Posted on October 24, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Texas A&M did not have national title dreams this season; at least not realistic ones. Mississippi State didn’t have them either. But both, like every other team in college football, came into the season hoping to improve upon last year’s finish. Maybe, just maybe, they might play well enough to work their way into the top-25.
Following the season-opening loss to UCLA, it didn’t look like Texas A&M had a chance of being relevant in any way, shape, or form this season. Maybe one when they started hunting for a new head coach. But, while it hasn’t been pretty, they began to win games.
They didn’t destroy anyone like they used to. Instead, they made second-half adjustments, played better defense, and ran the ball well. The passing game has become secondary.
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While they still lost to Alabama, they gave the Crimson Tide the toughest fight they’ve faced this season.
Mississippi State, on the other hand, entered the season without fanfare. But then they caught the college football-loving free world’s attention when they dominated LSU for their third win to start the season.
Suddenly, fans began to have expectations for the Bulldogs. But then they got the chance to surpass them the following week against Georgia and then a week later against Auburn. Instead, they failed miserably and were dominated by both.
Both have two losses, so the CFB playoffs are out. They are in the same division as Alabama, so the SEC Championship Game is out. So—what do they have to play for?
Pride? Is that enough to drive them to win? Both teams have made it clear they want to prove the critics wrong, but who wants to do it more?
Who’s going to win?
On paper, it looks like the job for each defensive coordinator is pretty clear—they have to figure out how they would stop their own team. Both offenses run the ball well, but neither is very good at passing. Is the stat biased because each team runs more than they pass?
No. Kellen Mond can pass well enough to keep defenses from going all out to stop the run. The same can be said for Nick Fitzgerald.
So, if one stuffs the run, then they can win the game? If that’s the case, the advantage belongs to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have done a much better job of stopping the run this season (31st; 127.7 yards/game). But to be fair, the Aggies defense isn’t far behind (38th; 135.3 yards/game).
Does that mean the game will come down to whoever passes better? Fitzgerald is probably the better passer, but Mond has a better arsenal (i.e., Christian Kirk, Damion Ratley, and Jhamon Ausbon) at his disposal. But can he get the job done against the Bulldogs No. 2 ranked pass defense?
To win the game, Texas A&M is going to have to slow down the Mississippi State run game enough to force them to throw. That’s what Auburn and Georgia did. When forced to throw to get the team back in the game, he wasn’t up to the challenge.
While Texas A&M’s pass defense isn’t great, they can pressure the quarterback and have shown a knack for big plays this season—especially in the second half.
Mississippi State is going to have to move the ball and stop Texas A&M’s run game. While the stats say they are good against the run, Auburn and Georgia ran all over them.
The Bulldogs are a one-point favorite. But Texas A&M has shown a knack for pulling games out in the second half this season (with one glaring exception).
Take the Aggies and the point.