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Four Downs: Texas A&M

In this week’s edition of Four Downs, The Daily Mississippian football beat writers Bennett Hipp and Matt Sigler, sports editor David Collier and managing editor Austin Miller answer four questions regarding the week’s matchup.
Thomas Graning/The Daily Mississippian

1. Will one of the quarterbacks solidify himself as the starter for the rest of the season?
Bennett Hipp (@bennetthipp): I think if Bo Wallace starts and plays well, he can take a step toward solidifying himself. I’m not sure one game is enough to make it a done deal, as he’ll have to limit interceptions and turnovers going forward no matter what.
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): If Bo Wallace starts, I believe that shows just how much confidence head coach Hugh Freeze is putting in him, even though he has been shaky lately. 
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): I think Bo Wallace has a good performance, but a turnover or two will keep him from taking a firm hold of the position. I do think Wallace is the guy for the rest of the year, but there will be competition until he can limit his turnovers. 
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller): If Bo Wallace starts and plays well, as I expect him to, he will be the starter going forward barring injury. There’s a package for both Barry Brunetti and Randall Mackey in this offense, but it’s not as the starter. Bad decisions and turnovers will happen, but Wallace gives Ole Miss the best chance to win because of his ability to make plays with his arm.
2. What does Ole Miss have to do to contain Johnny Manziel?
Hipp: In order to slow down Manziel, Ole Miss is going to have to play assignment football and always make sure that someone has an eye on the freshman when he rolls out of the pocket. The other key is to avoid missed tackles, which have plagued Ole Miss at times and can allow a player like Manziel to make huge plays with his feet. Making the tackle on a five-yard gain is much more important for Ole Miss than trying to make a big hit, missing, and Manziel breaking a 30-yarder down the field. 
Sigler: Ole Miss will have to keep plenty of speed on the field in order to contain Manziel. I would expect multiple packages with a high number of defensive backs and a constant spy on Manziel most of the game.
Collier: It will be interesting to see how the Ole Miss defense plays against the Texas A&M spread after having a good, physical game against Alabama last week. I expect to see a lot of Denzel Nkemdiche and Dehendret Collins to put more speed at linebacker. I think Nkemdiche will be used as a spy on Manziel, but it’s tough to say how much that will work.
The biggest issue, however, is having the Ole Miss secondary cover guys for extended periods of time. With Manziel’s ability to extend plays, they have to have really good coverage to not get burned for big plays.
Miller: The front four have to get pressure while also containing on the edge, while the back seven have to come up, tackle and make plays like they did against Alabama. There weren’t a lot of big plays because of missed tackles, and that’s what has to happen for Ole Miss on defense. Manziel makes a living on extending plays. Look for Denzel Nkemdiche to spy on Manziel, and Cody Prewitt and Trae Elston to make tackles in space from the safety position.
3. As of Thursday night, the over/under for the game is 65 and half. Would you take the over or under?
Hipp: While I expect there to be a good bit of points scored, 65 and a half is a big number, and I don’t think it’ll get quite that high. I could see a number somewhere in the 50s, but 64 is a little high. 
Sigler: I’ll take the under. I think at some point during the game the defenses will be able to get a few stops to keep the score reasonable. Even though both teams are capable of putting up points, I don’t think this one will reach the 64 mark.
Collier: I’m going to take the over. A&M gave up a lot of yards to Arkansas, but the Razorbacks weren’t able to put points on the board. I think Ole Miss will capitalize on those scoring opportunities, and the defense will struggle to hold down the Aggie offense. I think this one will be a shootout, and they’ll surpass 64 total points.
Miller: I would take the over. It’s a lot of points, but there are too many explosive players on both sides of the ball. Texas quarterback David Ash had a career day against Ole Miss, and I expect more of the same from the uber-talented Johnny Manziel for Texas A&M. And while Arkansas put up only 10 points against Texas A&M, the Razorbacks did rack up 515 yards of total offense, so Ole Miss will have also have success on offense.
4. What is the key to the game?
Hipp: There’s not a singular key, so I’ll just name one. Ole Miss has to contain defensive end Damontre Moore, who has been a constant presence in opponent’s backfields so far this season. He’s Texas A&M’s best pass-rushing threat, and the Rebels need to keep the pressure off the quarterback to allow for better throws and less turnovers. 
Sigler: Ole Miss must contain Manziel to win the game. He is too good to let loose, and if he gets loose, he will kill your defense. For Ole Miss to hang in this game, Manziel can’t run wild all over the defense. 
Collier: The key to this game is to hold on to the football. Texas A&M will get their points, but if Ole Miss can limit their own mistakes and capitalize on scoring chances, they will be able to match the Aggies and have a chance to pull out a win. 
Miller: Turnovers and special teams. It’s cliche, but with both offenses as explosive as they are, the team that avoids turnovers, takes advantage of turnovers and keeps it clean on special teams will have a leg up on Saturday. The Ole Miss-Alabama game could have been a game going into the fourth quarter, if not for three interceptions and special teams miscues in the first half, and the Texas A&M-Arkansas game got away from the Razorbacks because of three turnovers.