• The matchup: No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1)
• The kickoff: 11 a.m., ESPN
• The weather: The Snow Bowl rematch is gonna be warm, with the high temperature expected to be 83 degrees. Lots of sunshine, zero rain.
• The line: Texas A&M –7
I’ve been going back and forth on this pick all week. I’m always wary to go against Vegas, and doing so last week got me burned as far as the point spread. Plus, MSU got beat up pretty good by Alabama, with a handful of players temporarily leaving the game. And hey, that Johnny Manziel kid is pretty dang good.
A&M leads the league in rushing, an area that’s been a struggle at times for MSU’s defense (see: Troy, Tennessee). And there’s more to the Texas A&M offense than Manziel, so containing him hardly guarantees victory. While the Aggies don’t have a great defense, they’re decent against the run (38th nationally) and better against the pass than you might think (38th in pass efficiency defense). But they’ve allowed 39 plays of 20-plus yards, which is tied for 82nd in the country; 29 of those were passing plays, also tied for 82nd.
If it comes down to a shootout, I believe MSU can hang. Quarterback Tyler Russell is the kind of guy who can pick apart a defense, so long as he’s not running from end Damontre Moore all day. The State tackles need to have a good game and get some help from the running backs.
The key to this game is not letting Manziel run wild, especially early on. Letting that offense get on a roll early without being able to answer will spell doom for MSU. Kinda like last week at Alabama, except in that case it was a matter of trying to score multiple times against the nation’s best defense. If A&M gets up early, it’s not a matter of scoring for MSU, but a matter of the defense finding a way to slow down the Aggies long enough for the offense to catch up.
I feel confident in saying that this will be a fun and close game. What I’m not so confident in is my prediction. It’s not because I don’t think MSU can win, it’s because this game looks like a toss-up. And when it’s a toss-up, I tend to go with the home team.
• The prediction: MSU 30, Texas A&M 28.