Peeps, we've got a battle of Top 15 heavyweights this weekend when Texas A&M comes to Starkville. Here's what I think the Dawgs need to do in order to defeat the Aggies:
1. Run the "Darn" Football: You knew this one was coming. Just like with LSU, State can't afford to get into a track meet with aTm. State needs to work our ground-and-pound attack and physically take it to aTm. Be the bigger bully and force the Aggies to commit 7, 8, 9 guys to stopping the run. Plus, with aTm's offense, shortening the game by running is highly advisable. Limiting the number of possessions that aTm gets offensively will be a big key. In fact, I want to see us really slow down the pace offensively this weekend. We can still go no huddle, but be very deliberate in our pacing. Don't be in a big hurry to get on the line after the play is blown dead.
2. Stop the Run: Once again, stick to the basics. Take away the run and make aTm one dimensional. We know they're a pass happy team anyway, but even taking away the token running threat is a big advantage.
3. Tackle: This one is HUGE this week. You absolutely must wrap up aTm's skill guys, especially the WRs. Tackle these guys and get them on the ground as soon as they catch the ball. They like to get the ball out of Hill's hands quickly, meaning their big plays usually are a result of YAC from missed tackles. Staying fundamentally sound against these guys is a necessity to win.
4. FGs Not TDs: Allow me to be clear - The Aggies are going to get their yards offensively. Don't have a meltdown if they wind up with 400-450 yards of total offense. (400 yards of total offense is the new 300 anyway) Heck, they may even get 500. And we're going to give up at least 3 TDs. That's part of playing these guys. But here's the thing: If we can make them punt 2-3 times and get 2-3 other stops and force them to kick FGs, that could be the difference in a win or a loss. It's all about limiting the points they score and not letting them march for TDs consistently. In this game, FGs are a GOOD thing defensively.
5. Third Down Conversions: So far, the 2014 team has not been very good on 3rd down. According to ESPN.com, we are 24/59 on 3rd down for a 40.7% conversion rate. That's 68th in the nation. We have GOT to improve that against the Aggies in order to win. Staying on the field and keeping our D fresh is imperative. 41% isn't going to cut it in this game. Once aGAIN, long drives that limit aTm's offensive possessions will be a big key. I want to see us up around 50%. For reference, aTm is converting 54% of their 3rd downs, 7th nationally. Hopefully 3rd down conversions are a big focus in practice this week.
6. Continued Redzone Efficiency: Despite our 3rd down conversion woes, this team has been very, very good in the redzone. That needs to continue. We have to punch in TDs every time we get close to the endzone on offense. Kicking FGs isn't an option when your opponent has aTm's offense. 7 or bust.
That's how I see what needs to happen. The good news is I think we have the team to accomplish all of this. Should be a great game, even for an 11AM kick time.
In Mullen We Trust,