This week’s game: No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1), Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN (Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst, Holly Rowe sideline)
It’s Snow Bowl Week. MSU will bust out the alternate all-white uniforms as it returns home to face a team it’s unfamiliar with, although it’s quite familiar with head coach Kevin Sumlin. In his previous stop at Houston, he faced the Bulldogs twice, winning once. He’s got this kid named “Johnny Football” – a.k.a., Johnny Manziel – quarterbacking a high-powered offense, and so let’s take a look at this new-look Aggies.
First, though, be sure to check out my MSU-Alabama rewind, as well as Parrish Alford‘s weekly table-setter. Follow me on Twitter later today for updates from Dan Mullen‘s 1 p.m. press conference. Now, on with the show.
• Last meeting: MSU, 43-41 in OT (Dec. 31, 2000, in Shreveport)
• Series: MSU leads 3-2
• Texas A&M on the web: aggieathletics.com
• Texas A&M coach: Kevin Sumlin (6-2, first year)
• Three Texas A&M players to watch: QB Johnny Manziel, WR Ryan Swope, DE Damontre Moore
• Premature review: In our Premature Preview of Texas A&M, we looked at last year’s team and wondered how, with such a prolific offense and a first-round draft pick at quarterback, it won only seven games. The culprit was usually defensive breakdowns in the second half. Well, that’s gotten better this fall, and the offense is again one of the most dangerous in the country, leading the SEC in total offense (586.1 ypg), rushing offense (383.1 ypg) and scoring offense (53.4 ppg).
Ryan Tannehill is long forgotten thanks to Manziel, who leads the SEC in rushing with 793 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s not too shabby a passer, either, ranking fifth in the league in pass efficiency. Manziel has completed 173 of 269 passes (64.3%) for 2,216 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was just named SEC freshman of the week today (again) after his performance in Saturday’s 63-21 win at Auburn. He was 16 of 23 for 260 yards and two TDs, and he rushed for 90 yards and three scores.
Back during the spring, Manziel was actually trailing sophomore Jameill Showers in the QB race. Back then we also thought senior tailback Christine Michael would spearhead the rushing attack, but he’s third on the team in rushing yards (271) behind Manziel and junior Ben Malena (525). We also thought the top receiving target would be Swope, a senior, and he’s done well (36 catches, 520 yards, five TDs), but leading the way is redshirt freshman Mike Evans (47-705, two TDs).
So yeah, there are weapons aplenty at offensive coordinator Kliff Kinsbury‘s disposal. But what about that defense?
Well, A&M has gotten better against the pass. It gives up 249.1 passing yards per game, which ranks 80th in the country and 12th in the SEC, but the more important stat is this: The Aggies are 38th in pass efficiency defense (seventh SEC). And they rank ninth in sacks with 3.25 per game. Moore has been a beast, recording 10.5 sacks and 18.0 tackles-for-loss. Oh, and he leads the team with 65 tackles.
Texas A&M is decent against the run, too, allowing 136.4 yards per game.
This will be a tough one for MSU, especially after getting beat up at Alabama. Several players left that game but did return, and you know they’re going to be sore this week. The Aggies are 4-0 on the road this year, and Vegas likes them as a current 7-point favorite.