When you've got Johnny Manziel, how much defense do you really need?
That's been Kevin Sumlin's operating procedure this season. According to NCAA.com, the Texas A&M Aggies are 87th in scoring defense, 112th in total defense and 109th in pass defense. Hey, at least they're 67th in passing efficiency defense.
The Aggies defense will have to be much better than it was against Arkansas if they're going to beat Ole Miss. What the Rebels lack in terms of star power, they make up for with a well-balanced offense that can beat you in a variety of ways.
Bo Wallace is the kind of quarterback who can break out for a huge game. He had 305 yards passing, with two touchdowns last year against the Aggies. What saved Texas A&M is the three interceptions he surrendered.
Jeff Scott will be a much larger concern. The senior running back has been hit-or-miss this season, rushing for 138 and 164 yards against Vanderbilt and Texas, respectively. In his other three games, Scott has run for a combined 122 yards. So while there's that inconsistency, you wouldn't want to hedge your bets that you're going to hit him on an off week.
Against what has been a bad rush defense, Scott could be in for a huge game. If he can get going, that just takes pressure off Wallace and opens up the passing game.
In short, Texas A&M could well be on upset alert against Ole Miss because of the defense.
There's also the long-term view of where the Aggies could go this season and whether or not the defense will hold them back. So far, it's been an issue, but not so much of one that it's resulted in a complete implosion.
Giving up 49 to the Alabama Crimson Tide still stings, but there's no shame in losing to the No. 1 team in the country, no matter how many points you give up.
With the nature of Texas A&M's offense, a lot of points are going to be scored. The Aggies have the ball for just about 28 minutes a game, 96th in the country.
With that level of efficiency on offense, Texas A&M doesn't need a top 10 defense. It just needs to do enough to keep the other team under 30 or 40 points. However, the problem is that what the defense is doing may reach unsustainable levels. You saw some worrying signs against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Against a below-average offense, there's no excuse for giving up 483 yards and 33 points.
Manziel and Ben Malena were able to wrap it up late, but it was a game that was more competitive than it should have been.
Luckily for the Aggies, they've had a week to think things over. Mark Snyder has had an opportunity to fine-tune his defense and figure out the biggest problem areas.
And he's got a nice test in the form of the Rebels.
After looking really good for the first three weeks, Ole Miss was humbled by Alabama. That loss was followed with another to the Auburn Tigers. They'll be looking to atone for those two losses and prove that they weren't some three-week flash in the pan.
It's important the Aggies defense shows some improvement against Ole Miss. While Texas A&M's next major test is still over a month away—Nov. 23 at LSU—it would be best served by making baby steps with the defense.