It was a much-needed bye week for the panel after a rocky performance against the spread versus…
Five Keys to Success - Ole Miss
The Ole Miss defense is young, fast, and undersized. Don't be surprised to see the Aggie offense perform a little bit of smash mouth, grind-it-out football like they did in the second half of the Arkansas game. I expect to see A&M establish the power running game with Tra Carson and Ben Malena early in the contest, and then after loosening up the Rebel defense, take some shots down the field. While I think the Aggies work to establish the run early, I do think there's an opportunity for Johnny Manziel and the offense to rack up some impressive numbers in this game. The Ole Miss defense has some talent, but it's spotty and very young. The unit is ripe for the picking.
2) Commit Fewer Than Two Turnovers
Pundits point to last year's game as a reason why this game will be a dog fight. The game could very well turn into a close shoot-out, but the pundits forget that Texas A&M turned the ball over six times. Manziel is a much different QB this time around. He's more controlled and a smarter decision-maker in the pocket and outside the pocket. That means fewer mistakes and fewer turnovers. In addition, last year's game was played in the rain. The forecast for Saturday is dry. The Aggies should be in position to win the game with fewer than two turnovers.
3) Put Pressure on Wallace
Analysts point to the Rebels' struggles on offense in recent games against Alabama and Auburn. Bo Wallace has troubles when stressed in the pocket. The offensive line is a big weak link, and both Alabama and Auburn had the defenders upfront to take advantage of that weakness. Unfortunately, the Aggies' weakness on defense so far has been the front seven. Add in the fact that senior Kirby Ennis is gone for the season and true freshman Isaiah Golden now starts at the nose guard position, one has to wonder does Texas A&M have the ability to exploit the Rebels' exposure along the line. I don't think A&M can pressure Wallace without sending extra men to collapse the pocket, so expect defensive coordinator Mark Snyder to blitz often. He'll try to keep Wallace guessing with a good mix of linebacker, corner, and safety blitzes. If Snyder doesn't succeed in disrupting Wallace, it could be a long day for the secondary covering talented receivers Treadwell and Moncrief.
4) Contain Rebel Run Game between Tackles
The diminutive Jeff Scott isn't a franchise back, but he can be dangerous if he gets outside of containment…like Alex Collins did against A&M at the end of the first half of the Arkansas game. Scott only has 424 yards rushing this season, but he has runs of 75, 32, and 52 yards so if he can break defensive containment, he's explosive and can take it to the house. Thus, it is critical for the Aggie defense to hold its gap assignments, and that's particularly important for the linebackers who have struggled all season over-pursuing run plays. If Texas A&M can keep Scott bottled up between the tackles, the Ole Miss offensive line will have a tough time creating lanes and a push, even against an Aggie front seven that has played spotty at best.
5) Effective Kicking Game
The Aggies don't need to make 50-yard field goals to win this game. They need to make extra points and field goals inside 40 yards. That sounds simple enough, but highly-touted kicker Taylor Bertolet struggled with the easy kicks going back to 2012 and it finally cost him his job. Enter walk-on and former MLS goalkeeper Josh Lambo into the mix as he took over the full-time field goal duties against Arkansas. He was perfect on his six extra points and a 39-yard field goal. While his debut performance was encouraging, it was only one game. Given recent history, Texas A&M fans will be holding their collective breath until Lambo can prove a few more times that he can make the very makeable. But another solid outing by Lambo in Oxford will go a long way to a ninth straight road win under head coach Kevin Sumlin.
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