Ole Miss Football 3 Keys: Texas A&M

Three keys Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebels haven’t reached the ceiling of their potential this year. They haven’t had a bad season, but they also haven’t squeezed every ounce of possibility and promise from the talent they have.

By Matt Zemek

Given that LSU and Auburn are still in transitional phases and not at the height of their powers, Ole Miss will look back on 2021 as a missed opportunity if it can’t at least finish second in the SEC West. The Rebels can’t finish second in the division if they lose to Texas A&M this week. The Aggies lost two SEC games very early this season, and they seemed headed for a sixth-place finish when they fell at home to Mississippi State. However, Zach Calzada has steadied the ship for the team and the offense. His masterful performance against Alabama was completely unexpected, and it dramatically altered the nature of the 2021 SEC season. Calzada has been a different player since then, although he did run into a stout Auburn defense this past weekend and briefly had to leave the game with an injury before coming back in and finishing off a hard-fought victory.

Ole Miss has had its share of QB injury problems this season. The strain of an SEC season, in what is widely accepted as the toughest division in college football, has taken its toll on the Rebels. If they can fight through the pain and discomfort to beat A&M, they will be able to play archrival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl for a high-level January bowl bid. There’s a lot riding on this A&M game. Let’s see what the Rebels have to do.

1 – Give Matt Corral a roadmap

Corral probably can’t run the ball as much as he would like in this game, if only because it invites a pounding and risks the aggravation of the injuries he has suffered in recent games. The wear and tear of the season have affected Corral. Accordingly, they have affected the Ole Miss offense. Lane Kiffin has to give Corral a way to be effective while also reducing his exposure to hits. Adjusting the run-pass mixture might be part of this, but keep in mind that short passes can often take the place of handoffs or quarterback keepers. They can be extended versions of running plays. Safe plays which can gain five yards, especially on first or second downs, need to be a regular feature of what Ole Miss brings to the table on offense in this game.

2 – Red-zone defense

Auburn stifled Texas A&M’s offense, preventing the Aggies from finishing drives for most of Saturday’s game. A&M won with its defense, but Auburn did not allow Jimbo Fisher’s offense to complete drives for the better part of the game. If Ole Miss can come anywhere close to the standard Auburn set, the Rebels should be able to win this game. It’s hard to think their offense will be completely stymied at home. Holding A&M to 20 points ought to be enough.

3 – Prevent the home run

Texas A&M was stopped in the red zone in part because Auburn didn’t give up the big play. Given that Zach Calzada enters this game less than fully healthy, much like Matt Corral, Saturday will be a battle to see which offense can get chunk plays and therefore avoid having to drive 80 yards in 12 plays. Long drives will be difficult in a battle between two injured quarterbacks. The ability to get 50 yards on one snap will be very precious and coveted. Ole Miss naturally needs to win this “game within the game.” Corral, not Calzada, needs to generate more big plays so that he isn’t exposed to as much hitting or pressure.

About 14Powers.com 2458 Articles
14Powers.com: Serving SEC Football, Basketball and Baseball fans since 2016.