Don't be mistaken. The final score of the game might say 48-31 -- a sound but not humiliating defeat -- and Mississippi State might have outgained Texas A&M by just 33 yards. The Aggies might have gained one more first down than the Bulldogs. And A&M made more than its fair share of mistakes to help cost them the game.
But don't be mistaken: This was a brutal beatdown on Mississippi State's part, an ambush of the Aggies that proves that the Bulldogs are ready to contend for the SEC West. Dan Mullen's team might finally be ready to claim the championship of the best division in college football. After years of hot starts that quickly crumbled in the heat of the SEC West, Mississippi State might finally be for real.
Dak Prescott was sensational, going 19-of-25 for 259 yards passing and two touchdowns while running for another 77 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. (He also had an 11-yard reception.) Prescott hit nine different receivers for completions and started to look the part of the dark-horse Heisman contender we heard about in the preseason. added 107 yards and two touchdowns on 17 runs.
The defense might have been even better. Richie Brown had three interceptions for the Bulldogs. And after allowing Texas A&M to score on its first possession, Mississippi State's defense shut out the Aggies on eight of their next nine drives, and didn't allow a second touchdown until late in the third quarter. By that time, it was already 34-17, and a quick Bulldogs touchdown on the ensuing possession all but ended the game.
A run at the SEC West title is still not out of the question for Texas A&M, but only if they correct some glaring issues from this game. Despite some great plays by Speedy Noil, the wide receiving corps helped cost A&M this game with repeated drops -- a number that got into the double-digits by many accounts. As the three interceptions by a single Mississippi State player might suggest, Kenny Hill did not look particularly sharp. A couple of garbage-time touchdowns made the offense look better than it was. And for the second game in a row, TAMU's always shaky defense was shredded by the opponents.
The main story here, though, was Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have now knocked off two Top 10 teams in a row for the first time in program history. Win next week's showdown with Auburn in Starkville, and Mississippi State might be in a very unfamiliar place: The driver's seat in the SEC West.
That's a tall order, of course, and even a win against Auburn would only clear away another of the many land mines that come with playing in the SEC West. But for a team that has so often shattered the hopes of its fans when the games start to matter, Saturday's win was another indication that the Bulldogs might be able to bring those dreams to life.