Texas A&M-Mississippi Preview
Texas A&M managed to thrive despite playing 12 straight weeks in 2012 but has gotten the luxury of a bye week this season.
The ninth-ranked Aggies are hoping that time off will aid their defense and help the program match its longest win streak away from home Saturday night against slumping Mississippi.
Texas A&M was forced to forgo its bye week last season after its opening game was postponed because of Hurricane Issac. The Aggies emerged from that gauntlet with 11 wins - their most since 1998 - and Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
"This year is a lot different," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Five games in, we've got some guys limping around. We've got some guys we need to get healthy for the next stretch of games."
Manziel has the Aggies' offense humming once again, ranking in the top five in the FBS with 49.2 points and 586.4 yards per game. That's helped Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC) outpace most of its opponents.
The Aggies are giving up 476.4 yards per game, ranking 112th out of 123 FBS teams, and their average of 30.8 points allowed is 87th.
Texas A&M, however, was hindered by suspensions to a handful of starters early in the season.
"I wouldn't say that they're 100 percent comfortable," senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. said. "But I think that slowly but surely we're working and getting our chemistry back. I just feel like we need to have a little bit more fun and everything will fall into place for us."
The Aggies' defense will try to start clicking as the program tries to win 10 straight road/neutral site games for the first time since 1939-40.
"It's critical for us to take our game to the next level," Hurd said. "When we come back out we want to put something out for the world to see - this is our defense. We have to put a great statement out playing against Ole Miss. We have two weeks to prepare so we won't have any excuses."
Texas A&M would appear to have a good chance to tie that mark against a Rebels team that's dropped back-to-back games to fall out of the Top 25. After a 25-0 loss at No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 28, Ole Miss couldn't recover from an early 17-point deficit this past week in a 30-22 defeat at Auburn.
The Rebels (3-2, 1-2) were within five points when they recovered a fumble at their own 40-yard line, but Bo Wallace threw an interception on the ensuing possession and went 1 for 7 in two subsequent drives.
"A lot of us got a little complacent after that 3-0 run, but now I feel like everything happens for a reason," linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "We're in the spot where we need to be right now."
Wallace helped pace Ole Miss to a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter in last season's visit from Texas A&M but the Aggies rallied for a 30-27 victory despite committing six turnovers, their most in nine years. Manziel connected on the winning 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining, and Hurd sealed the game by intercepting a Wallace pass in Texas A&M territory.
"Anytime you win a game where you have six turnovers, you feel like you got out of there with a gift," offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said.
Manziel was limited to 191 passing yards, but he ran for 129 in the Aggies' first-ever SEC road win. Ben Malena had a career-best 142 yards on the ground for Texas A&M, and Wallace threw for 305 yards.
The Aggies are seeking to improve to 6-0 all-time against the Rebels before heading into a string of four straight home games. Ole Miss is playing the first of six consecutive contests in Oxford.