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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Analysis: Another week, another ‘biggest game of year’

Distinguishing which teams are the best in the SEC up to this point in 2015 has been utterly confusing.

The rankings are going to get a little clearer this Saturday night. Texas A&M and Ole Miss square off in a top-25 showdown in Oxford in what is basically an SEC West elimination game; both come in needing a win to stay alive in the hunt for a trip to Atlanta, and a loss will all but kill either team’s chances. 

Entering week eight, there are about 19 teams who have a realistic shot at making the college football playoff in January. Last weekend’s game against Alabama was big for A&M, but this week the Aggies national and conference title hopes are on the line. 

This game in Oxford is the Aggies’ most important game of the season. 

As the showdown approaches, both teams have a few obstacles and areas to clean up before game time. 

For Ole Miss, obstacles begin with star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who suffered a concussion in the 37-24 loss to Memphis. However, multiple reports came out Thursday night that he has been cleared to play.

Another obstacle Ole Miss is facing revolves around star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who has missed the entire year during a pending NCAA investigation. He returns to the field Saturday night, and his first game action this year will be protecting his quarterback Chad Kelly from the nation’s best pass-rushing duo, Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. Tunsil is first-round NFL draft talent, but this is sure to be a matchup that will cause problems in the Rebel backfield. 

On the A&M side, the quarterback position is the biggest issue. Kyle Allen threw three pick sixes last weekend, and this week, he faces an Ole Miss defense that feeds off of turnovers. While the Ole Miss pass defense has been exposed this year, they are still very quick and talented. 

No doubt, protection of the football will be the number one priority for the Aggies this week. In A&M’s biggest SEC road wins, A&M forced turnovers when they needed them the most. Plain and simple, whoever wins the turnover battle will win the game. 

A&M also needs to fix the run defense. Last week, Derrick Henry ran all over them for over 200 yards and two touchdowns, although they did a more effective job shutting him down for the last two quarters. Arkansas did the same thing as well, running right down A&M’s throat time and again. Now, the Aggies face another very good running back in Jaylen Walton. Walton’s style of play is different from the backs at Alabama and Arkansas, but his style is much more threatening. Although he only has 331 yards and three touchdowns this year, his combination of speed and elusiveness can turn what looks to be a 5-yard loss into a 60-yard touchdown. 

A lot is on the line at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium. For the Aggies, the season, as far as playoff and conference title aspirations, comes down to this weekend. With how much is at stake on a national scale, the most critical four quarters of the season for A&M are coming Saturday night. 

Andre Perrard is a sports management senior and sports writer for The Battalion.

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