Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M: Three things to watch
OXFORD, Miss. – As Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4 SEC) approaches its game with Texas A&M, the Rebels are on a two-game winning streak and are looking to send the team’s seniors off with a victory in their last game at Vaught-Hemingway.
Looking back to the middle of the season when the Ole Miss lost several tough road games against some of the nation’s best, followed by the loss of starting quarterback Shea Patterson to season-ending injury in the seventh game of the season, one might be surprised to find the Rebels sitting at .500 entering Saturday’s game with the Aggies.
The success, as of late, for the Rebels has occurred with backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu at the helm. Over his last three games, Ta’amu has thrown for 368, 382, and 418 yards, respectively, becoming just the second-ever Ole Miss quarterback in program history to throw for 350 or more yards in three consecutive games.
Senior Night: Heading into Senior Night (6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2) against the Aggies, Ole Miss is favored by 2.5 points. A win would insure the Rebels of a season record no worse than 6-6, which would be quite an accomplishment given all they have endured this year.
Ole Miss does have a bit of an edge over Texas A&M (6-4, 3-3) in terms of offensive power. The Rebels are averaging 350.5 passing yards per game, which is the best in the SEC and 13th in the country. The Aggies are giving up 12.21 yards per catch. The way Ole Miss has been moving the football, they should cause problems for Texas A&M’s passing defense.
Here are 3 things to watch in the Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M matchup:
1. Can the Rebels’ rushing defense hold up?
Texas A&M has a solid offense–thanks, in part, to the Aggies’ running game. Head coach Kevin Sumlin’s Ags have rushed for 1,734 yards this season using Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford. Williams leads the team in rushing yards (603), while Ford leads the team in rushing touchdowns (10).
Throughout this season, the Rebels’ rushing defense has struggled, giving up 253.1 yards per game on the ground. However, one thing defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff’s group has not lacked is effort. It will interesting to see if Ole Miss can slow down Williams and Ford, as well as limit redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Starkel through the air.
2. Can Jordan Wilkins notch 100 against the Aggies?
Saturday night will mark the last home game for senior running back Jordan Wilkins, and it will be a huge deal for the offense if he can rush for 100 or more yards.
Wilkins has rushed for at least 85 yards in four of the team’s last five games, reaching the 100-yard mark in three of those. Wilkins is having the best season of his career, with 754 yards on the ground so far.
Texas A&M’s rushing defense is giving up 152.3 yards per game, and if Wilkins can break out with another 100-yard game, the Aggies could be in trouble.
3. A game featuring stellar wide receivers
Saturday’s game will feature some of the conference’s most talented wide receivers. Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk will both be heavily involved in their respective offenses.
Brown is averaging 16.4 yards per catch, while Kirk is averaging 12.5 yards per catch. Each leads his team in touchdown receptions and receiving yards.
Brown also currently leads the SEC in multiple receiving categories: yards (1,015), receiving touchdowns (9), yards per game (101.5), and receptions per game (6.2)
For the Aggies, Kirk is 5th in the league in receptions per game (4.6)and has caught 6 touchdown passes on the season.
Though the shootout between the Aggies and Rebels will no doubt feature Kirk and Brown, the Rebels also boast other receivers who are among the league’s best. DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf are tied for 12th in the SEC in receptions per game with 36 apiece.
Lodge is ranked 6th in the SEC in receiving yards with 652, while Metcalf is 10th with 569. Lodge is 3rd in the conference in receiving touchdowns with 7, while Metcalf is tied with Kirk at 6th with 6 TD catches.
Kickoff is at 6:00 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised on ESPN2. Though A&M leads the series, 6-3, over the Rebels, Ole Miss has won the last three times the schools have met.
(Feature image credit: The Rebel Walk)