I was in College Station for five days this spring for the NCAA baseball regional.
Part of my morning walk took me through Kyle Field, which usually had a gate open. It was an impressive structure, different than I remembered it in 1985 when I covered there as a member of student media for Northeast Louisiana University. The Indians put up a fight, by the way. Jackie had the Aggies punch one in late to make the final score 28-17. I didn’t have my beagle, Chipper, with me while I was walking but wished I would have, as I thought of the times I’d see Billy Brewer walking Vaught-Hemingway with his dog. Don’t know if Dog still walks his dog there.
A&M is pretty good at home, which is where they’ve been for their only two SEC games, losing to Florida, which is now a top 10 team, and thoroughly dominating Arkansas, which was dominated by Alabama in its only other SEC game and hasn’t won since beating Jacksonville State in Week 1. Arkansas is No. 116 in America in total defense, giving up 510.2 yards on average.
That’s a stat that needs some consideration when you see total yards from A&M (716) that could have reached Houston in the Aggies’ 58-10 win last week. It doesn’t mean we should not be impressed by the Aggies’ offense, but it’s worth noting that a good SEC defense, Florida, held the Aggies to 17 points and 334 yards in a 20-17 Gators victory. A&M scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, none in the remaining three.
The A&M offense gets a bit of a pass then, because it was Johnny Manziel’s first college game. He went for 17 carries, 60 yards and 1 TD rushing, 23-for-30 passing, no TDs, no picks. He was sacked three times. In addition to Arkansas, the other defenses he’s seen in addition to Arkansas have been SMU and South Carolina State.
This leads us to a question: Is Ole Miss a good SEC defense? They looked like it last week against Alabama, but honestly, they were looking like it for the first time, and they were looking like it against a very different style of offense. The answer to the question is TBA.
A&M was very impressive against a bad defense last week.
But I think the Aggies will score points.
This game has the potential to turn into a shootout. Ole Miss is better equipped to compete in that sort of game than it has been in recent years.
But while Ole Miss is a much improved team in many areas, it has not been able to shake the turnover bug that has bothered it for so long. The Rebels are No. 95 in turnover margin right now after finishing No. 100 last year.
The Rebels claim confidence and growth from a 33-14 loss at No. 1 Alabama, and well they should. But what might that game have been like without three interceptions?
I have confidence in the Ole Miss offense to move the ball and score, which will make this game close.
The body of work, though, says the Rebels will turn the ball over. They’re working hard to stop. That’s been the whole point of the quarterback competition this week. They may be ready to play their first turnover-free game of the year, but if they’re not it’s trouble. Giving the ball back to Texas A&M, perhaps with good field position, is not the way to break a 15-game SEC losing streak.
I think the defense plays inspired, but the Aggies score some points. Ole Miss gets to the fourth quarter in an SEC game, the next step, says Hugh Freeze, in the rebuilding process, but A&M wins a close one.
Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Ole Miss 33