Unless quarterback Johnny Manziel doesn't suit up, there’s no chance that the Ole Miss Rebels can keep up with the Texas A&M Aggies offense when they square off on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Sure, Texas A&M’s defense has been downright awful for much of the season. However, the potency of the Manziel-led offensive attack has the capability to make the opposition's defense look just as bad...if not worse.
Even Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace wouldn't dare make a quip about that.
If you recall, it was just last month that the Aggies scorched Alabama’s vaunted defense for 42 points and 628 total yards. It was the same Crimson Tide defensive unit shut that out the Rebels two weeks ago, limiting them to just 205 yards of offense.
While Manziel picked apart the Tide’s secondary for 464 yards and five touchdown passes, Wallace looked lost under center (164 total yards).
Even Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze didn’t come off optimistic about his team’s chances.
“I don’t know if we can [keep pace with Texas A&M offense],” he said, via ESPN’s Edward Aschoff, “Where we are right now with our program, I’m not sure. We’re going to certainly give it our best effort.”
Not exactly the confidence I’d like to hear from my coach if I was inside that Rebels locker room. Then again, the offense hasn't really given him much reason to believe.
That wasn't always the case.
Throughout Ole Miss’ 3-0 start, the offense seemed to be rolling. That was especially evident on the ground.
Behind 330 yards from running back Jeff Scott, the Rebels averaged 250 rushing yards per game while finding the end zone 10 times during that stretch.
|Opponent||Team Rushing Yards||Result|
|at Vanderbilt (8/29)||206||W 39-35|
|SE Missouri St (9/7)||272||W 31-13|
|at Texas (9/14)||272||W 44-23|
|at Alabama (9/28)||46||L 25-0|
|at Auburn (10/5)||124||L 30-22|
However, in back-to-back losses to Alabama and Auburn, the team averaged just 85 yards per contest and produced no touchdowns. Even Scott cooled down, totaling just 96 yards in the two games.
Furthermore, Ole Miss’ no-huddle offense has become a mess.
Against the Tigers last weekend, the offense averaged just 1.6 yards per play when going to the hurry-up approach. Wallace didn't fare too much better, going just 2-of-10 in such situations.
By comparison, he was 19-of-23 over the Rebels first four games.
But whatever ailment is plaguing Ole Miss’ offense, playing the Aggies defense will likely be the cure.
Does Ole Miss have what it takes to pull off the upset?
Through five games, the unit ranks No. 87 in scoring (30.8 PPGA), No. 112 in total defense (476.8 YPGA), No. 109 against the rush (214.8 YPGA) and No. 95 against the pass (262.0 YPGA). Texas A&M ranks last, or near the bottom, in the SEC in every category.
To put it simply, the defense is so bad, it made people start to believe that Alabama had something more than just a decent offense.
Those four touchdown tosses AJ McCarron had against the Aggies? He’s only thrown six in his other four games combined, with four coming against first-year BCS school Georgia State.
To Texas A&M’s credit, the defense has been ravaged by a slew of injuries and suspensions to start the year. Most recently, the unit lost senior defensive tackle Kirby Ennis for the season, according to The Associated Press.
But even still, nothing really makes me believe that the Rebels can hang with Manziel and Co. I get that Wallace is fresh off a 336-yard, two-touchdown performance over Auburn. But how do you sugarcoat losing a quarterback duel to Nick Marshall and all of his 93 yards of passing?
After registering a RAW QBR of 91.8 in Week 2, Wallace has put up ratings of 79.5, 15.2 and 20.5 over his next three outings. Not to mention, he’s rushed for negative yards in the last two games after racking up 120 over the first three.
If Ole Miss is to pull off the upset, it needs Wallace playing at a high level.
Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening, regardless of the opponent.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.