Mississippi State travels to Texas A&M for its first Southeastern Conference road trip of the season on Oct. 2. The Aggies will be playing under lofty expectations, expected by many to be a top-10 team and to challenge Alabama for the division.
I am not so sold.
The good news for Texas A&M is that plenty of talent is returning. The bad news is that the few holes that do exist are in crucial spots. First, the Aggies must replace four, yes, four, starters on the offensive line.
Now hear me well, the guys lined up to fill those spots won’t be short on talent, but offensive lines require chemistry and experience to mesh correctly and be effective consistently. This takes time to develop.
The Aggies will also be replacing quarterback Kellen Mond, who was certainly not perfect, but he was a three-year starter and is currently the program’s all-time leader in touchdowns, passing yards, completions and total offense.
In play to take over the starting quarterback duties are Haynes King and Zach Calzada, who have a combined 14 completed passes between them.
Regardless of which young quarterback wins the job, there are plenty of returning weapons for them, starting with All-SEC selections in tight end Jalen Wydermyer and running back Isaiah Spiller.
A lot of Texas A&M’s potential success this season relies on how quickly a nearly brand new offensive line can mesh, or else the Aggies’ loaded backfield will struggle. The questions surrounding young quarterbacks with hardly any in-game experience could be cause for concern as well. The fact that the job hasn’t been won outright by this point does not bode well. Such a situation is usually a bad thing, not a good one.
As far as State fans should be concerned, this will be one of best opportunities in the near future for Mike Leach to spring a significant upset.
The Aggies begin the season with a string of easy victory opportunities versus Kent State, Colorado and New Mexico. They open Southeastern Conference play with a game against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas.
Assuming the Aggies make it past Arkansas with a win, Texas A&M will be undefeated when it hosts Mississippi State. The Aggies will be hosting Alabama the week after that, and it will be tempting for A&M to look ahead to matchup against the Crimson Tide that the nation will view as the game to decide the SEC West.
Mississippi State will also have the toughest defense that the Aggies will have faced at that point in the season. This matchup will be the first huge test for the aforementioned revamped offensive line and whoever wins the quarterback job.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett, one of the most promising assistants in the conference, will exploit the Aggies’ inexperience, who will not have been truly tested, and might (will) be looking ahead to next week.
Don’t be surprised if a Mississippi State team hovering around a .500, having faced a much tougher schedule at this point, walks out of College Station, Texas, with a “shocking” upset.