For the second consecutive year, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M will take a visit to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., to battle out a Southeastern Conference matchup with Ole Miss. The Aggies jump back into the fray after a useful bye week, while the Rebels hope to stop their two-game skid against the ninth-ranked squad in the country.
After knocking off Arkansas nearly two weeks ago, A&M needs to continue building up wins in order to keep pace with SEC West leader Alabama, hoping the Crimson Tide will stumble somewhere during the season. Meanwhile, Ole Miss is just hoping to recover after two tough losses to the top-ranked Crimson Tide and Auburn, especially against an SEC foe such as the Aggies.
As for the game details, check out the following:
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 12
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.
Radio: Texas A&M Sports Network
Spread: Texas A&M sits as a six-point favorite over Mississippi, according to vegasinsider.com
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand
With rain pouring down on Fayetteville, Ark., two weeks ago, the A&M offense proved it was more than just Johnny Manziel and his deadly passing attack as running backs Trey Williams, Ben Malena and Tra Carson dominated the field for multiple late scores.
On the road against Ole Miss, a team with tons of pass rushing talent on the defensive line, A&M needs to look to its rushing attack consistently in order to hold off the pressure on Manziel when he drops back to throw downfield.
Relentless Pass Rush
A key factor in A&M's lack of success on defense has been a lackluster pass rush, which ultimately allows opposing quarterbacks gaudy amounts of time in the pocket. Ole Miss signal-caller Bo Wallace will pick apart the talented A&M secondary with enough time, meaning the Aggie front seven must find a way to reach the quarterback.
Generating turnovers and holding onto the ball is key for any team, but A&M has a dirty history with Ole Miss in this department. During last season's 30-27 razor's edge victory, the Aggies committed six turnovers, and this year around, the Rebels offense won't be so forgiving with as many giveaways.
Protect Bo Wallace
The transfer quarterback has a solid arm, allowing this offense tons of options when moving the ball. The Aggie pass rush hasn't been too worthy so far this season, but hits or sacks on Wallace are quick ways to stall this offense, as Alabama proved two weeks ago.
Shielding Wallace early and often will keep the Rebels rolling, as Ole Miss' talented receiving corps finds space against A&M's secondary.
Forcing the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to be one-dimensional is a key to making him uncomfortable, and taking away Johnny Football's scrambling ability would be a first step forward in generating a few stops during the game.
No one can shut Manziel down, but finding a few stops would be the Rebels only hope of helping their own offense try to keep pace.
As most head coaches have begun to understand, special teams play can be a strong determinant for the outcome of any game. The Aggies are true believers in that policy, and Ole Miss will have to find ways to pin the A&M offense deep in order to assist its own defense in finding room to contain Manziel and the offense.
Who else would you tune in for? Manziel's performance last season against Ole Miss was electric, specifically in the fourth quarter, and viewers should expect much of the same from Manziel this season. An increased level of maturation has allowed the quarterback to evolve both his passing and rushing games, and don't expect that to change against the Rebels.
The sophomore wideout's second quarter ankle injury sidelined Evans for a majority of the bye week practices, but coaches are confident Manziel's favorite target will be ready to go for Ole Miss. Through five games, Evans' top-of-the-line statistics prove him to one of the best in the country, and even on an injured ankle, the big-time receiver should have room to perform.
With senior defensive tackle Kirby Ennis out for the remainder of the season, the Aggies are left with little veteran leadership on their front line. Keep an eye out for who steps up and helps this unit back into position when out on the field.
The transfer quarterback has shown he has the arm to match up with some of the conference's top defenses, and as long as he keeps his mouth shut and mind focused on the game, he has the potential to generate points for the Rebel offense at will.
The elusive running back is a key component for Ole Miss out of the backfield, whether on a screen pass, a simple hand off or in the flat as a Wallace relief valve. Expect Scott to put up strong numbers against an A&M defense that has struggled against the run so far this season.
The nation's top recruit on the defensive line against college football's reigning Heisman Trophy winner? This should be good.
During Texas A&M's weekly Tuesday press conference, head coach Kevin Sumlin said the Aggies' close victory last year was key to the team's later success in its 11-2 inaugural season with the SEC.
“You can point back to that and say that was a pretty big deal,” Sumlin said. “I wasn’t here the year before, but all I heard was that we would’ve lost that game. All the emotion in the locker room to go out and win our first road game in the SEC. At the time, everybody said we beat a team that hadn’t won very much. That team ended up being a thorn in everybody’s side.”
As for Ole Miss, quarterback Bo Wallace said the Rebel offense needed to put up a lot of points in order to match the output of Johnny Manziel and the dynamic Aggie attack.
“They’re going to have to play against the best player in college football right now. And we know that, and he’s going to put up a lot of points,” Wallace said. “So we have to answer it on every drive that we have.”
As for the A&M offense, sophomore center Mike Matthews said the Aggies feel they should score on every drive, considering the versatility and talent they own throughout the squad.
“I feel like we’re unstoppable,” Matthews said. “We’re always driving down the field, making big plays and guys are really playing great. Every time we step on the field, we expect to go out there and put points up on the board. It’s kind of a disappointment if we get stopped, especially because it’s us beating ourselves with mental errors and penalties.”
Prediction: Texas A&M 52 Mississippi 38
The Rebels will put up a good fight, but ultimately, Manziel and the A&M offense will dominate down the stretch and pull away late in the game. With two defenses not particularly keen on takeaways, not many mistakes will be made by either offense as Wallace and the Rebels will just fail to keep pace with the A&M air raid attack.