For a year and a half, Southeastern Conference opponents have been trying to figure out how to slow Johnny Manziel's offense. On Saturday, Ole Miss will take a different approach. The Rebels will simply try to outrun it.
They'll try to beat Texas A&M's star quarterback at his own game, operating with a no-huddle, hurry-up style that Johnny Football is reputed to be better at than anyone. They aren't the only two schools in the SEC that operate at a quick pace offensively, but the Aggies and Rebels have more of a hard-core commitment to the style than the rest of the league. And all signs point to Manziel leading a scoring bonanza in Oxford, Miss.:
» Ole Miss leads the SEC in pass attempts per game at 37.6. The Aggies rank second at 35.8.
» They each average nearly 80 snaps per game on offense.
» When the two met last year in Oxford, the two combined for more than 900 yards and 48 first downs. Even the chain crew needed IV fluids (kidding).
It's the sort of game a player like Manziel can't help but be excited about, one that not only will showcase him with a maximum number of possessions, but will dare him to prove he can play that style better on the road than Ole Miss can at home.
Offensively, it will be "Hold my beer, and watch this" football. And the defenses may prove to be glad to oblige as the evening's stooge attraction.
Ole Miss' defense, at least, is measurably better than it was a year ago, although the Rebels still rank at or near the bottom of the SEC in rush defense, sacks and 3rd-down conversions. A&M's defense has been putrid, ranking dead last in the SEC in allowing 477 yards per game, 215 on the ground, and 30.8 points per game, which ranks 13th of 14.
Everything sets up for Johnny Football to thrill a primetime audience with a stark reminder that he's still the most dynamic player in the college game.
But against a team fully capable of shredding the Aggies' defense into tatters, it may take him until the final minutes to win it.