It is about as close to a do-or-die game for bowl eligibility for Ole Miss this weekend at home against Texas A&M. Now sitting at 3-4, the Rebels need this win as #11 Auburn awaits at Jordan-Hare Stadium in two weeks and #2 Louisiana State comes to Oxford on November 16. Assuming those games are won by both sets of Tigers, wins over the Aggies this weekend, New Mexico State in November, and Mississippi State on Thanksgiving Night are essential to the Rebels returning to postseason play for the first time since winning the Sugar Bowl during the 2015 season. That being said, let us take a look at the keys of the game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Contain Kellen Mond as well as possible
The Aggies have simply not been effective running the football consistently this season. Against #3 Clemson, #11 Auburn, and Arkansas, Texas A&M have not broken the 100-yard mark with the highest rush yard number being 89 against the Razorbacks. With this, Mond has been asked to carry the load through the air for the offense. He has done that and more, throwing for 1597 yards and twelve touchdowns on a 63% completion percentage. The Rebels come in with the fifth-best run defense and the worst pass defense in the SEC, so it is absolutely imperative that this young secondary finds a way to keep Mond in check enough to keep Ole Miss in the ball game.
Find which quarterback moves the ball and stick with it
While I stated earlier in the week that Ole Miss had found their permanent starter in John Rhys Plumlee, Coach Matt Luke confirmed we would still see both quarterbacks share snaps this weekend. The Aggie defense has been extremely stout through the halfway point of the season, allowing only 324 yards per game. Allowing only 208 yards passing and 116 yards rushing, the Rebels are going to have to find the right way to attack Johnny Chavis’s unit, whether that be by running the zone-read with Plumlee or attacking with Matt Corral running the run/pass option-based attack.
Get the crowd into the game early, and keep the momentum flowing
No team in the country may be suited for a hostile road environment than Texas A&M, which has already faced Clemson on the road in Death Valley and plays at home in one of the loudest stadiums in the country with the 12th Man at Kyle Field. However, anyone who has experienced it knows that when the crowd is electric at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, it becomes one of the toughest environments in the SEC. If the Rebels can keep what should be a sellout crowd on a beautiful night in the game early, Texas A&M’s rebound after a loss to Alabama should come much tougher than expected.
Both teams have hovered around the .500 mark all season, and this should be a very hard-fought game between two teams in desperate need of a win. However, I see Ole Miss realizing their backs are against the wall and Texas A&M is coming off a tough loss to the Crimson Tide last season and constantly been beaten up by high-tier competition. Along with that, struggling to put Arkansas away earlier in the season left me with reservations about Jimbo Fisher and company. I see the Rebels finding a way to pull this out to keep a realistic path back to bowl eligibility alive.
Ole Miss beats Texas A&M 31-27