Texas A&M was able to add another win last weekend against Arkansas, knocking off the 10th-ranked Razorbacks in a thriller in Arlington. Now the Aggies face their first road trip of the season when they head to Starkville to take on Mississippi State. Texas A&M matches up well with the Bulldogs on paper but as last week showed, games aren’t played on paper. Let’s dive into what Texas A&M needs to do on the lines to win this game.
As Jake Hubenak touched on earlier this week, this offense starts with the run. Devon Achane went for 159 yards and a touchdown against the Hogs. Texas A&M will look to build on that momentum in Starkville. The offensive line has undoubtedly improved as the season has gone on. The return of Bryce Foster has made a clear difference and tight end Max Wright returning has helped as well. In their only SEC contest, Mississippi State gave up over 200 yards rushing to LSU but a big part of that came due to the legs of LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. The Mississippi State defense is experienced across the board but especially along the line, where the Bulldogs have seniors or graduate transfers starting and only one junior in the two deep.
The Mississippi State defense is going to be a major test to find out if this A&M offense can actually run the ball, or if last week against had more to do with the Hogs having a poor run defense. Look for Texas A&M to focus on the rushing attack early with Devon Achane. If Bryce Foster and company are able to generate push up front, I think Texas A&M will be able to move the football on Mississippi State. In the passing game, the Bulldogs like to generate pressure with blitzing. The offensive line will need to communicate and recognize blitzing linebackers pre-snap to keep Johnson upright. The Bulldogs aren’t great at generating pressure without bringing extra rushers so we might see some of those longer developing pass plays that Jimbo has see some success with. Either way, this is anther big test for the offensive line.
Obviously, we know what to expect going into a game against a Mike Leach-coached offense. Mississippi State wants to throw the ball all over the field. This game is pretty much the polar opposite of the Arkansas game where the Hogs relied on the run to move the ball. The Bulldog offensive line, just like their defensive line, is extremely experienced with upper classmen at all five positions making getting to quarterback Will Rogers a tough task. Texas A&M has been running three-man more often in recent contests and I’d expect that trend to continue in Starkville. In fact, it should be all but guaranteed given the opponent and the fact that Mississippi State is almost exclusively in 10 personnel or empty.
In 2020, the Aggies dropped eight into coverage and rushed three for most of the contest. The strategy worked and Texas A&M held Mississippi State to 14 points. In 2021, Texas A&M employed the same strategy. Will Rogers threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns. The Texas A&M secondary is talented but it is clear that the Aggies will need to generate some kind of pass rush to limit the talented arm of Rogers. When I watched the LSU tape, the Tigers were able to get to Rogers by using a variety of blitzes and unique alignments to confuse the Mississippi State offensive line. Though Fadil Diggs is gifted as a pass rusher, rushing only three won’t be enough this game. Texas A&M will need to get creative and blitz guys like LB Chris Russell to force Rogers to make mistakes. I’d like to see defensive coordinator DJ Durkin take some pages out of LSU’s defensive playbook in this one. Blitzing against the Air Raid is a risky proposition, but as last year showed, sitting on your heels can be just as dangerous. If Will Rogers has time, he can pick this secondary apart, as talented as it is.
I had always thought of tamales as Mexican cuisine. Imagine my surprise then when I learned that tamales have an incredibly strong presence in Mississippi. In honor of that shared cultural food, I decided to highlight some of the most incredible tamales I’ve had anywhere. In the Coastal Bend region of Texas down in Port LaVaca, LaVaca BBQ smokes their tamales. These delicious bundles of joy are made with brisket and pulled pork and smoked as opposed to steamed. The result is a smoky flavor and unique texture. The tamales are then unwrapped and topped with LaVaca BBQ’s special tamale sauce and queso fresco. In honor of the meeting between Texas A&M and Mississippi State, it seemed a no-brainer to highlight these tamales, something Texans and Mississippians can both agree are delicious.