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What we know, kinda know, and don’t know: Gig ‘em edition

Is there a yell leader hand signal for a $60+ million buyout?

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Texas A&M Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

My original plan for this space was to write a meandering 2500-word post that mimicked the pace of a Jimbo Fisher offense, but I ran out of time (see you in Oxford, friends), which means we’re doing more of a lightning round this week.

After an offensive performance against Vanderbilt that registered as less than inspiring, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M team that will likely not let them get away with a second-half offensive opt-out. While the Aggies have offensive issues, their defense is at or near the top of the conference in every advanced stat.

If the Ole Miss offense doesn’t play at a higher level, Texas A&M’s defense is more than capable of keeping the game close while waiting on their offense to cobble together a few scoring drives. The point being, the recipe for another one-score game is there, and, while Ole Miss is 3-0 in those games this year, that is not sustainable.

What We Know

If you are not LSU’s offense, the Ole Miss defense will make your life difficult

Granted, none of these offenses are above average statistically, but a smattering of stats for your consumption.

vs. Arkansas

  • 20 points allowed
  • 4.2 yards/play
  • 1.2 yards/rush
  • 6.4 yards/pass attempt
  • 5 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) on 3rd/4th down (a little rough!)

vs. Auburn

  • 21 points allowed
  • 4.9 yards/play
  • 3.9 yards/rush
  • 7.2 yards/pass attempt
  • 3 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 6 of 17 (35.3 percent) on 3rd/4th down

vs. Vanderbilt

  • 7 points allowed
  • 3.6 yards/play
  • 3.8 yards/rush
  • 3.0 yards/pass attempt
  • 5 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 4 of 20 (20 percent) on 3rd/4th down

While we’re here, let’s bring in the Alabama game.

  • 24 points allowed
  • 5.4 yards/play
  • 2.9 yards/rush
  • 10.7 yards/pass attempt (not great!)
  • 4 sacks
  • 1 interception
  • 6 of 13 (46.2 percent) on 3rd/4th down (also rough!)

While Texas A&M’s offense is better than all of those, the Aggies are middle of the pack in the SEC and slightly above average nationally. Once again, Parker Fleming’s fine work.

It was comforting to know that, even though the Vandy game was unpleasant to watch at times, they were never a threat

I mention this because of [dramatic gesture at this list of Ole Miss/Vanderbilt scores since 1999]:

  • 37-34 Vandy
  • 12-7 OM
  • 38-27 OM
  • 45-38 OM
  • 24-21 OM
  • 26-23 OM
  • 31-23 Vandy
  • 17-10 OM
  • 31-17 Vandy
  • 23-17 Vandy
  • 23-7 OM
  • 28-14 Vandy
  • 30-7 Vandy
  • 27-26 Vandy
  • 39-35 OM
  • 41-3 OM
  • 27-16 OM
  • 38-17 Vandy
  • 57-35 OM
  • 36-29 Vandy
  • 31-6 OM
  • 54-21 OM
  • 31-17 OM
  • 52-28 OM
  • 33-7 OM

That’s 15 out of 21 games Vanderbilt either won or was within one score when Lane Kiffin wasn’t the coach. Since Kiffin’s arrival (54-21), Ole Miss has outscored Vanderbilt 170 to 73, with an average score of 42.5-18.3 and no game has been within two scores.

The lesson is don’t hire clowns who can’t feast on free wins.

Lane Kiffin/Charlie Weis Jr. dialing up a multi-level attack in the red zone

As you may have heard a time or billion, when an offense gets in the red zone, particularly near the goal line, the field becomes compressed, and defenders don’t have to worry about gettin beat over the top. That makes it harder for offenses to attack in the passing game at multiple levels (deep, intermediate, and short).

In the second quarter against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss found a creative way to do just that. On 1st and goal, the Rebels line up with Jordan Watkins, Dayton Wade, and Caden Prieskorn in a bunch formation to Jaxon Dart’s right.

Tre Harris is in tight to Dart’s left, and Quinshon Judkins is behind him in the pistol. Watkins comes in motion out of the bunch, as if he’s going to be involved in a jet sweep or be general eye candy.

Right before the snap, Watkins reverses his field and run a route into the flat. Prieskorn and Harris run mesh, and Wade runs a corner route, while Judkins stay in for pass protection.

So you can see the short (Watkins to the flat), intermediate (Harris across on the mesh), and “deep” (Wade to the corner). Wade gets wide open because a Vanderbilt defensive back gets confused, as he initially follows Watkins on the motion and jumps to take him in the flat, leaving Wade alone.

However, even if the Vanderbilt defensive back sank with Wade, Harris would’ve been wide open on the intermediate route, as there would’ve been nothing but space in front of him (the linebackers were initially more interested in a run with Judkins, who had a great block in protection).

More of the ball in a dual threat quarterback’s hands and less of wildcat plays with defensive linemen pls.

What We Kinda Know

Perhaps an offensive funk?

After lighting up LSU, things have not been great on offense. They’ve been good enough thanks to the defense playing well enough to not need them to be great.

Kiffin talked after the Auburn game about playing more conservatively knowing his defense had control of the opposing offense. And maybe that’s been the formula the last three games, which has resulted in periods of play I would not describe as crisp. Or maybe it’s a sign of the offense tailing off as more of what they do gets on film.

Whatever the reason, some offensive stats for your consumption.

vs. Arkansas

  • 27 points
  • 5 yards/play
  • 4.4 yards/rush
  • 6.1 yards/pass attempt
  • 2 sacks allowed
  • 0 interceptions
  • 6 of 17 (35.3 percent) on 3rd/4th down

vs. Auburn

  • 28 points
  • 5.8 yards/play
  • 4.0 yards/rush
  • 11.9 yards/pass attempt (excellent)
  • 4 sacks allowed
  • 2 interceptions
  • 4 of 15 (26.7 percent) on 3rd/4th down

vs. Vanderbilt

  • 33 points
  • 6.2 yards/play
  • 4.4 yards/rush
  • 8.8 yards/pass attempt
  • 3 sacks allowed
  • 1 interception
  • 7 of 16 (43.8 percent) on 3rd/4th down

Many people are saying they would love to see those stats improve. Texas A&M’s defense may make that difficult to do, but if the Ole Miss defense continues its trend against non-LSU offenses, maybe the Rebels’ offense can get away with being in the pocket of fine but not great.

What We Don’t Know

Are Texas A&M’s defensive stats inflated due to playing some bad offenses?

Here are the rankings of offenses the Aggies have played (once again via Parker Fleming):

  • New Mexico - 50th
  • Miami - 34th
  • Louisiana-Monroe -115th
  • Auburn - 91st
  • Arkansas - 120th
  • Alabama - 79th
  • Tennessee - 52nd
  • South Carolina - 63rd

For comparison, Ole Miss is 24th. They also put 530 yards and 31 points on D.J. Durkin’s defense last year (390 rushing yards), with a less good Jaxson Dart.

It should be noted that the Hurricanes’ offense scored 41 points (team had 48 total, with 7 via a kick return), though they did get some help via turnovers. They also threw for 374 yards.

Again, we don’t know if this has any value on Saturday, but it is of note.

Can the defense continue its performance against non-LSU offenses or will that be amended to garbage offenses only?

As previously stated, the Aggies aren’t bad on offense, but they’re not standing out, with Max Johnson not bringing a lot to the table. However, Texas A&M is a step up in offensive class from the previous three games.

At the very least, we will find out if we can expect Georgia to score a million points or slightly less than that.