October 07, 2014

(AP) - Mississippi's surprise victory over Alabama last weekend will live in school lore for a long time.

But the victory - for all of its immediate satisfaction - didn't clinch a Southeastern Conference Western Division. There's a lot of football still to be played this season.

In the SEC West, that usually means another difficult game is on the horizon. For No. 3 Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0), that's a road trip to face No. 14 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace said the biggest value of the Alabama victory might not be seen in the standings. Instead, it's the mental edge of knowing the Rebels are capable of big victories.

''We now know what we thought we already knew,'' Wallace said. ''We know that we can compete with any team in the country. Now it's just getting to work and making sure we take every day as an opportunity to get better.''

It shouldn't be hard for the Rebels to focus on the Aggies, considering no program has caused them more recent heartbreak.

Texas A&M beat Ole Miss 30-27 in 2012 and 41-38 in 2013 in wildly entertaining games that helped Johnny Manziel build his Heisman Trophy portfolio. For Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and the players, they were two punches to the stomach.

Freeze said new Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill isn't the same runner as Manziel, but the Texas A&M offense is still difficult to stop.

''They haven't changed much in the pass game or the tailback run game,'' Freeze said. ''They had very few designed runs for Manziel, but he created a lot with his legs. It's a little different. Their quarterbacks are still athletic, but it's not like defending him in the run, where you always worry about if you have a spy for him.''

The Aggies suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, falling to then-No. 12 Mississippi State 48-31. Hill threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, bringing his season total to 21, but also had three interceptions.

"Our challenge is to correct the mistakes whether you win or lose, and keep (Kenny's) confidence at a high level and play at the level he's accustomed to," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "He has to get better, which he understands, but it's more than just him on the field."

Texas A&M's defense was run over for a season-high 559 yards and its wide receivers had 11 drops. Leading receiver Malcome Kennedy sat out with an injury, and is listed as probable for Ole Miss.

"As quickly as you talk about last weekend you don't have any time to look back because Ole Miss is a team playing very, very well right now," Sumlin said. "They lead the league in defense. They are second nationally in scoring defense. They have a veteran quarterback who has played a lot of football. ... They've done everything they've needed to do to be where they are right now."

Ole Miss' defenses, which is allowing a conference-best 10.2 points per game, will be pitted against a Texas A&M offense that leads the SEC with 47.8 points per game.

The Rebels flashed a slightly different offensive balance during the Alabama win, with Wallace running the ball 11 times. The 6-foot-4 senior isn't particularly fast, but during his three seasons as starter he's had a knack for picking up chunks of yardage when needed.

''We're about to get in the meat of things,'' Wallace said. ''We have a chance to do something special. I'm going to have to be smart but also put my body on the line.''

It's helped Wallace that the offensive line has steadily improved this season. While the running game has been inconsistent, pass protection is usually very good. During the Rebels' fourth-quarter comeback on Saturday, Wallace had time to survey the field and throw two touchdown passes.

''They definitely gave me time to throw,'' Wallace said. ''It's one of the best jobs they've done since I've been here. We just stepped up in the fourth quarter, really.''

Staying upright won't be as easy against Texas A&M, which leads the SEC with 20 sacks, with freshman Myles Garrett accounting for 6 1/2.

Wallace will also have to contend with what is expected to be an electric atmosphere at Texas A&M, where the Aggies have averaged 55.0 points in winning five straight.

"For us, being back at home couldn't come at a better time," Sumlin said. "Our guys are excited to have the No. 3 team in country here in front of 106,000 people on national TV at night. It doesn't get any bigger than that. I like our attitude right now."

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