terms of the history of the two schools together on the football field, it hasn’t been kind to the Rebels. Texas A&M leads the overall series 9-5, if you include two vacated Ole Miss wins in 2014 and 2016. The good news for Rebel fans is that Ole Miss has won the last two, including last year’s tight 31-28 victory in College Station.
Despite the short history of the series, Ole Miss vs Texas A&M has managed to create a bit of a fun, not so serious, rivalry between the two schools. With where the two programs find themselves right now, and the stakes this game provides, don’t expect this year’s edition of the series to be any different.
What to Expect From Texas A&M
For the Aggies, the key is simply to slow down the Ole Miss offense. Texas A&M leads the nation in sacks (33), which shows that they have the talent and desire to pressure the quarterback on virtually every play. Against an Ole Miss offensive line that has struggled at times this season, that’s where the Aggies game plan has to start. If they can keep Jaxson Dart from having time to get the ball to his playmakers on the outside, there’s a good chance Texas A&M will get the win.
With the strong front seven, it’s understood that Texas A&M plans on being able to stop the run. They’ve only given up 96 yards per game on average, but this Ole Miss backfield may be the best they’ve seen this season. With Quinshon Judkins and Ulysses Bentley IV sure to get plenty of touches, a lot of this game ends up being how the Aggie front seven plays. With pressure on Dart, and slowing down the run, they come into Oxford and pull off the upset. If the front seven struggles, the Ole Miss offense may prove to be too much.
On the offensive end, the question is whether quarterback Max Johnson can have success through the air. The Texas A&M rushing attack has struggled this season, and against a good Rebel defensive line, the rushing lanes may be limited. However, against a shaky Ole Miss secondary, if the Aggies can get the ball to their playmakers there’s a chance for legitimate success. Because of that, look for Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith to have big days. This could end up being the biggest storyline of the game.
What to Expect From Ole Miss
On the other sideline, similarly, it all starts on the defensive side of the ball. While the Ole Miss offense gets a lot of attention, the defense has arguably played more sound football this season. This is especially true when you compare performance to expectations.
In their own right, the Ole Miss defense comes into this matchup fourth in the country in sacks. Even with that, in terms of yards allowed, they only find themselves in the middle of the pack for FBS teams. For the Rebel defense, the focus has to be getting pressure on Johnson. They should have the ability to slow down the Aggies’ rushing attack, but it won’t matter if Johnson has time to shred them through the air. Guys like Cedric Johnson and Jared Ivey are going to have to be difference-makers.
On the offensive side, the question is whether the Ole Miss offensive line can hold up against the tremendous Aggie front seven. Can they give Dart time to throw the ball? Can they open up running lanes for Judkins and Bentley? If the answer to those questions is yes, Ole Miss wins this game. If it ends up being a no, then Texas A&M gets a relatively easy win.
For the Rebels, the other question is play calling. While the offense puts up good numbers, at times they get conservative and slow everything down. Against a good Aggie defense, that can’t happen. The playbook is going to have to stay open and aggressive if Ole Miss wants to get the win.
The Bottom Line and Prediction
Ole Miss vs Texas A&M is always entertaining, and it’s always physical. It seems as if every game in the short series ends up being close. Don’t expect that to change in this one.
In this year’s edition, look for the offensive lines to end up being the determining factor. With both defensive fronts being solid, and both teams having quality skill players on the outside, the question is which quarterback has more time to survey the field. If either team can find success running the ball it would go a long way to help. However, don’t put much optimism on that being the case.
In the end, despite shaky decision-making at times, Dart has the advantage in terms of scrambling and making plays with his legs. Against a great pass rush, that could be the difference. Because of that, Ole Miss wins a tight one late, in what ends up being a relatively low-scoring matchup.
The Rebels travel to Athens to take on Georgia next weekend in what is sure to be a huge matchup. With a win Saturday over Texas A&M, Ole Miss is going to enter that matchup at 8-1, with plenty of momentum on their side.
Ole Miss 27, Texas A&M 23