GBH: Your running backs are fairly small and quick. Our front seven is pretty porous. We have a bigger back we like to lean on in the second half and a pretty good OL, but your front seven is more experienced. Who do you think wins the running game?
JAA: I think that's kind of the million dollar question. If Ole Miss can consistently run the way they did against Vanderbilt and Texas, it will be a very good game. If they can't, it could get rough. A&M is certainly capable at running the football from traditional power sets. I think the real question comes down to whether the Ole Miss defense is able to match the power run game in terms of size. Ole Miss starts a nose tackle who weighs 250 pounds (Isaac Gross), a linebacker who is listed at 5'11" 207 (Denzel Nkemdiche), and an extra safety instead of a third linebacker. They could struggle against a powerful running team, particularly if the defense focuses a lot of effort on containing Johnny Manziel.
Ole Miss has found that its success or failure depends on whether they can run the ball to the outside. Jeff Scott is a very fast back, and if he can turn the corner, he can be electric. When he's asked to go between the tackles, he's not as good. He's more capable than his small frame would suggest, but it's still not ideal.
GBH: What is Colonel Reb up to these days?
JAA: I'm not much for mascots, so I'll keep both answers about them kind of short. Costumed animals and people just don't really matter a lot to me. Colonel Reb is dying a slow death. The physical costume is old and moldy. The groundswell of support is dying out, and a lot of people just care a whole lot less. To answer your question, Colonel Reb is essentially in an old folk's home, and it may be more like hospice care.
GBH: Robert Nkemdiche is a great talent and is going to be a great player, but does his performance against Auburn last week worry you as you get ready to face our veteran OL?
JAA: He's capable of being very good. He has just been boom-or-bust to an extent so far. That's not to say he has had several games where he has done nothing. It's just from snap to snap, he could blow up the OL or be easily blocked by one tackle. He moves between defensive tackle and defensive end quite regularly and does some nice things. Against Vanderbilt, he fought off a triple-team for a TFL. Against Texas, he blew right past their overpowered right tackle for a 5 yard tackle for loss... on a handoff.
The problem coaches have identified is that Nkemdiche regularly attacks the entire lineman across from him, allowing the OL to square up. They want him attacking a side of the lineman and making them guess which way he'll go and stuggle to get two hands on him. He's certainly a force. He just isn't used to having to employ much technique in order to dominate the opposition. He's coming along though.
GBH: Have students embraced the Rebel Bear yet? Figuratively, not literally.
JAA: As I mentioned, I don't really care about mascots. I think people are accepting Rebel (his name) just fine. The funniest part of this has been fans of other schools being a little too daft to grasp that the name of the team isn't the Ole Miss Black Bears now. We are still the Rebels, just like Alabama isn't the Alabama Elephants, Auburn isn't the Auburn Eagles, and Texas A&M isn't the Texas A&M flag-dogs.
But seriously... it doesn't even bother me. I'm just incredibly indifferent on the whole mascot situation.
GBH: Obviously we had the six turnovers last year and Manziel has been working on that. What's your key to an Ole Miss upset this year?
JAA: In order to pull an upset, bounces have to go Ole Miss' way. A&M moves the ball well on offense and may not be as terrible as people suggest defensively. That said, Ole Miss' hope is to score a lot. It isn't likely that A&M will give the Ole Miss defense six turnovers like last season. If Ole Miss can be opportunistic with a few though, it would go a long way.
I don't think that will happen though. The last spread I saw was A&M by seven, and I would definitely take A&M cover if I had a legal means of betting.
Our answers to RCR's questions can be found here.
Thanks again to Juco All-American and a hat-tip to spadilly for the assist on the questions.