It appears as though the NCAA is looking into whether or not Johnny Manziel received payment for signing autographs back in January. So the Heisman Trophy winner's status is a bit unclear, although I'd lean towards him being eligible this fall and playing against Mississippi State. For one, the NCAA is incompetent, and two - this story is more just getting the smoke going than much actual investigation into whether this is true or not. (Yahoo: investigates, ESPN: lazy).
But obviously Johnny Football's status is vital to the direction of this game. Undoubtedly State fans would feel much more confident about the prospects of winning if he is not dressed out for that game. As it stands now many MSU fans have this game chalked up as a loss - being on the road against a team expected to contend for the West and has the Heisman winner. Although I'm not so sure it's that clear cut. A&M has some holes on defense they will need to straighten out.
1st team All-American DE Damontre Moore has left for the NFL and there are more question marks on the defensive line than answers going into the year. I ranked their D-line 14th in the SEC in our season preview. Linebacker isn't much better, where I had the Aggies 12th.
A&M has a lot of weapons, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Despite losing Luke Joeckel as the 2nd overall pick in the NFL Draft, they return Jake Matthews among others and should have another solid group. The wide outs look very good as well, and JL Grindin even ranked them tops in the SEC.
In the end, though, so much depends on Johnny Manziel. If somehow he is ruled ineligible I think they have enough to be a solid team, but he is just one of those dynamic players who makes a 7-5 team into a 10 or 11 win team. And even if he is given the go-ahead to play, we have yet to see if his celebrity status and off-the-field antics effects his play on the field at all.
MSU will play South Carolina the week before this game, so those are two big swings in terms of geography. Many State fans will probably end up picking one of the other due to that fact.
Regardless of who is on the field for the Aggies, I'd certainly expect to see a different Bulldog team on the field - one that will play with A&M instead of the half effort we saw last year. Hopefully a team with renewed energy will enter College Station to play a hard fought game, win or lose in Columbia the week prior.