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Five keys to an Ole Miss win over Texas A&M

Nov. 3—No. 10 Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1 SEC) hosts Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) Saturday, hoping to win its fifth game in a row overall and third-straight against the Aggies. Texas A&M has won nine of the 14 meetings all-time between the teams.

Here are five keys for Ole Miss to take down the Aggies at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Stay true to the game plan offensively

Texas A&M has one of the best defenses in the country — particularly against the pass — and some of the best personnel on that side of the ball. Ole Miss wants to run the ball to set up everything else. But part of what makes the Rebels' offense so dangerous is deep passes to seniors Tre Harris, Dayton Wade and Jordan Watkins. Junior quarterback Jaxson Dart is sixth nationally in yards per completion and seventh in yards per attempt.

The offense is at its best when it's getting chunk plays through the air in addition to on the ground, regardless of the other team's strengths.

Slow down Stewart and Smith

Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson is having a nice year filling in for an injured Conner Weigman. But when you have receivers like Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith, everyone's job is made easier.

The duo has more than 500 yards apiece, with Smith being particularly explosive, averaging 17.2 yards a catch. The next closest receiver to Stewart and Smith has 209 yards; there's a significant drop off after them.

Minimizing one or both star receivers will go a long way in slowing Johnson down.

Keep Dart upright

Dart has a knack for escaping pressure and making something out of nothing. Texas A&M is going to test that. The Aggies lead the nation in sacks and are led by linebacker Edgerrin Cooper's seven sacks.

Texas A&M defenders have feasted in opposing backfields. Whether it's quick throws or run plays to slow down the rush, Ole Miss needs to figure out the best way to put Dart in position to pick the defense apart.

Be prepared to win ugly

Texas A&M's defense is really good. The Aggies aren't going to generally up-tempo their way through a game offensively; they're tied for 81st nationally in plays run, according to CFB Stats.

In a perfect world, the Rebels want to be moving up and down the field at will. That might not be the case for all of the game, though. Ole Miss can't get downtrodden if there's a punt or stalled drive here or there; it might just be one of those games. The Rebels have proven themselves able to win these types of games in 2023.

Win special teams

Texas A&M's Smith is one of the nation's best punt returners, averaging 20.2 yards per return (third in the nation). Containing him on returns will force Johnson and the offense into longer fields.

On the other end, this could be a game that largely hinges on field position. Ole Miss senior punter Fraser Masin will need to be at his best in terms of pinning the Aggies in tough spots.

Each team has high-quality place kickers; Rebels senior Caden Davis will need to be on top of his game, too.

michael.katz@djournal.com