Sep 29, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (11) runs after a catch against the Texas A
For the third time in 98 years and only the fourth time ever, Ole Miss (3-2, 0-1) and Texas A&M (3-1, 1-1) will square off on the gridiron. It will be the first time that the Aggies will make the trip to Oxford as the previous four were played in Beaumont, Jackson, and twice in College Station. In a league synonymous with defense, this matchup will put the 4th ranked offense (Ole Miss) against the 2nd ranked offense (Texas A&m).
The Texas A&M defense is ranked 33rd nationally. Part of the success of the defense has been the lackluster opposing offense. The Aggies have faced the number 55 (Arkansas, 60 (Florida), 102 (SMU) offense in the country, not to mention FCS team South Carolina St. While the quality of opponents are not the fault of the defense, let’s not crown them among the SEC’s defensive elite just yet. A&M has only gained five turnovers, four interceptions and one fumble recovery. That is good for 95th nationally and tied for 10th in the conference, only besting Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Auburn.
Texas A&M is coming off a game where the defense allowed 373 yards of passing and 142 yards of rushing. Arkansas was only able to muster ten points due to a pair of timely interceptions by the Aggie defense and a total of nine tackles for loss, none of those by way of a sack. The Razorbacks were just 9-22 on third down and 1-5 on fourth. A defense who makes timely plays is the scariest to face, even if it does not end in turnovers.
Ole Miss will play one of two games on Saturday, depending on the quarterback. Hugh Freeze likes to say that both quarterbacks have the same packages, but that is a little hard to believe. Bo Wallace has a stronger arm than Brunetti and can make throws down the field that Brunetti can not make. He is bigger, but not quicker, making running plays for the two different. Brunetti is consistently accurate, but he fails to take risks down the field. Long drives that control the clock from the explosive A&M offense fits Brunetti perfectly. He can make smart throws anywhere on the field inside of 15 yards, and is agile when he moves out of the pocket and can gain yards with his feet.
If it is a shootout that the coaching staff wants, then Wallace is certainly the guy. Crossing patterns with Philander Moore and Vincent Sanders 20-25 yards down the field is Wallace’s best lane. The fans who don the “Feed Moncrief” shirts will be pleased to see lots of shots down the field to the sophomore receiver. Texas A&M starts a true freshman in De’Vante Harris at one corner spot and sophomore Deshazor Everett at the other spot. Former fraudulent-signee Floyd Raven, another sophomore, also sees considerable time. A young secondary puts a glint in Freeze’s eye which means lots of tests up the field on go-routes and steady passes along the sidelines. Defending the pass has been a real struggle all year for the Aggies, so expect an otherwise balanced Ole Miss offense to become more pass orientated this week.
One problem that faces the Rebels is the blitz-happy Aggie defense. Averaging 8.25 TFL’s per game, Texas A&M ranks 12th in the country. A multiple 4-3 plays to Ole Miss more than a 3-4, but the Rebel line, who has continued to gel, will need to act as a solid unit to hold off the blitzes. Against Alabama, the line allowed eight tackles for loss, including five sacks. Those numbers will have to improve to allow the quarterback time to exploit the young secondary. Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton on the edges will need to seal off the outside rush to allow for rollout passes and open-space running room.
Ole Miss likely will not have the opportunity to set up the pass with the run as much as usual. A&M has a solid run defense, centered around Jonathan Stewart. The senior linebacker has 30 tackles this year, mainly dropping into coverage and spy. He is the second-level stopper for the Aggies and is crucial to not allowing big plays on the ground. The first-level enforcer for A&M is Damontre Moore. The junior is second in the country in sacks per game and has six on the year. Moore is a Demarcus Ware type off the edge where he can play line or a blitzing linebacker. If the offensive line can get room for Jeff Scott outside then the running game will be successful, if not, it will be a long day filled with little yards on the ground.
This expects to be a great game for the Rebel offense to put up good numbers against a strong opponent. Wallace could have a big game here, and Moncrief almost certainly will. The young defensive backs will be challenged all night, which has to be something that has Freeze and Wallace licking their chops.