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OXFORD, Miss. – 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 Southeastern Conference Western Division, that usually means another difficult game is on the horizon. For No. 3 Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0 SEC), 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. The Aggies suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, falling to Mississippi State 48-31.
"They haven't changed much in the pass game or the tailback run game," Freeze said. "They had very few designed runs for (Johnny) 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."
Considering Texas A&M's offense is still leading the SEC with 47.8 points per game, there will likely be some pressure on Ole Miss to score early and often.
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.
The problem is keeping Wallace healthy. He had offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder in 2013 and the Rebels are still cautions with him.
Wallace wasn't particularly concerned. He said he runs 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."
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