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Fun With Numbers: Texas A&M at Ole Miss

Previewing the Rebels with Advanced Stats

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NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Howdy and welcome back to Fun With Numbers, the only place on the internet that allows me to talk about Aggie Football and Advanced Stats. I’ve been banned from all other potential outlets, including The Fans of Aggie Football Myspace page.

How’d We Do Last Week?

Well the Aggies won against an SEC opponent by 2 scores, but it weirdly felt like a struggle at times. It’s a familiar story. This time, decent 2nd and 3rd quarter productions were hampered by bad offensive showings in the 1st and 4th, as well as a brutal efficiency rating on Passing Down situations and some missed botched scoring opportunities kept the Aggies from pulling away. The defense mostly did their job though, especially in the 2nd quarter.

Thank God for Ainias Smith.

What Do We Know?

The Aggies go on the road for the third time this season to face the Ole Miss Rebels. Ole Miss is #11 in the country, with one loss on the season against the Crimson Tide. This is a huge game for the Rebels, a win likely cements a 10 win season for the Rebels (They play Georgia next week on the road) and probably earns them at least 2nd place in the West depending on how these next few weeks shake out for Alabama and LSU. On the other hand, the Aggies desperately want to get some momentum going after a win over South Carolina last week and remove the dreaded “Road Game Curse” from people’s memories. Ole Miss is a 3 point favorite, lining up with most projections. The SP+ predicts a Rebel win 27-24, and the FEI predicts 27-23. From a birds eye view, these are two evenly matched teams. Let’s take a closer look.

Aggie Offense vs Rebel Defense

If you would have told me to start the season that the Ole Miss defense would be one of the top units the Aggies have faced all season, I would have been a little surprised. It’s true though, after dipping just a little bit following Durkin’s departure in 2022, the Rebels are back to fielding a defense in the Top 30 of the DSP+ and DFEI. Now they are relying a lot on negative plays, 4th in Front 7 Havoc and averaging nearly 8 TFL a game (8th in the country) and a secondary pulling in 8 interceptions on the year (they’ve had 6 in their last 3 games). If Max can be protected and can take care of the ball though (a big ask, admittedly, considering he’s seeing pressure on 45% of snaps), this defense has been prone to giving up big plays. Unfortunately a lot of that has come on the ground, something the Aggies have not been particularly strong at this season, but the short passing game should be available this game too, and Ainias has once again proven how dangerous he can be in open space.

Aggie Defense vs Rebel Offense

The Ole Miss offense is as good as expected, even if they’ve seemed a little less prolific than usual in their last few weeks. They’re almost as bad as South Carolina when it comes to the offensive line and preventing Havoc, and they’re average when you can force the Rebels into Passing Down situations. But their biggest strength is their big play ability, and that remains a huge issue for the Aggies late in the season. Probably due to the amount of pressure he’s faced, Jaxon Dart hasn’t taken a huge leap forward in his Junior year, but he’s been dangerous on the move averaging a 46% Success Rate and .26 EPA/Rush on 52 carries. The Aggie Front 7 is going to have to get to him quickly and bring him down to relieve the pressure the back end will be under.

Anything the Numbers Don’t Tell Us?

Like I said, this is a big game for either team on it’s own, but you throw in the weird sort of… obsession Kiffin seems to have with Jimbo and Texas A&M and it makes it even more interesting. Now to his credit, Kiffin deserves to talk his shit. He’s derailed the Aggies season in 2021 and beat the Aggies at Kyle in ‘23. Still there’s been enough back and forth, regardless of what Jimbo says or doesn’t say, to know that the players on either side feel some added pressure in this game.

What’s the Verdict?

Despite the explosive abilities of this Ole Miss offense, I really like this matchup for our defense. I think this Front 7 can handle them much the same way they handled Tennessee in Knoxville, and if the Aggies want to be in this game, they’ll need a strong showing from that side of the ball. The Aggies just don’t have the horses to try and outscore like LSU tried (and failed) to do a few weeks ago. But maybe they have the defense to slow cook the Rebels… similar to how Alabama did in Week 4? Let’s take a quick look at that box score.

First we see that the Crimson Tide contained the Rebel’s rushing attack, and also nearly cut their points/opportunity in half from what they typically average. They did a great job limiting Judkins to only 56 yards with a long of 10, and Dart to just 6 yards on 12 carries. Now they did allow some big passing plays but none of those, even a 40 yard reception by Dayton Wade, scored touchdowns.

Offensively, they ran the ball and chewed clock, limiting possessions and trying to stay ahead of the chains with a 49% Success Rate on standard downs. They hit big plays when they needed to, but Milroe was accurate (81% Completion percentage) and only turned the ball over 1 time (which led to no points thanks to Alabama’s Defense stepping up and forcing a 3 and Out). If you said this sounds exactly like how Jimbo wants to win every single game, I’d have a hard time disagreeing with you.

Can the Aggie Front 7 control the line of scrimmage and force Ole Miss into passing down situations? Yes, I think so.

Can the Aggie secondary hold up and mostly limit big plays to non-scoring plays? Maybe so, but it’s hard to count on them at this point.

Can the Aggie OL generate some running room and also protect Max/Can Max get the ball out quick enough to the right reads? That I’m not sure about. This offense just constantly makes things look harder than it needs to be.

My Prediction: I actually like this to be even more low scoring than some of the stats project. I’d say Rebels win 20-17 as the Aggies lose another frustrating match.

Final Notes

Thanks as always for reading along, check out these sites below if you’re interested in more CFB stats.

  • 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.

Questions? Comments? Criticisms? You know where to leave ‘em.