The scenarios are quite simple for No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 14 Texas A&M. A second straight victory over a ranked conference opponent will keep the Rebels in the the thick of the SEC West and the College Football Playoff hunt. For the Aggies, consecutive losses will likely mean the end of any talk of a national title or the SEC, especially with trips to Alabama and Auburn on the horizon.
And those are the stakes for Saturday’s pivotal matchup at Kyle Field.
Owning the best defense in the SEC, a convincing victory over a loaded A&M offense could help the Rebels break their logjam with rival Mississippi State atop the national rankings and signal they are a legitimate threat in the conference. After forcing two Alabama turnovers and holding them to a season-low 17 points, Ole Miss is second in the country allowing 10.4 points per game.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin will need to rally his squad behind sophomore quarterback and SEC-leading passer Kenny Hill, while building some confidence before next week’s visit to Tuscaloosa. Hill’s already thrown for 2,110 yards and 21 touchdowns, seven of which went to top receiver Josh Reynolds. The Aggies have posted the third-highest scoring offense in the country, with 47.8 points per contest.
Hill and Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will garner much of the attention throughout the game, but let’s focus on several players from both teams who could make the biggest differences.
Players To Watch
Jaylen Walton, RB, Ole Miss
Wallace has largely carried the offense, though Walton’s come up with 238 rushing yards and three touchdowns, with another eight catches out of the backfield for 118 yards and two more scores. Walton and I’Tavius Mathers have largely split carries, and the Rebels are only 88th in the country in rushing yardage per game. That could change against an A&M D that’s already let up 1,073 yards on the ground through six games.
Myles Garrett, DL, Texas A&M
They might not be able to stop the run, but Garrett leads one of the nation’s best pass rushes. The freshman’s second in the SEC with 6.5 sacks, and leads the Aggies with seven QB hits. He and Alonzo Williams could take advantage of a Rebels o-line that’s given up nine sacks for a loss of 37 yards.
Deshazor Everett, CBm and Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
Even with a top pass rush, the Aggies secondary has generated only two interceptions, one for Everett and the other for Watts. Wallace has certainly played well but he’s tied for the SEC-lead with six interceptions, and if the Aggies can get some pressure up front, Watts or Everett can capitalize on an errant throw.
Bryon Bennett, NT, and Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss
Rattling Hill will also be a huge factor for the Rebels, and Bennett and Haynes are the team sack leaders with two apiece. Just like Garrett can make opportunities for his secondary, Haynes and Bennett can do the same for Senquez Golson, who’s tied for second in the country with four interceptions.
Start Time: Saturday, 9 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at Watch ESPN here