Saturday’s 63-21 thrashing of a reeling Auburn team was about as complete a domination as you’ll see in the SEC, but now the Aggies turn their eyes toward perhaps their most important game of the season. After Saturday’s game, Kevin Sumlin again reiterated their focus on going “1-0”.
"We said we wanted to be 1-0 at the end of this week,” he said. “And then we will reset that and enjoy this for 24 hours, then we'll say the same thing next Monday. We want to be 1-0. We can't get past anybody. We're new to this league, we're in new environments playing different teams and we really have to stay focused one week at a time. As I said, we're getting great leadership out of the seniors right now. Coaches do so much, but during the week, players have to stay focused and these guys are doing a great job."
This week’s game against the 15th ranked Bulldogs of Mississippi State is a game that will directly determine where the Aggies will be headed in the post-season bowls. For A&M, it’s a chance to beat a ranked SEC opponent on the road. For Dan Mullen’s team, it’s a chance to show that their lofty ranking isn’t just the product of a bad schedule following last weekend’s beatdown at the hands of #1 Alabama.
“Now we’re going to see how we handle the adversity of failure this week, and that’s a good challenge you know, a great challenge,” Mullen said after Saturday’s game. “It’s going to be a great challenge for me and our staff and the leadership of our team to come back. You know, there is a lot of football left to be played this season. It’s far from over for us. This season is far from over for anybody in the SEC West at this point. We have a really big home game next week; we’re going to have to bounce back.”
Thus far, the Aggies have been close to knocking off one of the SEC’s best, but they haven’t done it yet. Saturday marks a big opportunity for Kevin Sumlin and his staff as they look to continue a solid first season in the SEC.
With a win against Mississippi State, the Aggies could be looking at the possibility of a nine win regular season, a feat the Aggies have only accomplished twice in the last fourteen seasons. And with a good performance, Johnny Manziel could work his way back in the conversation for the Heisman finalists.
For Manziel, this will be the third best defense he’s faced all season, and the secondary is a top notch one. The Bulldogs have absolutely devoured turnovers this season. They’re sixth in the nation in turnover margin at +13 for the year. The Bulldogs also rank in the top 25 in passing efficiency defense. (Interestingly, the Aggies have already faced LSU (2) and Florida (3), and will see top ranked Alabama next week.) So Manziel certainly has a challenge ahead of him as well.
An underrated challenge may be for Kliff Kingsbury. Against Auburn, the Aggies absolutely dominated the first half on the ground, but will they have the patience to run it against a better defense?
Mississippi State, with only one loss on the season, is still playing for a number of things on their side as well. They still have LSU in front of them so with a win Saturday Bulldog fans will be thinking about 11-1 and whether they can get into the BCS. This will also be the first battle of top 20 teams at Wade Davis Stadium in over ten years. When you put that together, this will likely be the most hostile road crowd the Aggies will have faced all year, especially if the Bulldogs have any success early.
On Saturday night, the nation will be watching Baton Rouge as the Crimson Tide and the Tigers face off in yet another epic contest. But on Saturday morning, it’s going to be all eyes on Starkville.