davis wade stadium
The Aggies are coming off an impressive come from behind win against Arkansas in which they scored 21 unanswered points to get the win in overtime. Kenny Hill looked human for the first time this season, but he caught fire late in the game. Arkansas had some success running the ball, accumulating 285 yards. They built a 28-14 lead before eventually running out of gas and letting the Aggies pass their way back into the game. A&M would go on to win in overtime, 35-28.
Mississippi State is coming off a bye week after a trip to Baton Rouge. It was much needed for a chance to rest up, view extra game film, and bring the emotions back down to earth after a huge win. This was a huge advantage and will be something to keep an eye on this Saturday. If the Dogs come out with more energy than the Aggies, we'll know why. They played a very physical game last week while MSU was sitting at home resting. Advantage, Mississippi State.
Looking at the season as a whole, Texas A&M has had one of the most dynamic offenses in not only the SEC, but the country. They are averaging just shy of 600 yards a game, which ranks first in the league to no surprise. Most of that damage has came in the passing game, where the Aggies are throwing for 400 yards a contest. The run game has been far from non existent, however, averaging around 193 yards a game. The most impressive and the most important stat is the 51 points a game being put up.
Three Aggie receivers already have over 300 yards receiving on the year. They have multiple weapons that have to be accounted for, which is one reason they are so difficult to defend. Malcome Kennedy, Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Speedy Noil are all dangerous playmakers. Running backs Tre Carson and Trey Williams haven't been too shabby, either. Those are two players that could quietly have a nice game with State likely to focus more on the pass.
You can call the biggest part of this matchup a strength on strength. The Texas A&M offensive line is one of the best in the country, and the Mississippi State defensive line is along that same caliber. For what seems like the 20th year in a row, Texas A&M has a potential first round draft pick along the offensive line in guard Cedric Ogbuehi. Mississippi State's Preston Smith has been the best defensive end in the SEC up to this point. It will be interesting to see which team wins the battle along the line of scrimmage.
The Mississippi State defense has been one of the best at stopping the run this season, but the secondary has struggled. They have given up 319 passing yards per game but only 82 yards on the ground, which ranks 10th best in the country. Kenny Hill is going to get his yards through the air. With the style of offense that A&M runs, which includes a lot of dink and dunk passes, they are going to rack up the yards. There's not much you can do to completely stop it. Containing it is the key. If MSU wants to slow down A&M's offense, they will need to hit Kenny Hill in the mouth and get him rattled. With a quarterback like Hill, you can't let him sit back in the pocket and get too comfortable. Blitz and make him get rid of the ball quickly to avoid giving up big plays. The Aggies are going to get their yards, so you might as well be aggressive.
Keeping everything in front and playing solid red zone defense will be the best bet against this offense. In other words, bend but don't break. Mississippi State's red zone defense has been phenomenal so far this season. If they can make a couple of A&M's long drives end in field goals instead of touchdowns, it may just be the difference in the game.
Like the Aggies, Mississippi State's offense has also been impressive in 2014. They are averaging right at 537 total yards a game which is good for third in the conference. The running game has done the most damage, racking up 270 yards a game. That also ranks third in the conference. The offensive line has played well, and quarterback Dak Prescott has been a star both passing and running the football. He is putting up over 335 all purpose yards every week.
Not to go unnoticed is Josh Robinson who is averaging just under eight yards a carry. The Louisiana native is averaging 120 yards a game and hasn't even touched the football much. You will likely see him get 20 to 25 carries this week in an attempt to control time of possession. He averaged over 12 yards a carry in College Station last season.
The Aggie defense is much improved from last season. They are second in the conference with 17 sacks, and freshman Myles Garrett has 5.5 of those. He is the player to watch along that defensive line. The Aggies are giving up 376 total ypg which is light years above where they were last year. The main issue has been the run defense, which is only the 11th best in the conference.
You can bet that Dan Mullen and company will see on film the way Arkansas ran the ball last week and get excited. Texas A&M didn't have an answer for their run game, and it almost cost them the win. Mississippi State had gaping holes to run through against LSU, and you know that worries Kevin Sumlin. I expect State to come out and run the football until A&M proves they can stop it. If they can control time of possession and keep A&M's high powered offense off the field, that will be a huge advantage.
We can't forget to mention that MSU will be without its starting center, Dillon Day, for the game. As you probably well know, Day was suspended after stepping on two LSU players in Baton Rouge. Ben Beckwith is sliding down from guard to take over Day's spot at center. Jamaal Clayborn is the most likely candidate to take over at guard. Mississippi State isn't having to rely on youth and inexperience to account for Day's absence. However, it will still be interesting to keep an eye on the offensive line to see how well they gel coming out of the gate. The bye week could not have came at a better time. The line has had two weeks to find some cohesion, so hopefully that will pay dividends on Saturday.
It's amazing how many times the perception of this game has changed since the summer. Almost everyone picked MSU in the preseason. After the start that A&M got off to, most people, including myself, would have picked them to win this game. Then the LSU game happened. Mississippi State went to Baton Rouge and dominated. Combine that with A&M's struggles against Arkansas last week, and now more people are picking State again. MSU is currently a slight favorite on the betting lines in Vegas.
Having this game in Starkville is a huge plus. The only concern is the atmosphere that an 11:00 game the day after Bulldog Bash could bring. I've heard of countless people planning on pulling an all-nighter Friday night. Do what you have to do. Drink some coffee, throw some water in your face, do whatever it takes. This is the biggest game for our beloved Dogs in a long time, and we need 61,000 people ringing loud and proud.
Numbers to Know
Average points per game for Texas A&M through 5 games, good enough for second in the country. The Aggies' impressive scoring average so far includes 52 points on opening night against South Carolina, and 35 last weekend against the Razorbacks of Arkansas. They were also able to put up 38 on MSU two years ago in a blowout in Starkville, so it's safe to say that MSU's biggest key will be trying to find a way to slow down Kenny Hill and the Aggie offense.
Rushing yards given up by Texas A&M to Arkansas in their 35-28 victory last weekend. Granted, Arkansas is one of the best rushing attacks in the country so far, but MSU is no slouch, either. That total has to have Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson and company excited about the possibilities if they can continue their rushing success from two weeks ago when they carved LSU up for 302 yards.
That's how many plays it took Mississippi State to get into the endzone against LSU two Saturdays ago to take an early 7-0 lead. A good start is the key to many big wins, and if MSU is going to gain another top ten win this weekend, they need a start like the one they had against LSU. Missing on opportunities leads to playing from behind, which we all know from history usually does not work out well.