There is more than just one pivotal matchup in the SEC West on Saturday. Mississippi State plays host to No. 17 Texas A&M in Starkville, Mississippi, and this game could feature as much excitement as the Alabama-Arkansas game taking place within the same time window in Week 5. After all, the Aggies are trying to avoid a 3-2 start after sky-high preseason expectations, while the Bulldogs need a conference win with a brutal slate ahead.
Since losing to Appalachian State, Texas A&M has recovered with back-to-back wins over Miami and Arkansas, respectively, but it has not always been pretty. Even after making the change to Max Johnson at quarterback, the Aggies have struggled to find the end zone. Things will only get worse with wide receiver Ainias Smith done for the year with a leg injury. The good news is the defense has been able to hold their opponents in check, and that will need to continue against Mike Leach's Air Raid scheme.
Mississippi State is still searching for its first SEC victory after falling apart in the fourth quarter against LSU. The Bulldogs need to find a way to win one soon because this game kicks off a difficult stretch that includes home games against Texas A&M and No. 20 Arkansas before going on the road to face No. 7 Kentucky and No. 2 Alabama. Two weeks after that, Mississippi State travels to Athens for a game against No. 1 Georgia. This is a critical game for head coach Mike Leach and his program.
This matchup between SEC West foes could have a big impact on the standings at the end of the season.
How to watch Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 1 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Davis Wade Stadium -- Starkville, Mississippi
TV: SEC Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Three players to watch
Devon Achane, Texas A&M RB: With both Texas A&M quarterbacks struggling and Smith on the shelf for the rest of the year, the Aggies will be relying on Achane even more the rest of the way. He posted 1,171 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, and he is off to a good start in 2022. Through the first four games, Achane has 355 rushing yards, 71 receiving yards and four total touchdowns. If the Aggies are going to move the ball against Mississippi State, Achane will have to do most of the work.
Will Rogers, Mississippi State QB: Following a strong sophomore campaign of his own, a lot was expected out of Rogers this year. Against Mississippi State's three nonconference opponents, Rogers has completed 78.9% of his passes for 1,172 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. Against LSU, Rogers completed 57.1% of his throws for 214 yards with one score and a pick. He will have to take his game up a notch in order for the Bulldogs to take down the Aggies this weekend.
Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M DB: Johnson is a highly touted prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, and he landed at No. 15 overall in the latest mock draft by CBS Sports expert Chris Trapasso. So far, Johnson has given scouts a lot to like. He has amassed 38 total tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack. With the Aggies offense still trying to hit its stride, Johnson and the rest of the defense will have to pick up the slack and keep Mississippi State off the board.
Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State prediction
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
This is a battle of two relatively strong defenses, so the prediction will come down to which side is better on offense. With the Aggies' lackluster quarterback play this season, and the injury to Smith, it's hard to trust them offensively. Even though Rogers struggled against LSU in Death Valley, he should be better at home and is the far more proven signal-caller in this matchup. The Bulldogs put enough points on the scoreboard to win the game and cover the spread. Prediction: Mississippi State -3.5