Since joining the Southeastern Conference in 2012, the Texas A&M Aggies have been all over the place in terms of excitement and consistency. From having the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, to beating Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium, to hiring Jimbo Fisher for $75 million, the cult heroes from College Station have been quite the hoot.
In the seven games in conference, the Aggies hold a 4-3 advantage over the Rebels, two of which came on the shoulders of the aforementioned Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel. Every game outside of a 2015 beat down in Oxford has been a fourth-quarter game and I honestly expect much of the same this season.
Despite Jimbo recruiting at a high level, he still doesn’t have a scary quarterback under center and regardless of the talent-level disparity across the board, Ole Miss somehow, some way finds a path to playing them close, year in and year out.
So will it happen again this year? It could. Hear me out.
The body blow theory is in play.
A week before the Aggies make the trip to Oxford, Miss., they will be coming off a rivalry game against Arkansas in Dallas at Jerry World and a tussle with the Crimson Tide. The Hogs won’t factor into this as much as past years, but the Tide is sure to be favored in this game, as they will be in every contest in 2019. Alabama is the prohibitive favorite to get back to the national title and compete for another title.
With that said, taking on Alabama then traveling on the road for another conference game is never a fun thing to do. At this point in the season, Fisher’s team will have played Clemson, Auburn, and Alabama and could potentially be reeling and licking their wounds a bit.
Please keep Kellen Mond in your thoughts. He has now been sacked 10 times (and counting) in two games against Alabama.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 22, 2018
If this is the case, that Alabama team could beat A&M twice in 2019 if the Aggies don’t regroup quick, fast, and in a hurry before getting to Oxford. Which brings us to the Rebels.
In a perfect world (and a somewhat reasonable one at that, too), Ole Miss will be 5-2 at this point in the season, coming off a loss to Missouri on the road. If this is the case, and the Aggies are anywhere from 4-2 or 3-3, the crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium could be a big one. Mid-October weather should lend a hand and if it is at night, all bets are off.
Trayveon Williams and Jace Sternberger are gone.
A&M’s leading rusher last season is now a Cincinnati Bengal after running for 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns and Sterberger is now a Green Bay Packer after hauling in 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those two safety nets for quarterback Kellen Mond and Jimbo’s offense are now gone. Sure Mond ran for 474 yards last season, but me thinks Fisher won’t want to run him too much and to do his best to keep him as upright as possible since former backup quarterback Nick Starkel is now an Arkansas Razorback.
Sternberger torched Ole Miss last year for 19 yards per catch, hauling in tough catch after tough catch on third down and extending drives, keeping the Rebel defense on the field. That reliable target is now gone and it will take some time for Mond to find another one like that before taking on Mike MacIntyre in Oxford.
The offensive line is a concern.
Despite paving the way for Williams’ huge year, their pass protection was abysmal in 2018. Mond was sacked 34 times and his center, Erik McCoy, left early for the NFL. 21 of those sacks came in the first six games. The overall total for the year was second only to LSU’s Joe Burrow (35) in the SEC.
Unreal. Auburn wins 28-24. Aggie OL couldn't even hold a three-man rush on the final play as Kellen Mond is sacked. A&M offense crumbled in the fourth.— Alex Miller (@AlexMill20) November 3, 2018
Fisher is also welcoming in a brand new offensive line coach to his staff after Jim Turner left College Station to join the Bengals staff. Needless to say, newly-hired Josh Henson, formerly of Oklahoma State, has his work cut out for him in 2019.
This series is wacky.
No one truly knows what’s going to happen in this game, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be fun. The aforementioned beat down in 2015 is the lone blowout in this series since 2012. The rest of the games have been doozies!
Outside of the two wins in 2014 and 2015 (won by a combined total of 52-31), every other game has been decided by 14 points or fewer, including one seven-point loss, two three-point losses, and one one-point loss. Even more weird, both teams have won big games at the other’s place.
Maybe that means that A&M is due another one in 2019 or maybe Ole Miss wins another weird one at home like they did 2015. All in all, there is no way to predict what will happen in this game, but it could be a chance for the Rebels to pull of an upset in order to get to six or seven wins and find themselves in the postseason for the first time in three years.