What needs to happen for Texas A&M football to win
- Defensive wins: Both the Rebel offense and Aggie defense are preeminent in EPA/pass, EPA/rush, and generating/converting on quality possessions. Normally in modern college football, a great passing offense has a high enough floor to where they’ll be able to operate decently well against any pass defense. Rushing defense is another story, however: if the blockers keep getting stonewalled and the back is unable to break free, as often happens when great rush defenses face solid rush offenses, the per-carry average drops like a rock. I think the Aggies can keep the Rebs contained for the most part on the ground, which portends good things overall in my opinion; Ole Miss is particularly reliant on the run game to give their offense consistency.
- Effective Passing: There doesn’t necessarily need to be a lot of passes called (though, judging from the very low rush rate over expected that the Aggies have had in recent weeks, there probably will be), but Johnson needs to be effective on those attempts. Not huge shots over the top over time, or 20-yard routes over the middle of the field, but hitting Evan Stewart in stride on a drag route with room to operate; getting Ainias the ball quickly on a screen; little things like that. Don’t waste attempts in this one.
- Convert on Scoring Opportunities: This will probably be on these lists for the rest of the year, but it remains one of the most paramount items here: the Aggies need to be able to turn trips across the opponent’s 40 into 7 points. They showed they can do it late in the first half against South Carolina, and it looked like that might continue until the referees ruled Max Wright out of bounds. Threes won’t beat this team—not in Oxford. The Rebels are middle of the road when it comes to preventing scoring on such opportunities, but it seems like the failure to convert more often falls on the shoulders of the Aggie offense than a stout defense holding them off.
These are the keys I could find from my analysis of the numbers. There are some disparities between these two squads, but not many; especially when the Rebels are on offense, these are two very evenly-matched teams. That boils down to the Aggies being opportunistic: something they’ve been great at defensively, but absolutely awful at on the offensive side. This week could be the beginning of a turnaround—and I hope it is—but they’ve struggled so far. Let’s see if they have what it takes to get it done in Oxford.