Today’s game: No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1), 11 a.m., ESPN (Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst, Holly Rowe sideline), XM 91, Sirius 91.
Mississippi State tries to bounce back today in its first meeting with Texas A&M since that 2000 Independence Bowl, a.k.a. “Snow Bowl.” Scott Field has lots of silver lettering to match the specialty uniforms, which are white (including helmets) with silver numbering and lettering. There’s the #SNOWBOWL12 hashtag in the end zone, too. Also, the Aggies are wearing black uniforms.
Hey, some trivia for you: This is A&M’s first trip to Starkville. The teams have met five previous times, in five different locations: Houston (1912), College Station (1913), Dallas (1915), Tyler, Texas (1937) and Shreveport, La. (2000).
The Bulldogs are coming off last week’s 38-7 loss to Alabama, while the Aggies are riding high after a 63-21 romp at Auburn.
Quick personnel note: MSU freshman defensive tackle Nick James is suspended for today’s game due to a violation of team academic rules (class attendance). No word on how long the suspension will be.
• Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates during and after the game. Also, check out our college football page to stay up to speed on all the other games today. Now, let’s go through MSU’s three keys for victory, as found in today’s GameDay section.
1. Block Moore. Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore has been a terror all season, recording SEC highs in sacks (10.5) and tackles-for-loss (18) in eight games. He’s got size (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) and speed, and he’s facing some MSU offensive tackles that had a tough time last week at Alabama.
But State has done a good job protecting Tyler Russell, having given up just seven sacks. Russell helps that cause by knowing exactly when to unload the ball.
Moore isn’t the only one to watch out for. A&M has 26 total sacks, which ranks second in the league, and 11 other Aggies have at least one.
2. Get back to running. MSU was held to a season-low 47 rushing yards by Alabama, and it ran the ball only 21 times – 11 carries fewer than its previous season low. It marked the first time this season State passed the ball (36) more than it ran, and it was the largest gap between the two numbers all season.
That was largely a product of having to play catch-up early on due to Alabama scoring touchdowns on its first three drives. If MSU can get LaDarius Perkins and the other tailbacks going and eat up some clock, that’ll help prevent Texas A&M from starting in a similar fashion.
3. Contain Johnny Football. Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has killed defenses with his arm and his legs. He’s an accurate passer (64.3 percent completion rate), but he can eat up rushing yards whether it’s a designed play or a busted one. Manziel leads the SEC in rushing.
With other viable weapons around him, focusing solely on Manziel might not be wise. MSU will have someone “spying” on him every play, and the back-end defenders will have to be smart about when to break off pass coverages to chase him and when to hold tight.
• Notable stat: Straight from MSU media relations, Texas A&M leads Division I-A with 16 runs of 20-plus yards on the road, while MSU’s defense has only allowed one rush of 20-plus yards at home all year (T-4th).
• Weather: It’s a sunshiny day, should be about 70 degrees by kickoff. Temps will climb into the low 80s by the fourth quarter.