The SEC will once again get to showcase a battle between two fine teams that didn’t compete in last year’s BCS Championship game on Saturday afternoon when the #16 Texas A&M Aggies (6-2, 3-2 in SEC) travel to Starkville to take on the #15 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-1, 3-1 in SEC) in Davis Wade Stadium.
The Aggies offense has been extremely dynamic this season, as they are averaging 305.3 passing yards per game (19th in FBS), 237.6 rushing yards per game (14th in FBS) and 45.5 points scored per game (3rd in FBS) while the defense has been solid allowing 385.5 total yards per game (57th in FBS) and 22 points per game (34th in FBS). If Texas A&M wants to notch a huge road victory this week, they will need to get the same type of offensive production while tightening up their defense in order to stop the Mississippi State offense.
The Texas A&M offense all starts with their phenomenal freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has taken the football world by storm this season. Johnny Football has passed for 2,216 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 64.3% of his pass attempts and has also rushed for 793 yards and 13 touchdowns on 117 carries. Manziel will also need some assistance from running back Ben Malena who has rushed for 525 yards and five touchdowns on 79 carries. If Malena can put together a solid performance along with Manziel creating his on field magic then the Aggies will be tough to beat in this one. When Manziel looks down field to air the rock out he will be looking in the direction of Mike Evans (47 receptions for 705 yards and 2 TDs this season) and Ryan Swope (36 receptions for 520 yards and 5 TD this season) to make plays.
The Bulldogs’ offense has been effective all season and the unit is averaging 233 passing yards (63rd in FBS), 163.8 rushing yards (60th in FBS) and 33 points (43rd in FBS) per game, while their defense is allowing 338.5 total yards (28th in FBS) and 17.4 points (15th in FBS) per contest. Mississippi State is looking to bounce back following the 38-7 beating they took last week at the hands of Alabama and in order to do so they will need an all out, 100% effort out of their offense, defense and special teams.
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell (1,742 yards, 15 TDs, 2 INTs and 58.8% completion rate this season) must improve his play from a week ago in order to give the Bulldogs a shot at winning this game. Last week versus Alabama, Russell passed for just 169 yards and an interception while completing just 15 of his 30 attempts; that type of effort isn’t going to get it done against any team that is nationally ranked.
Russell isn’t the only Bulldog player that needs a much improved game this week. Running back LaDarius Perkins (140 carries for 762 yards and 8 TDs this season) must also produce more than the 38 rushing yards on 15 carries that he put together versus Bama. Expect Russell to hook up with his two main targets Chad Bumphis (30 receptions for 468 yards and 6 TD) and Chris Smith (29 receptions for 366 yards and 2 TDs) early and often to give Mississippi State a chance at victory in this one.
This is going to be a terrific football game that should provide a little bit of everything to those who will be viewing it, whether live in person or via some form of entertainment device. In the end I’ll take Texas A&M to pull out a 34-27 victory; I simply think their offense is just too good to be stopped by the Mississippi State defense.