OXFORD, Miss. – Texas A&M suffered a disappointing 41-13 loss to Alabama in Week 7. It was the Aggies’ first of the season and their first at Kyle Field since Nov. 27 against LSU last season.
It was an opportunity for A&M to dethrone Alabama as the conference’s top team. The Aggies—along with LSU and Florida—were the SEC’s only remaining undefeated teams, while Alabama—who lost to Ole Miss in Week 3—still remained the “big dog” in the nation’s top conference.
A&M could have proved its legitimacy as a contender, but instead fell in a blowout loss. Now, the Aggies face unanswered questions and a difficult matchup in Week 8.
Oddly enough, A&M’s opponent faces a similar dilemma.
Following its upset of Alabama, Ole Miss jumped to No. 3 overall in the Top 25 poll. The Rebels spent several weeks as the conference’s top team before falling to Florida in Week 5. Though it wasn’t expected, it was hardly a loss that ruined Ole Miss’ season.
That, however, occurred last week at Memphis. That’s right, Ole Miss, a potential contender in the SEC West, fell to the Tigers—a team that had not defeated a ranked opponent since upsetting Tennessee in 1996.
While Memphis certainly seems to be a sleeper, under-the-radar program; it doesn’t justify a loss for Ole Miss. So Saturday’s game has equal—if not more— importance for the Rebels as they look to prove their own legitimacy.
That’s something that head coach Hugh Freeze remains confident about. Despite the loss, he still believes his team is the best in college football.
“We know we’re the best team in the land. I have no doubt about that,” Freeze said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “We have the players and the coaches. As long as everyone believes in that, then we’re tough to stop.”
A&M-Ole Miss should be an interesting matchup with plenty of scoring. The Rebels lead the SEC with 353.9 passing yards per game. The Aggies rank second with 291.0.
Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly is averaging a conference-best 319.1 yards per game and 16 touchdowns. A&M’s Kyle Allen is second in both categories with a 256.2 average and 14 touchdowns.
Both programs have excellent offensive lines. Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil — regarded by many as the best offensive line prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft — returns after serving a 7-game NCAA suspension.
The teams also feature two of the nation’s top defensive linemen. Texas A&M has Myles Garrett, who leads the SEC with 8.5 sacks after setting a freshman record for sacks in 2014. Ole Miss has Robert Nkemdiche — the nation’s unanimous top prospect for the 2013 recruiting class—who has the size of a defensive tackle and the athleticism of a defensive end.
It’s almost like both programs are a mirror images of one another. So while the matchup has lost some of its appeal since last week, it definitely should provide plenty of scoring, and some interesting storylines.
Both teams are in desperation mode, which should lead to an entertaining game.
Although A&M and Ole Miss has now fallen behind both Alabama and LSU, they’re still capable SEC teams looking to bounce back from disappointing losses.
This may prove to be the best SEC matchup of Week 8.