SEC Game of the Week: Texas A&M Aims to Keep SEC, Playoff Hopes Alive Against Ole Miss

by Connor Jackson

Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletics

With last week’s win over Auburn, Texas A&M has put itself right back in the SEC and College Football Playoff hunt. With another Alabama loss, the Aggies can make the SEC Championship if they win out.

Still, that will not be easy as the 11th-ranked Aggies will have to go through the scrappy Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday. Despite each team having two conference losses, the road to Atlanta is much more difficult for No. 15 Ole Miss.

Kickoff in Oxford is scheduled for 7 p.m. The contest will air nationally on ESPN.

All-Time Series

With A&M not joining the SEC until 2012, there is not a long history between these two programs. In the brief history they do have, the Aggies have dominated.

So far, Texas A&M leads Ole Miss 9-1. The lone win from the Rebels came in 2015 by a score of 23-3. That Ole Miss win is the largest margin of victory in series history.

Other than that, only one other game since A&M’s inception into the SEC has been decided by more than one possession.

History shows us that this will be a close win either way.

Key Headlines

Texas A&M

The Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC) looked dead in the water until about a month ago. A win over previously top-ranked Alabama sparked a run out of the Aggies, and they are playing their best football of late.

Just how good is the A&M defense? Well, it beat Auburn last week by 17 without scoring a single offensive touchdown. Even if the offense continues to lag behind, A&M will have a chance to win every game it plays in with that kind of defense.

Last week’s victory over Auburn turned a long-shot dream into reality. If the Aggies win out, all they need is an Alabama loss to advance to Atlanta.

Ole Miss

Unlike the Aggies, Ole Miss (7-2, 3-2 SEC) has been riding the struggle bus over the last two weeks. Ole Miss lost by double digits to Auburn two weeks ago, and played sloppy against Liberty last weekend. The recent struggles can be somewhat attributed to injuries, as Ole Miss has been beaten up each week since the Tennessee victory on Oct. 16.

Still, head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby will find a way to move the ball. Even with injuries to key playmakers, Ole Miss should have enough offensive firepower to create some explosive plays.

Ole Miss will need some chaos to take place if it wants to make the SEC title game, but it cannot do it without a victory over Texas A&M. Regardless, being 8-2 for Ole Miss is light years better than what fans have become accustomed to.

Keys to Victory

Texas A&M

Outside of Georgia, one could easily argue that the Aggies are the most physical team in the conference, especially on defense. After all, they shut down a red-hot Auburn offense last week. Offensively, they have a physical run game led by Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane.

That is how the Aggies will have to win this game.

Ole Miss is banged up, so it will be hard for the Rebels to match up against a physical team like Texas A&M. They struggled to do it against Auburn two weeks ago, and now they have to take on the team that just blew out the Tigers.

If Texas A&M can control the clock and take care of the ball, its defense can do the rest.

Ole Miss

Ole Miss is at a physical disadvantage here, even without all the injuries. In order to win, Ole Miss is going to have to get creative.

Fortunately, Kiffin and Lebby are known for that, but they have to be smart. Kiffin’s decisions on fourth downs over the last few weeks have been rather interesting to watch, and have killed some drives. If Ole Miss wants to win, it has to do a better job of not putting so much pressure on the defense. That starts with the head coach.

The Rebels have the offensive firepower to put up points against Texas A&M, so they need to do that early. If Ole Miss can take an early lead and force Texas A&M and its vanilla offense to play from behind, it will be in good shape.

Prediction

We picked against Texas A&M last week. That was largely due to a lack of confidence in quarterback Zach Calzada in a tough game, and he did struggle. The Aggie offense was stagnant. Outside of another 200-yard rushing game for Texas A&M, it got nothing going.

Still, it did not matter. The Aggie defense strangled quarterback Bo Nix and the rest of the Auburn offense.

If Ole Miss can make plays against the Aggie defense, it will have a chance to win. Unfortunately, it is hard to see that banged-up offense moving the ball consistently on the Aggies. On top of that, the Ole Miss defense isn’t exactly a juggernaut.

Ole Miss shows some fight early, but Texas A&M takes care of business on the road.

Final: Texas A&M 27, Ole Miss 20

Other Predictions From Around the League

Alabama 56, New Mexico State 7

Auburn 28, Mississippi State 23

Florida 42, Samford 13

Georgia 34, Tennessee 20

South Carolina 23, Missouri 20

Kentucky 38, Vanderbilt 13

LSU 30, Arkansas 27

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