Scouting report: Texas A&M at Ole Miss

Johnny Manziel makes big plays with his feet by scrambling outside the pocket. A challenge for the Rebels tonight is to take him down when they can. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)


1. Run the football

Defensive players didn’t like the discussion early in the week, but springing an upset for Ole Miss really is about the Rebels’ offense matching Johnny Manziel.

Ole Miss has to exploit a Texas A&M defense that has allowed an SEC-worst 214.8 rushing yards a game.

That means finding a way to run between the tackles as defenses have schemed to take away the Rebels’ perimeter run game in the last two weeks.

2. Get Manziel to the ground

It’s unrealistic to expect to “stop” Manziel, who has consistently put up big numbers against the best defenses last season and this season.

Some of Manziel’s biggest plays come when he’s scrambled outside the pocket, and protection has broken down.

Ole Miss had a good defensive plan against Manziel a year ago and harassed him into a couple of interceptions, but the Rebels need to get him to the ground when they have the chance.

3. Distract Evans

Mike Evans is a big and physical wide receiver, and at 6-foot-5 is a matchup problem for many cornerbacks including the Rebels’.

The tallest Ole Miss cornerback is 6-3 freshman Derrick Jones, a recent convert from wide receiver and a name worth watching. Jones has appeared in only one game, but his size makes him an intriguing option to try against a dynamic player.

Mike Hilton, Senquez Golson and Charles Sawyer need to be physical with Evans at the point of attack and not let him come down with the jump balls that he did against Alabama.


When Texas A&M has the ball

It’s all about Johnny Manziel, but it may be about Manziel in a different way.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner remains adept at extending plays with his feet, but Kevin Sumlin and new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital have worked harder at keeping Manziel in the pocket this season.

That’s not surprising with the matchup problem of 6-foot-5 wide receiver Mike Evans on the outside.

Manziel leads the SEC in total offense (360.6 ypg), and Evans leads in receiving yards per game (138.2) and per catch (24.7).

The Aggies are third in the league in rushing at 221.4 yards a game.

When Ole Miss has the ball

The Aggies have been susceptible to the run, last in the SEC at 214.8 yards a game allowed.

It could be the get-well game for an Ole Miss offense trying to adapt its ground game to defenses that have schemed successfully against its perimeter run game of late. The Rebels have averaged just 85 yards on the ground in losses to Alabama and Auburn.

Look for Ole Miss to work harder at establishing the run, particularly between the tackles. That will mean more carries for backup quarterback Barry Brunetti and running back I’Tavius Mathers if there’s early success.


Ole Miss offensive line vs. Texas A&M front seven

Johnny Football is going to get his. It’s not about stopping Johnny Manziel for Ole Miss, it’s about matching him.

For the Rebels’ offense to do that there has to be protection for Bo Wallace. Creating a few running lanes on the inside wouldn’t hurt either, but first things first. Auburn sacked Wallace six times and had 14 tackles for loss. That’s why the Rebels were unable to complete enough drives with points. The Aggies are 10th in the league in tackles for loss, last in sacks.

Auburn forced Ole Miss into 19 third downs last week with an average “to go” distance of 7.42 yards. Ole Miss converted only five times.

The Rebels need to man up on the line and play better than they did against Auburn to have a chance for an upset today.

Parrish Alford

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