Ole Miss set to face Nation’s No. 2 Scoring Defense when A&M Arrives in the Vaught
OXFORD, Miss. — As of late, we’ve heard Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin — as well as A&M’s Jimbo Fisher — heap praise upon the Aggies’ defense, a unit that is ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring and is giving up just 14.7 points per game.
Here are a few of the two coaches’ comments from their press conferences this week:
Kiffin on A&M defense: "I was watching and thinking, Jimbo, okay, figured out from Saban, get the best defensive players in the country and get them on your team….they have really special (defensive) players that are dominant."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 8, 2021
Jimbo on veteran A&M defensive line: "They're doing a great job. We have a good mix of guys who can go inside & outside. We have size, we have pass rushers, we have power & I think they're doing a really good job of understanding the scheme and fitting gaps, taking on blockers.."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 10, 2021
Jimbo on A&M D-line: "When your guys with the hand in the dirt can play and control lines of scrimmage, that's the key to football, I don't care how skilled you are offense or defense."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 10, 2021
But before we panic over all the rat poison, let’s take a deeper dive into Texas A&M’s schedule and their opposition.
Game 1: A&M 41, Kent State 10
Kent State scored a total of 33 points against A&M, Iowa and Maryland, its three Power 5 opponents this season. A&M partook in a 41-10 breather against the Golden Flashes, securing the Week 1 win that sky-rocketed their home record vs. sub-Power 5 teams to 47-1 over the past 20 seasons.
(Incidentally, A&M is 43-41 at home during the last 20 years vs. Power 5 opponents at Kyle Field.)
Game 2: A&M 10, Colorado 7
Until beating Oregon State last week, Colorado had only scored 100 points against seven Power 5 opponents, an average of 14.3 points per game.
A&M held the Buffalos to 7 while scoring late to pull out the victory, 10-7. Nothing to see here.
Game 3: A&M 34, New Mexico 0
New Mexico’s only Power 5 opponent in 2021 is A&M, yet the Lobos have scored a grand total of just 68 points in their last 7 games, for a 9.7 point per game average.
Against New Mexico, A&M picked up a G-5 shutout and extended its record at home against that group to 48-1. (Prairie View A&M comes in next week so 49-1 is looking good for A&M.)
Game 4: A&M 10, Arkansas 20
Arkansas was a 20-10 loss for the Aggies at a neutral site in north Texas.
Arkansas averages 27.5 points per game vs. Power 5 teams. Holding the Hogs to 20 could be cause for celebration. Arkansas had not beaten A&M since 2011. The Aggies’ quarterback, Zach Calzada, recorded a 19.1 QBR on this day in his first SEC game outside of Kyle Field.
Game 5: A&M 22, Mississippi State 26
Mississippi State was a 26-22 loss for the Aggies at Kyle Field. State averages 26.9 points per game vs. Power 5 teams, so they essentially hit their number.
Calzada recorded a 61.2 QBR in his first home SEC start. State out-gained the Ags 438 to 297 and notched 27 first downs to A&M’s 15.
Game 6: A&M 41, Alabama 38
Alabama has averaged 39.4 points per game this season vs. Power 5 opponents and scored 38 against A&M. In the Aggies’ win, Calzada recorded a season-high 91.8 QBR.
Game 7: A&M 35, Missouri 14
Missouri has accumulated 143 points in six Power 5 games, just a 23.8 average per game this season. A&M held the Tigers to 14.
In his first true SEC Away game, Calzada recorded a 61.5 QBR against a team that’s surrendering 40.7 points per game vs. Power 5 opponents. A&M scored 35 as they ran the ball for almost 7 yards a carry, gaining 283 yards on 42 carries.
Game 8: A&M 44, South Carolina 14
South Carolina had scored only 78 points in five Power 5 games (15.6 points per game avg.) before its breakout game against 20-point favorite Florida last Saturday.
A&M held the Gamecocks to 14, extremely close to their pre-Florida season average.
Game 9: A&M 20, Auburn 3
Auburn had scored 123 points in five Power 5 games for a 24.6 points per game average before losing at Kyle Field last Saturday, something that has never happened to an Auburn football team at A&M as the Tigers had defeated the Aggies in every appearance in College Station prior to this.
Quarterback Bo Nix and his Tigers managed just a mere field goal in what was easily the Aggies’ best effort against a Power 5 team as related to its opponents’ scoring average. Very good outing for the A&M defense as they head into the contest with Ole Miss.
What the numbers mean
What these results above do tell me, however, is that while the Rebels might not exceed their scoring average against this Aggie defense (and much of that may depend on the health of the Ole Miss offensive stars), it’s certainly reasonable to anticipate that QB Matt Corral and company can get relatively close to the season average, injuries notwithstanding.
The Rebels’ offense averages 33 points per game vs. Power 5 opponents, 37. 8 against all opponents in 2021. They average 42 when playing at the Vaught. I don’t see that changing when A&M takes the field.
The Aggies, for the most part, play to their competition defensively, consistently allowing their opponents to score near their average total points per game. Allowing 10 points to two of the weaker G-5 teams has certainly helped A&M rise to the No. 2 defensive ranking in the country, but we’re focusing on apples to apples here.
Score Early….and from Far
Under Coach Kiffin, Ole Miss is 9-2 when scoring first and 11-0 when leading at halftime. When they don’t score first, the Rebels are 3-5. When they’re trailing at halftime, they’re 1-5 in games with Coach Kiffin at the helm.
Under Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss is 9-2 when scoring first and 11-0 when leading at halftime. When they don’t score first, they are 3-5 and 1-5 in games they have trailed at halftime under Kiffin. It will be important for whichever unit takes the field first to set the tone vs. A&M
— Nick Filipich (@nickfilipich11) November 10, 2021
The Aggies have overcome only one deficit of 7 points or greater this season, and that was when they trailed at home 38-31 to Alabama.
Besides Alabama, the Aggies’ only comeback win was that 10-7 victory at Colorado when they scored the winning touchdown (and only touchdown) in the final three minutes of the game. They’d gone into Denver as a 17-point favorite.
There were some tense moments, but Texas A&M saved moneyline bettors with a late TD to beat Colorado, 10-7! 😅
— TwinSpires Sportsbook 💵 (@TS_Sportsbook) September 11, 2021
Arkansas took a 10-0 lead over A&M and it was good as over. Mississippi State grabbed a 17-13 lead at Kyle Field and it was good as over there, too.
Offensively, the Aggies have scored 18 points per game when outside of Kyle Field and 28.6 overall for the season. The Ole Miss defense is surrendering an average of 27.0 points per game.
A&M likes to run it down your throat and pass only when necessary, to keep you from loading the box — sorta like the Wishbone. They play field position and own the clock. But like any bullish wishbone team, Jimbo’s offense isn’t built for comebacks.
Should the Rebels hold serve offensively, as I expect them to, and grab the lead, avoid penalties, score some HYDR points in the HYDR 4th quarter, and play run defense not in the manner of Missouri, it’s another W for the Lane Train.
Beating the team that beat No. 1, well, that’s worth celebrating. Beating them at home, even better.
Meanwhile, keep spreading the rat poison as the Aggies just might take a bite.