No. 16 Texas A&M is still hanging around the SEC West race with only one conference loss. Yes, it was to Alabama, but that’s precisely why Saturday’s game vs. Mississippi State in Starkville is so critical. The Aggies have no margin for error, and are squaring off against a Bulldogs squad that is desperate for good news after a woeful performance last week in a loss to LSU.
How will things shake out Saturday night in Starkville?
Date: Saturday, Oct. 27 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Davis Wade Stadium — Starkville, Mississippi
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
Texas A&M: Without much fanfare, the Aggies have produced the SEC’s best run defense and fourth-best nationally at 81.57 yards per game. Coordinator Mike Elko has come in and completely changed the Aggies defensive identity in just one offseason, and that run defense has been consistent in every game this year. Led by lineman Kingsley Keke, linebacker Otaro Alaka and ultra-versatile defensive back Donovan Wilson, there is not weak spot for opposing offenses to attack. But Wilson has to sit out the first half of the game after notching a targeting penalty late in the Aggies’ last game against South Carolina, so the Bulldogs have a small window of opportunity early.
Quarterback Kellen Mond has completed 65.2 percent of his passes and is averaging 8.8 yards per attempt in October, and has taken control of the offense under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher. Mond’s comfort combined with the work of running back Trayveon Williams — who’s second in the SEC with 114 rushing yards per game — has made this Aggies offense tough to stop
Mississippi State: The good news for Mississippi State is that its defense continues to be a force. The bad news is that its offense is very far from one. Defensive end Montez Sweat, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and the rest of that unit did all they could to keep Joe Moorhead’s crew in the LSU game last week, but simply ran out of gas.
Why did the defense run out of gas? Because the offense has been downright dreadful. The Tigers loaded up to stop quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Kylin Hill on the ground, and Fitzgerald simply couldn’t do anything through the air. Moorhead has to find a way to make life easier for Fitzgerald, or pull him and insert sophomore Keytaon Thompson to try something new.
Game prediction, picks
If LSU can load up against the Bulldogs rushing attack and make Fitzgerald win with his arm, the Aggies run defense certainly can. Fitzgerald will have a tough time between the tackles, struggle through the air and have Bulldogs fans screaming for Moorhead to do something different — either with his scheme or personnel. Simply put, the wrong team is favored here. The Aggies will win big in Starkville. Pick: Texas A&M +2.5
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