After an incredible 13-point, fourth-quarter comeback to upend Alabama, the undefeated Ole Miss Rebels jumped from No. 11 to a tie for No. 3 in the nation, their highest ranking since 1964. Spirits are obviously running high in Oxford, and for good reason, but the Rebels and head coach Hugh Freeze face another difficult hurdle as they take on the No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies Saturday at Kyle Field.
The Rebels are 5-0 after quarterback Bo Wallace tossed three touchdowns, including one each to Vince Sanders and Jaylen Walton in the final stanza of the 23-17 upset over the Tide. But Saturday marks only their second road trip of the year and it will be a far tougher test than their 38-point victory at Vanderbilt in the second week of the season.
The last two seasons Ole Miss has come very close to blemishing Texas A&M’s perfect 6-0 all-time mark against them, but both times former quarterback Johnny Manziel came up with a last minute play and two straight three-point victories.
“I have a vivid memory of both of those,” Freeze said to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “Fourth-and-half-a-yard, that probably could have iced the game the first year, and he (Manziel) gets it in his hands and makes every play he has to to win the game for them. Last year, we gave them too much time on the clock. He was able to drive down and get the field goal to beat us.”
It’s possible the Aggies will enter this game even more fired up than in years past. Head coach Kevin Sumlin’s team suffered their first loss of the season to another Magnolia state squad in Mississippi State last week.
Led by their latest quarterback sensation in sophomore Kenny Hill, the Aggies own the third highest scoring offense in the country with 47.8 points per game and their hopes of a berth in the College Football Playoff would take a significant hit if they lose two consecutive conference games.
Starting with the victory over Alabama, Ole Miss has certainly staked a claim to one of the four sports in the playoff system’s first year, but can further solidify their position by shutting the Aggies down and without looking ahead to visits from No. 2 Auburn on Nov. 1 and the regular season finale against the No. 3 Bulldogs on Nov. 29.
Hill is far and away the most prolific passer in the Southeastern Conference, completing 64.1 percent of his attempts for 2,110 yards and 21 touchdowns with only five interceptions. The Aggies will also roll out two solid running backs in Trey Williams and Tra Carson, who’ve combined for 531 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
But as powerful and talented as the Aggies offense has looked for most of the season, they haven’t quite faced as dynamic a defense as Ole Miss’s. The Rebels are second in the nation allowing 10.2 points per game and lead the SEC with 10 interceptions, four of which belong to senior defensive back Senquez Golson. That could be a bad sign after Hill struggled and tossed three picks against the Bulldogs last week.
Opposing teams have scored only four total touchdowns against the Rebels, and have converted only 30 percent of their attempts on third down as well. Ole Miss also joins Alabama as the only two teams in the SEC to hold opponents to under 300 combined offensive yards per game.
Start Time: 9 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: Texas A&M -2
Over/Under: 64 points
Prediction: Texas A&M 37, Ole Miss 30