Despite a seven-point loss to No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M remains one of the top teams in the nation. However, Ole Miss has a great chance of knocking off its elite opponent Saturday.
After two tough road losses at Alabama and Auburn, the Rebels need to get back on the right track with a big win. This will not be easy against the No. 9 team in the country, led by reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
Still, the squad has the talent and the motivation to pull off this feat. Despite being a six-point underdog, according to Vegas Insider, Ole Miss will earn a much-needed win over the Aggies and move back into the Top 25 by the end of the weekend.
It will not be easy, but the Rebels will earn the victory thanks to the following advantages.
Re-establishing the Run Game
One of the major reasons Ole Miss has struggled recently is the absence of a rushing attack in the past two games. This is not due to ineffectiveness but lack of trying.
Senior running back Jeff Scott has only 14 carries in the last two games combined, despite averaging 6.7 yards per carry in that time. This apparently will change in the upcoming contest as Hugh Freeze plans to run it more, according to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.
The Rebels have the talent on the offensive line and in the backfield to be successful but more importantly are facing a defense that has struggled in this area all season.
Texas A&M enters the week ranked 109th in the nation in run defense, allowing an average of 214.8 rushing yards per game. Arkansas' Alex Collins ran for 116 yards himself against Texas A&M two weeks ago, and it helped keep the Razorbacks in the game.
Not only does running the ball help balance the offense and move the chains, but it also helps control the clock while keeping the opposing offense off the field. The longer Manziel remains on the bench, the better.
Scott and company should have a big day on the ground and control possession for this young team.
Ability to Stop the Pass
Ole Miss struggled to stop a dual-threat quarterback in its most recent loss as Auburn's Nick Marshall ran all over the defense. While Manziel is capable of replicating this, the sophomore has been tending to look to pass first this season.
This is where the Rebels could cause some problems. They currently rank 18th in the country in passing yards allowed per game, holding Auburn and Alabama to only 273 combined yards in the two games.
The squad has big, physical cornerbacks that can shut down most receivers and at the very least slow down the red-hot Mike Evans. This could cause problems for the opposing quarterback, who will become more of a one-dimensional player.
Manziel excels due to his big-play ability, and Ole Miss has the ability to prevent large gains. Even if he picks up big chunks of yards on the ground, it will still reduce the quarterback's effectiveness.
If the Rebels are able to take out Texas A&M's biggest strength, it will keep this game extremely close throughout.
Return to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
College football is a lot like real estate in the fact that it is all about location, location, location. Games across the country are always decided by home-field advantage, and Ole Miss has a good one at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
A brutal start to the season has given Ole Miss only one home game all season, and that was against Southeast Missouri State. You can imagine that fans will be a big more excited for this showdown.
After more than a month since playing at home, the Grove will be as packed as ever, and the fans inside the stadium will make a lot of noise all game. This could slow down the Texas A&M offense that likes to move quickly down the field.
Additionally, many players on the Rebels have never played in a home game of this magnitude. The freshmen will get an emotional boost behind their fans, and it will fuel them throughout the game.
Ole Miss had two hard-fought losses on the road against quality opponents. A return home should be all the team needs to get back into the win column.
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