No. 15 Ole Miss visits Texas A&M in high-stakes SEC showdown
With Southeastern Conference road losses dominating them last week, No. 15 Ole Miss and Texas A&M will try to reverse their fortunes when they meet Saturday night in College Station, Texas.
The Rebels (7-1, 3-1) tumbled eight spots in the Top 25 after experiencing defeat for the first time last weekend, but coach Lane Kiffin’s run-oriented offense went about losing in a strange way.
Before dropping its 45-20 decision at LSU, Ole Miss led 17-3 after Jonathan Cruz’s field goal on the second quarter’s first play. The Rebels then led 20-17 at halftime, with one of the nation’s top rushers to move the chains, consume time and add points to move to 8-0 and keep their top 10 ranking.
Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels and the LSU defense had something else in mind.
The home side ended the game on a 28-3 run, while the defense held Kiffin’s offense without a point in the second half. With rusher Zach Evans injured, the vaunted running game headed by him and Quinshon Judkins (111 yards on 25 carries, two TDs) produced just 117 yards on 37 tries.
Kiffin said his squad will encounter a similarly raucous crowd as the one they played in front of at LSU’s Death Valley.
With a seating capacity of 102,733 at the Aggies’ Kyle Field and boisterous fans cheering along with team-supporting chants in unison, Ole Miss — 0-4 all-time at College Station — can expect a more antagonistic playing environment in the massive stadium.
“I think (the Aggies will) be very excited to play, and they’re coming home after being on the road for a long time,” Kiffin said. “Their crowd is always one of the hardest places to play in the country.”
In South Carolina, Texas A&M (3-4, 1-3) fell behind 17-0 inside the first six minutes against the Gamecocks then rallied to get it to within three in the third quarter. However, the hosts hung on for a 30-24 win.
But Saturday night’s matchup in eastern Texas will be all about two West Division programs: One that has exceeded expectations and still has plenty at stake, the other desperately clinging to respectability in a brutal season.
If the Rebels win their four remaining games, which would include beating Alabama at home and ending with an Egg Bowl win over rival Mississippi State, and LSU manage to lose at least once in its final three SEC games – Alabama, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M – Kiffin’s squad would go to the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3.
The Aggies’ goal is to break their three-game losing streak. They can still finish 8-4.
“Our guys believe and they’re into it,” said coach Jimbo Fisher, whose team will be playing at home for the first time since beating Miami 17-9 on Sept. 17.
With Max Johnson sidelined with a hand injury, Haynes King is expected to get the nod at quarterback. King left with a shoulder injury last week, turning the duties over to true freshman Conner Weigman.
The Aggies haven’t lost four straight games in the same season since 2005 when they were a member of the Big 12. Despite holding a 9-4 advantage in the series, they lost 29-19 at Ole Miss last year.
–Field Level Media