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Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M baseball 2016: TV, online streaming and preview

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The Rebs might be playing for a national seed in College Station this weekend.

Josh McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss can do three things when it treks off to College Station to end the regular season against No. 2-ranked Texas A&M:

1. Reach 40 wins for just the fourth time in program history.

One more will do it.

2. Win the SEC West.

Ole Miss is 17-10 in conference play, one game behind 18-9 A&M in the division standings. Win two of three and the Rebs would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The problem is that Ole Miss also needs to pass 18-9-1 Mississippi State, which effectively has a two-game lead on the Rebs thanks to the tiebreaker. The Grinders close the season at home against a terrible Arkansas team, so don't hold your breath.

3. (Possibly) secure a national seed.

It appears the SEC will get four of the eight national seeds, the last of which will come down to Ole Miss or South Carolina. Here's the tale of the tape heading into the weekend:

Overall SEC RPI Non-con RPI vs. RPI top 50 SOS
Ole Miss 39-14 17-10 6th 4th 13-12 16th
Carolina 39-13 17-9 7th 23rd 10-12 27th

Carolina has a series sweep to hold over Ole Miss' head, but that's also their only real quality series win this season (they lost to No. 2 A&M, No. 11 Vandy, No. 22 Clemson and Kentucky). The Rebs, meanwhile, boast series wins over No. 5 Louisville, No. 8 LSU and Kentucky. Add a W over A&M (No. 4 in the RPI) and that resume might be enough to overcome the sweep, even if the Gamecocks win their series in Tuscaloosa.

The series gets underway on Thursday night. Here's what to look for.

3 big questions

1. Can Ole Miss avoid being bludgeoned to death by the Aggie bats?

A&M's offense is, uh, pretty damn good. It leads the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage, RBI and total bases. Seven of the regular starters are hitting over .300 and five of them are at least .320. Boomer White leads the conference in batting average (.416) and on-base percentage (.492), Hunter Melton is tops in runs batted in (60) and J.B. Moss is first in runs scored (54).

That bashing machine goes up against a Rebel staff that's loaded in the bullpen but a bit shaky when it comes to weekend starters. For as solid as Brady Bramlett is, he's not a shutdown ace (he's allowed at least three runs and failed to last longer than four innings in two of his last three starts) and David Parkinson has had a few shaky outings since taking over the No. 2 spot.

And then there's the Game 3 starter...

2. Can Chad Smith please, please, please be decent on Saturday?

Smith, who started the season as a reliable Game 2 starter, has looked fantastic at times: he allowed just two runs over 7.0 innings against Louisville, picked up a win against Coastal Carolina and struck out seven in his SEC debut in Knoxville. But he came apart shortly thereafter and was eventually moved back to the midweek role when James McArthur was promoted to Sunday.

With the McArthur experiment falling flat (10.00 ERA in three SEC starts) and Smith throwing well in midweek action (1.06 ERA and 23 strikeouts in his last three starts), Smith's back in the weekend rotation against A&M.

It's a gamble by Mike Bianco. Some thought he would use the final regular season weekend to try out freshman reliever Andy Pagnozzi, who only has a pair of midweek starts under his belt. If Smith gets shelled by the Aggies, the Rebs head into the postseason still searching for depth behind Bramlett and Parkinson (Sean Johnson's no longer an option after floundering against Arkansas State on Tuesday). That may well mean an inexperienced guy like Pags has to make his first significant start in a critical Game 3 or 4 during regional play.

3. Can Ole Miss ride its hot offense into the postseason?

This preview's gotten pretty damn pessimistic, huh? Not to worry, it's time for good news!

The Rebel bats have been smoking lately, which gives them a chance to hang with A&M's offense. J.B. Woodman has bashed eight dingers in his last 10 games and now leads the conference in that category. Henri Lartigue's average is all the way up to .358, the best hitting percentage among SEC catchers. Errol Robinson, who's average had at one point dipped below the Mendoza Line, is hitting .354 over his last 26 games and has at least one hit in 23 of those. As a team, the Rebs are hitting .307 during their four-series winning streak and have double-digit hits in eight of their last 12 SEC games.

The numbers

Complete Ole Miss statsComplete A&M stats

Team pitching
Ole Miss A&M
ERA 3.29 3.18
Strikeouts 432 466
Walks 170 160
Opponent average .255 .233
Team batting
Ole Miss A&M
Runs per game 6.2 7.1
Batting average .281 .314
On-base % .365 .392
Slugging % .412 .472
Dingers 40 49
Steals-attempts 39-60 61-83

How to watch

Thursday

First pitch: 6 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Projected pitchers
Ole Miss: RHP Brady Bramlett (7-2, 2.91 ERA)
A&M: RHP Brigham Hill (6-1, 2.18 ERA)

Friday

First pitch: 6:30 p.m. CT
TV: nope
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Projected pitchers
Ole Miss: LHP David Parkinson (4-2, 2.55 ERA)
A&M: RHP Turner Larkins (2-0, 2.08 ERA)

Saturday

First pitch: 2 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Projected pitchers
Ole Miss: RHP Chad Smith (4-4, 4.18 ERA)
A&M: RHP Kyle Simonds (8-2, 2.88 ERA)