The Mississippi State Bulldogs travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in their third road game of the young season. The Bulldogs stand at 3-1 (1-1 SEC), including a narrow two-point loss to LSU. The Aggies currently maintain a 4-0 (1-0) record and look dangerous given an apparent defensive turnaround under new defensive coordinator John Chavis. Texas A&M is currently a touchdown favorite at most online betting sites.
This matchup could serve as a harbinger for how the SEC West shakes out this season. Neither team has faced Alabama or Ole Miss yet, and A&M will play LSU in late November. Therefore, a Bulldog loss would end any shot at a SEC West title, and definitively relegate the team to the middle tier of the division at best. An Aggie loss, on the other hand, would place the team on very thin ice given upcoming competition.
1Chavis, Chavis, Chavis. To date, Texas A&M has faced Arizona State's and Arkansas's respectable offenses, holding them to a combined 38 points. John Chavis has made an immediate impact with a defense that largely features juniors and sophomores. On Saturday, the Aggies likely face the best offensive skill player they've seen yet in Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. Will the Chavis game plan focus on stopping Prescott or letting him get his numbers while taking away his weapons?
2Are The Bulldogs For Real, or Nah? The Bulldogs haven't beaten anyone of note this season. Southern Miss, Northwestern State, and Auburn are not exactly a tough slate of opponents, and despite getting nearly twice as many first downs as LSU, the Bulldogs still suffered a home loss. On top of that, LSU took away State's inside runs, only allowing 38 yards between the tackles. The Bulldogs will have to establish a running game to give themselves a chance on Saturday.
3Aerial Combat. We all know that under Kevin Sumlin A&M's passing offense has generally been one of the best in the country. This year is no different, with a fleet of blue-chip skill players catching on average 20 balls for 285 yards a game. And yet, the advanced metrics view A&M's passing offense as middling. At the same time, Mississippi State's secondary is currently ranked third in the SEC in yards per game with borderline top-40 advanced stats rankings. This game will be the first true test for the Bulldogs secondary, and they'll have an opportunity to prove whether they are a legitimate unit.
Matthew Emmons -- USA Today Sports
4Havoc, Thy Name Is. Texas A&M has one of the best defensive lines in the country, according to the advanced stats. Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall have been abusing offense lines with no end in sight to their cruel reign. Mississippi State's offensive line sports a passing downs sack rate of 5.9 percent, good for just 67th in the country. On passing downs, A&M will likely have their opportunities, and Prescott will likely be forced to make plays with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield for receivers that get open late.
5Supporting Cast. Quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Dak Prescott get a lot of national attention, and both are having good years with passer ratings upwards of 145 each. Neither has gotten much help from their backfield, as MSU largely splits reps between Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert for a combined 65 yards per game while A&M gets a bit more support from Tra Carson. Both teams have dependable receivers in Fred Ross, De'Runnya Wilson, Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, and Ricky Seals-Jones. The question is: which of these skill players will help their quarterback the most on Saturday?
THREE TO WATCH
, LB, Mississippi State: Brown is the Bulldogs' leading tackler with 39, and he's also second on the team in tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (3.0). He'll be called upon to continue his high output Saturday. He'll need to be solid stopping Tra Carson and do his part to keep A&M behind the chains. In passing situations, he'll need to be disruptive in the backfield to get A&M's dangerous offense off the field.
Chuck Cook -- USA Today Sports
, DE, Texas A&M: As previously stated, sophomore Myles Garrett is having a tremendous year building upon his breakout freshman season. And State had trouble with LSU's front four; the Tigers recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss, and eight hurries. Garrett has 6.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries this season.
Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M: Presumably, Mississippi State's secondary will key on taking away true freshman Christian Kirk after his great performances this season, opening the door for Seals-Jones to have his breakout game. A&M will need a third receiver after Kirk and Josh Reynolds to have a strong game if the Bulldogs' secondary proves to be as good as advertised. So far, Seals-Jones has just 94 receiving yards on 10 catches.
This game will probably be less the offensive explosion than it appears it will be on paper. This is a judgment based on A&M's defensive line forcing Prescott to regularly throw on the run while bottling up the Bulldogs' running game. Mississippi State will probably contribute to the pace by attempting to establish the run in order to avoid the Aggies pass rush, and the potential for negative plays. It's also a bet on State's secondary slowing down A&M's offense, but not completely stopping it. Texas A&M 24, Mississippi State 14