If all you did was watch last Saturday’s games - Texas A&M upsetting #4 Florida and 41-38 and Mississippi St. failing to score an offensive point in a 24-2 loss to previously winless Kentucky - you’d think that this Saturday’s game should be a lopsided affair. But one week doesn’t define either team. And more importantly, any Aggie will tell you not to get too cocky when traveling to Starkville...or playing against Mike Leach.
The Aggies came into the SEC with a bang, going 10-2 in a fantastic 2012 season that included a 38-13 shellacking of the 7-1 and 17th-ranked Bulldogs on their home turf. But it’s been tough sledding since then, with A&M losing their last three games at Wade Davis Stadium.
- 2014: The Aggies came in at 5-0, with a #6 ranking and a Heisman candidate in quarterback Kenny Hill. That all came to a screeching halt as Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs handed the Aggies a 48-31 defeat, and honestly it could have been a lot worse than that. Oh also, A&M wore these. It was the first of three straight losses for A&M, capped off by a 59-0 blowout at the hands of Alabama, the benching of Kenny Hill and his eventual transfer to TCU.
- 2016: Once again, A&M rode into Starkville with high hopes, sitting at 7-1, and ranked fourth in the first ever College Football Playoff rankings. Mississippi St., meanwhile, was 3-5, with their only Power 5 win coming over South Carolina. But the defense was nonexistent, and Aggie QB Trevor Knight exited early with an injury, and A&M could never quite recover, losing 35-28. This then triggered a five-game losing streak to Power 5 opponents for A&M, culminating in the biggest blown lead in NCAA history to open the 2017 season.
- 2018: Another year, another A&M team coming to Starkville with momentum. This time they were 5-2, but with losses only to No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson. A&M was ranked 16th in the country. Meanhile MSU was 1-3 in SEC play and had thrown for only 59 yards the prevoius week against LSU. But Bulldog QB Nick Fitzgerald, who seemingly always saved his best performances for the Aggies, found his stride, and MSU rode their dominant defense (which had three first round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft) to a 28-13 victory. The good news is that while A&M also blew a fourth quarter lead the next week at Auburn, Jimbo Fisher found a way to avoid the usual post-Starkville tailspin in 2018, ending the season on a four-game win streak that included the epic seven-overtime victory over LSU.
Suffice to say, Starkville has not been kind to their Aggies in their past three trips, despite the fact that A&M has looked good on paper each time. It’s a place that’s been a stumbling block for these A&M teams, one from which the 2014 and 2016 seasons never recovered. And all of this doesn’t even mention A&M’s historical struggles against Mike Leach, who went 7-3 against the Aggies during his time at Texas Tech, including three wins of 28 points or more.
Jimbo Fisher made a big statement about his tenure by getting the first top-five win at Kyle Field since 2002, but for Aggie fans, getting the Davis Wade monkey off of A&M’s back might be only slightly less vital. If A&M can win this game, then enter the bye week at 3-1, with two seemingly winnable games to follow in the form of Arkansas and South Carolina. It’s a rosy proposition, but one that feels all too familiar. As this program seeks to make progress toward being a contender and differentiate itself from previous Aggie teams, ending the Starkville slide this Saturday is a big step in the right direction.