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Fun With Numbers: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State

Previewing the Bulldogs with Advanced Stats

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NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Howdy and welcome back to Fun With Numbers. Those of you who read consistently know what you’re in for, and God bless you for still being here anyway.

How’d We Do Last Week?

What a kick in the teeth. After a rough first half, the Texas A&M offense came alive in the second and looked maybe as good as they have all season. Overall though, they weren’t able to get out of passing downs very well, lack a homerun threat when running the ball, and had one very, very, VERY costly turnover in the red zone. It wasn’t the defenses best day either, they managed to mostly contain the Ole Miss rushing attack, but the secondary still just doesn’t have many answers and were mostly picked apart throughout the game. Tough way to lose this game in particular. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to another year of Lane trolling.

What Do We Know?

The Aggies host the 4-5 Mississippi State Bulldogs in a night game that is now a battle for supremacy over the middle of the SEC West. Both teams are chasing bowl eligibility and something positive to hang their hats on this season. The Bulldogs have one win in SEC play this season (a 7-3 thriller against Arkansas), and have fallen well below their preseason expectations (29th in the SP+ to start the season). The Aggies are a 19 point favorite in this matchup, and both the SP+ and the FEI project around a 16 point win. Let’s take a closer look.

Aggie Offense vs Bulldog Defense

When Zach Arnett arrived in Starkville in 2021, he made an immediate impact on the defense, taking them from 56th in the DSP+ to 37th and then 20th in 2022. His transition to HC has been a little rough though, especially with the defensive side of the ball. They’ve slipped outside the Top 50 in both the DSP+ and DFEI, their best performance probably being holding a struggling Arkansas offense to 3 points. They’ve definitely tried to bend and not break, doing a decent job of preventing explosive plays (especially in the run game). The Front 7 could be a problem for the Aggie OL, which continues to struggle both in protection and generating running room for the Aggie backs, but the secondary is averaging a 74% completion percentage against Power 5 competition and outside of the Arizona game where they hauled in 5 INTs, they haven’t been causing much havoc either.

Aggie Defense vs Bulldog Offense

If Zach Arnett and Matt Brock have had trouble getting things together on the defensive side of the ball, OC Kevin Barbay has been utterly lost at times in his first season calling plays at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have scored more than 20 points just one time against an SEC opponent this season (30 in a loss to South Carolina), and have really not had much going for them outside of the ability to hit some big passing plays from time to time. The OL has struggled worse than A&M’s, and will likely have their hands full against what remains one of the best defensive fronts in College Football. Now, there is a pretty stark difference in this offense when Will Rogers is healthy and playing and when Mike Wright is filling in (.266 Passing EPA vs .045), but even against teams like LSU and Bama, Rogers was struggling to generate a consistently efficient passing attack.

Anything the Numbers Don’t Tell Us?

As I just mentioned, Will Rogers has been out for a big chunk of the season, and it’s possible he is healthy enough to play on Saturday. That’s interesting, as is the Aggie QB situation with Max Johnson taking some serious hits against Ole Miss, but reportedly still able to go. If something happens and neither Rogers or Johnson play the majority of this game… well. I’d take the under in this game.

What’s the Verdict?

The Bulldogs have been really, really bad for big stretches of this season. Again, I don’t envy the position Arnett was in this offseason, and to lose a QB like Rogers when you’re already transitioning into so much newness… that sucks. This is the worst Power 5 team the Aggies have faced all season, it really should be a fairly easy win for the Aggies. Now if the Aggie run game gets shut down and Max is unable to make the quick and easy throws this week, or if something happens and we’re seeing a different QB under center, it might not be easy. But this defense can still win games for us, especially against a largely anemic offense.

My Prediction: Aggies win 27-10, back to bowl eligibility, hoping for a Thanksgiving miracle, and watching oil prices. TRADITION.

Final Notes

Thanks as always for reading along. No post next week as we’re facing an FCS opponent. Check out these sites below if you’re interested in more CFB stats.

  • for Brian Fremeau’s FEI data and other fun projects from him.
  • is the home for all of Bill Connelly’s SP+ info (as well as the FPI rankings). You’ll need to subscribe to ESPN+ for most of his stuff these days.
  • is a great site for data and charts that you can download and play with on your own time, in case Fun With Numbers isn’t filling that statistical void in your life. Most of my data comes from here.
  • SEC Stat Cat is another great site. Solid blend of statistics and football concepts.

Questions? Comments? Criticisms? You know where to leave ‘em.