Hello. Welcome to Fun With Numbers. This is your (mostly) safe space from the things that suck the life out of a football season. The suspensions, the calls for firings, NIL, stadium entrance music, all the things that don’t take place on the football field. We don’t talk about them (typically). Here it’s just numbers, and if you scroll real fast, you don’t even have to look at those either. I’m just looking for pageviews at this point guys.
What do we know?
The Aggies host the Ole Miss Rebels at Kyle Field this weekend. Ole Miss is 7-1 coming off the heels of a 45-20 defeat against LSU, a game that they led for the entire first half before being shut out in the second. The Rebels are favored by 2, and both the FEI and SP+ see this as a 6 point victory for Ole Miss. Existence is pain.
Aggie Offense vs Ole Miss Defense
What more needs to be said about this Aggie offense? It lacks an identity, unable to run the ball effectively like they have in years past, but not dangerous enough through the air to make up for it. A huge portion of blame belongs at the feet of an OL that have seemingly regressed as the season goes on, another portion can be given to the guys taking snaps, but the biggest heap of “What the hell is going on here?” should be reserved for the man in charge. None of this mess is likely getting fixed in the next few weeks but there’s enough pure talent to push opposing defenses, provided those defenses are not elite units.
The Rebels defense is far from an elite, facing only one offense in the Top 25 OSP+ (LSU this past weekend) and giving up 45 points to them. They do a decent job of preventing big plays, but are getting pushed on the front end quite a bit when it comes to the run game. They don’t do a great job of forcing teams into passing down situations (110th in the country), and are overall doing a lot of bending/rarely breaking. It’s the type of defense the Aggies could have really taken advantage of in recent years with a strong run game and an efficient passing attack, but that really hasn’t been the case thus far in 2022.
Aggie Defense vs Ole Miss Offense
Defensively, the Aggies remain a force for just about anyone. The main weakness remains their ability to create turnovers and other havoc plays, but they’re slowly improving on this as the season goes on. Getting a fully healthy Front 7 back, guys like McKinnley Jackson and Tunmise Adeleye on the DL who have missed time throughout the season, and Andre White and Edgerrin Cooper in the linebacker spot, will continue to help these numbers improve. If this defense can continue to trend towards healthy, and some of these younger guys continue to develop, this defense is going to be scary for a while.
Durkin’s squad will face a Rebel offense that, while not nearly as explosive as it has been in recent years, is still plenty dangerous in it’s ability to run the ball effectively and move the ball efficiently. Lane Kiffin’s offense is finding itself in passing downs on just 28% of plays (22nd in the country) thanks in part to Quinshon Judkins and TCU transfer Zach Evans, two guys averaging about .34 PPA/Rush. Don’t be fooled though, this offense still has the ability to get behind the defense if you start trying to stack the box. Look no further than Jonathan Mingo’s stat line if you need convincing (averaging 22 yards/catch this season).
This hasn’t been the Aggies strong point this season, having a few costly blunders throughout the season, including having the opening kickoff returned for a score against South Carolina, on a rare non-touchback from Caden Davis. The Ole Miss return game has not proven to be quite that dangerous, but Cruz is near perfect on field goals this season, and punter Masin is averaging nearly 43 yards/punt. This from a team that goes for it on 4th down on over half their opportunities.
Anything the numbers don’t tell us?
Where do we even begin in this section this week? We can talk about the shots Lane Kiffin likes to take in press conferences or on Twitter, but it’s hard to even pretend that the Aggies are the only team he likes to pick on. We could talk about Durkin facing his previous team, and whatever insights into Kiffin’s mind that might give. The more interesting discussion is what these two teams have left to play for though.
For Ole Miss, they still just have one loss on the record. A lot of goals for a team that finished 10-3 in 2021 are still on the table. LSU was just the start of what is a backloaded schedule for the Rebels. They travel to Kyle Field this week, get Alabama after their bye, then a road trip to Arkansas, and then close out the season with the Egg Bowl. Literally any combination of wins and losses is on the table for that stretch. The Rebels could be playing for a trip to Atlanta by the end of the month, or they could be headed to the Texas Bowl or something similar. The answer is probably somewhere in between, but either way that run starts in Aggieland.
The home team on the other hand, is looking for any sort of positives it can muster in what has been a pretty disastrous season. The loss to South Carolina makes the road to bowl eligibility even more challenging for the Aggies, something I never thought I would type about this team. The word is out that your true freshman QB is going to be taking snaps this week, will that be enough of a spark to turn the team around? It’s hard to say, and to pretend this is even close to where fans expected to be in Year 5 under Jimbo takes a level of cognitive dissonance I can’t even begin to create. But hey, it should make for an interesting November at least.
What’s the verdict?
If the middle of this Aggie Defense is healthy and ready to defend against this tough rushing attack, and Durkin is able to generate some pressure on Dart early and often, we’ll see a similar story that has played out multiple times this season. The defense will keep the Aggies in the game, until the point where they just can’t anymore. The Aggies SHOULD be able to run the ball well here, but struggles on the offensive line make me question even that. If nothing else, I appreciate that this team didn’t go down without a fight after being down 17 points early at South Carolina, and the fact that Ole Miss showed last week that they can certainly cough up a lead of similar size.
My prediction: I think the Aggie defense just ends up on the field a little too much, and Ole Miss wins this one 28-24.
What Else Am I Picking?
The Shining (1980)- A Kubrick classic, a must watch for the scene setting, the performances, and the dread. It’s disturbing in a way that is hard to put into words even after you’ve seen it multiple times, kind of like the Aggie pass protection. Plus, Stephen King HATES this adaptation, even though it’s good, much in the same way Jimbo will hate being forced to innovate his offensive strategy this offseason.
TCU -7.5 at West Virginia (SP+: TCU by 10, TCU by 16.5)- The Horned Frogs have been quite the surprise this season and control the race for the Big 12. They’ll probably be tested in their last stretch of games, but I don’t think that test starts yet. I think they roll past the Mountaineers it what is looking like the beginning of the end for Neal Brown.
The Thing (1982)- Another yearly re-watch for me. The 80s just had horror down, and John Carpenter working with Kurt Russell is really just a cheat code. This movie is all about playing great defense, Wilford Brimley is basically a one man wrecking crew with an axe in his hands.
USC -15.5 at Arizona (SP+: USC by 17, FEI: USC by 25)- I have been a Trojan doubter all season but despite them dropping one to Utah a couple of weeks ago, I still think they’ve got plenty of firepower to blow out a pretty bad Arizona squad.
Barbarian (2022)- I didn’t love this one as much as some others did, but I can respect the way that you think it’s going one direction early on, before completely pulling the rug out from underneath you. Leaves you freaked out, nauseous, and a little sad honestly. Not sure if you guys have any other experience with that or not.
Thanks again for reading Fun With Numbers. Check out these links below if you’re interested in learning more about advanced stats in college football.
- FootballOutsiders.com for a solid compilation of all things related to football analytics.
- Bcftoys.com for Brian Fremeau’s FEI data and other fun projects from him.
- ESPN.com is the home for all of Bill Connelly’s SP+ info (as well as the FPI rankings). You’ll need to subscribe to ESPN+ for most of his stuff these days.
- CollegeFootballData.com is a great site for data and charts that you can download and play with on your own time, in case Fun With Numbers isn’t filling that statistical void in your life. Most of my data comes from here.
- SEC Stat Cat is another great site. Solid blend of statistics and football concepts.