The stage is set for a top 25 showdown as #21 Mississippi State battles #14 Texas A&M at the home of the 12th man.
MSU (3-1, 1-1) and Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0) meet as ranked teams for the second consecutive season. The Dogs won last years meeting in Starkville, 48-31.
The Bulldogs and Aggies have positive momentum in their favor after last weekend's victories against Auburn and Arkansas, respectively.
The jury is still out on whether either team can compete for the SEC West crown, and the winner will certainly be viewed as a factor in the division going forward.
Where do they rank?
MSU offense Texas A&M defense
Points per game- 33 (92nd) Points per game- 22 (50th)
Total YPG- 448.3 (42nd) Total YPG- 367 (61st)
Passing YPG- 303.5 (24th) Passing YPG- 187.8 (38th)
Rushing YPG- 144.8 (99th) Rushing YPG- 179.2 (82nd)
Texas A&M Offense MSU defense
Points per game- 41 (34th) Points per game- 14.8 (16th)
Total YPG- 471.5 (31st) Total YPG- 349 (48th)
Passing YPG- 285 (32nd) Passing YPG- 170.3 (25th)
Rushing YPG- 186.5 (59th) Rushing YPG- 178.7 (81st)
Headlines to watch
Quarterbacks under duress
Texas A&M's defense is much improved and has a pulse unlike years past, believe it or not. John Chavis has a lot to do with that but the biggest difference has been two studs at defensive end. It's no secret that Myles Garrett is practically unstoppable one-on-one and MSU has to find a way to limit the amount of times he gets in the backfield. Garrett already leads the SEC with 6.5 sacks, picking up right where he left off last season. What's scary is Daeshon Hall on the other end of Garrett has been just as disruptive. Together they are easily the best defensive end combo in college football.
Although not quite as dominant, MSU has two of the top five pass rushers statistically in the league as well. Defensive end A.J. Jefferson and linebacker Richie Brown have been excellent at getting in the backfield and wreaking havoc. If MSU is going to stop A&M's offense -- which is full of playmakers -- Brown and Jefferson have to put the defense on their back and get pressure on Kyle Allen. The Aggies have allowed 12 sacks this season, and the interior of the offensive line has been suspect.
Dak Prescott's return
The last time Dak Prescott played at Kyle Field, it was such an emotional game for him after the recent passing of his mother, Peggy. He showed a lot of heart in a hard fought 51-41 shootout that ended in defeat, and he managed to put rack up over 300 yards of total offense splitting time with Tyler Russell. That was really the game that placed Dak on the map outside of the SEC and everyone began to take notice of #15.
I don't think 92 points will be scored this time around, but I do think it could turn into another shootout and the team that has the ball last will have the advantage. You know that Dak will be full of emotions and motivated to finish the job this time at Kyle Field.
Wide receiver depth
Texas A&M probably has the deepest wide receiver corps top to bottom in the SEC. Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Edward Pope, and Ricky Seals-Jones all returned after productive 2014 seasons. Reynolds is averaging 22 yards a catch this season and looks like he hasn't missed a beat. Noil, Pope, and Seals-Jones have basically been nonexistent. The problem for MSU is the reason that those players have been nonexistent.
That reason is freshman Christian Kirk. He's getting all the targets. Yeah, as if the Aggies needed any more talent at wide receiver. Well they got it, and Kirk is easily on his way to SEC freshman of the year at this point. He leads the league with 442 receiving yards and already has four touchdowns. He's also dynamic as a punt returner and took one to the house against Arizona State. Needles to say, stuff happens when the ball is in his hands. If I'm Manny Diaz, I tell Will Redmond he's covering Kirk the whole game. I don't think he has another cornerback capable of doing so.
Long scrimmage plays
The key to the game will come down to which defense can limit the big play. MSU and A&M will both come out slinging the ball around looking to score as quickly as possible. These are two of the better offenses in the SEC when it comes to creating plays of 20+ and 30+ yards. We may see one or both offenses try to slow it down and run the ball to keep their defense fresh. But my gut tells me that won't happen. Passing yards will be plenty in this one, and MSU needs to prevent 15 yard gains from turning into 50 yard touchdowns. Tackle, tackle, tackle. It can't be stressed enough this week.
Game plan for victory
Texas A&M: Get the ball in Kirk's hands and let him go to work until MSU proves they can stop him. On defense, don't make Auburn's mistake of focusing on the run. Take out at least one of Dak's go-to receivers in De'Runnya Wilson or Fred Ross. Make MSU play from behind to keep the 12th man riled up and electric.
Mississippi State: Wrap up in the open field and limit the missed tackles. Be prepared for a shootout and go to your strength -- throwing the ball. Don't force the issue if the run game isn't working. Double team Myles Garrett and call plays that get the ball out of the QB's hands as quickly as possible.
Prediction: This one turns into a high scoring game as everybody expects and both teams eclipse 450 yards of total offense. In the end, the home team makes one more play and wins the game on a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State- 34 Texas A&M- 38