It's only a small stretch, if it is any stretch at all, to call last weekend's game between the Texas A&M Aggies and Ole Miss Rebels an SEC West elimination game. The loser would end up with two conference losses, and between Alabama's continued winning and LSU's unblemished record, it's looking like there is a pretty good chance that the division champ will only have one loss in league play.
Ole Miss came out and won the game with strong defense despite that side of the ball being banged up and missing Robert Nkemdiche entirely. It was an impressive answer to the recent struggles the team has had, most notably its loss to Memphis the prior week.
This review is based on the Five Factors of winning. It ends two plays short of the end of the third quarter. Ole Miss took a 20-point lead into the final frame, and a lead of over 16 in the fourth quarter qualifies as garbage time by the Football Outsiders definition of it. I deleted the final two plays of the third quarter as well because they began a Texas A&M drive that mostly existed in the fourth quarter and didn't change the score.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
When I picked the Aggies to win this game, I cited their strong pass defense numbers as a big reason why. Well, Laquon Treadwell had a couple of big plays that you'd expect from a future first rounder, but the A&M defense did a great job at preventing long pass plays.
As for the A&M offense, it was not such a good story. This is the 20th Five Factors game review I've done this season, including one for the Aggies and Crimson Tide from last week that I didn't have time to write up, and this is only the third instance where I've seen a team get shut out of an explosive plays category prior to garbage time. The others were Wisconsin's run game against Alabama and Vanderbilt's pass game against Ole Miss. That makes two big play shutouts for the Rebel defense, which speaks highly of its A game. It's too bad for Hugh Freeze that it doesn't play at that A game level every week.
The main measure here is success rate.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
Here we actually do have a first for these 20 reviews, as every other team has run at least one play in the red zone prior to garbage time. A&M also gets the ignominy of being the first defense in the four I've charted out against the Rebels (the others: Florida, Alabama, and Vanderbilt) to allow a running success rate above 39%. I realize that Laremy Tunsil was playing his first game of the year, but if you're making Ole Miss's run game look functional, you're doing it wrong.
And while the Aggie defense didn't give up many long completions, the Rebels were still fairly efficient passing the ball when Chad Kelly wasn't throwing interceptions.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR|
Things weren't all bad for A&M from the start, as it at least managed drives of 11 plays and six plays before punting. Things fell off a cliff quickly though, and the only score the Aggies got was a field goal on a three-play drive with excellent field position granted by a Kelly interception.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Guys, I think Kyle Allen might be broken. Possibly physically, as he received some attention on the sidelines, and almost certainly mentally, given the brutal performance here after throwing three pick sixes against Bama.
Chad Kelly, meanwhile, is just Chad Kelly. He's good sometimes and erratic other times, and while that sounds like Bo Wallace 2.0, he's better overall than his predecessor.
After seeing Allen's quarterbacking line, you had to know this was going to be a horror show. Give plenty of credit to the Land Sharks and all, but when playmakers like Kirk and Noil combine for one catch on six targets for a grand total of -1 yard, it's more than just the defense at work here.
Had Ole Miss lost this game, you'd look at this and wonder why Treadwell didn't get more targets. Because Ole Miss won the game, the fact that he was only the fifth-most targeted receiver in this game won't stick out in your memory for too long.
A&M ran the ball 11 times in the first quarter and eight times in the ensuing two quarters. I realize that you have to throw more when trying to stage a comeback, but when the run game is so much more effective than the pass, getting away from the run so much doesn't seem like a great idea.
Texas A&M's defense has generally been mediocre-to-lousy against the run, so this game may be an aberration in how the Rebels were effective on the ground. However, getting Tunsil back could've been just the thing to fix a lot of the line's problems. This will be something to watch over the rest of the season.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. of Total|
|Texas A&M||Own 24||11||21.6%|
|Ole Miss||Own 32||30||40.5%|
The Rebels won the field position battle handily, but it is more a consequence of the other ways in which they were dominating the game rather than a cause.
A trip inside the 40 means a drive with a first down at the 40 or closer or a long scoring play from beyond it. A red zone trip means a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
Here I think is where the heroic effort of the Aggie defense shines through despite the offense's struggles. Treadwell got his 58-yard touchdown, but otherwise it made Ole Miss work to get what it got. The Rebels had more field goal attempts than extra point attempts. It's about all the defense could do when the offense provided nothing.
The teams tied at three with A&M losing a pair of fumbles and throwing an interception, while Ole Miss threw a pair of interceptions and lost one fumble.
Texas A&M started strongly last year before a midyear swoon. Everyone seemed to agree that the defense was the biggest problem, and so the program went out and recruited John Chavis to come over from LSU.
This year's team also started strongly, and it is also having a midyear swoon. The defense is holding up its end of the bargain, though, as it allowed 20 offensive points to Alabama and 23 to Ole Miss in the team's two losses to date. Three of the points to the Tide and six of the points to the Rebels even came on short fields following turnovers where the defense held despite being put in a bad position. Giving up just 17 offensive points on sustained drives should be enough if the offense was doing what it is supposed to be capable of.
We always knew this TAMU team would be in trouble if something happened to Allen. All the team has behind him is a raw true freshman in Kyler Murray and JUCO transfer Jake Hubenak. Murray has proven to be at his best while running the ball, but his passing against anything stronger than Ball State has been lacking to awful. Kevin Sumlin went with Hubenak in relief of Allen late in this one, generating questions about whether Murray is in the doghouse. Whether he is or not, comebacks require more passing than running. Given Murray's poor track record with throwing so far this year, Hubenak really could've been the guy who gave the team the best chance to win regardless of any possible doghouse status.
Ole Miss really needed a game like this after the really shaky October it had been having until now. Getting Tunsil back was a boost, and so will getting Robert Nkemdiche back if and when he can get over his concussion symptoms. Dropping the game to Memphis was unfortunate, but it didn't affect the West standings. Beating LSU won't be easy, but having a win over Alabama and now this one over Texas A&M in its back pocket is big for Ole Miss. Only those undefeated Tigers from Baton Rouge are in better shape in the divisional race right now, and the Rebels will have an opportunity to do something about that.
Though it may not feel that way, both teams still only have two losses. Ole Miss had some October troubles but appears to have pulled out of the dip. If A&M can somehow restore Allen's health and confidence, it will have an opportunity to pull out of its descent too. Both of these teams have a shot at ten wins on the year, including a possible bowl win, though right now it's looking a lot more likely for Ole Miss than Texas A&M.