Mississippi State Football: Keys to a Bulldog Victory over Texas A&M

Jake WimberlyContributor IIIOctober 31, 2012

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 20:  LaDarius Perkins #27 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on October 20, 2012 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Mississippi State (7-1, 3-1) returns home this week licking their wounds after getting blasted last week by Alabama, and for the Bulldogs, this week gets no easier as Texas A&M ( 6-2, 3-2) comes to town. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN.

Dan Mullen's team is now ranked 15th in the most recent BCS standings and the Aggies come in right behind State at No. 16. This is a key game for both teams when it comes to bowl positioning, rankings and momentum. 

For the Bulldogs, this will be a different kind of challenge as Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin brings his wide-open offensive style into Starkville. The Bulldogs are very familiar with Sumlin, as they battled his Houston teams the last two years, but Sumlin, now at A&M, has a different group of players led by human highlight reel Johnny Manziel. 

Today we look at a few keys to the game If the Bulldogs expect to win the Snow Bowl reunion on Saturday.

1. Force Manziel into turnovers

What Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been able to accomplish thus far as a freshman in the SEC is nothing short of amazing. Manziel has accounted for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air and by his legs and still has four games left to play. To think you can remotely stop Johnny football is crazy; I am not even sure you can slow him down. But what you must do is force him into turning the ball over. 

The Aggies have lost seven fumbles and Manziel has thrown six interceptions this year, so you hope the Bulldogs can scheme defensively to force Manziel into making errant throws into a very good secondary led by Jonathan Banks and Darius Slay. 


The Aggies will get their points, but if the Bulldogs can win the turnover battle, that will go a long way in securing a victory. 

2. Run the ball, run the clock

Mississippi State has shown this year to be able to score points, but you do not want to get into a scoring battle with the Aggies. One way to slow this game down is by running the football, and the Bulldogs' Ladarius Perkins has shown this year he is capable of making plays in the running game. 

Perkins is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and if State can mix a good dose of the ground game with precision passing from Tyler Russell off play-action, this should help do two things: Eat the clock and slow down A&M's dynamic defensive end Damontre Moore, who leads the SEC with 10.5 sacks.  

3. Get touchdowns, not field goals, in the red zone. 

It is no secret the Aggies can score. The one glaring stat though is that the Aggies are scoring 90 percent of the time when they hit the red zone. The Bulldogs, however, are only scoring 81 percent of the time and have to do a better job of scoring once they penetrate their opponents' red zone. 

This weekend, the Bulldogs need touchdowns, not field goals. It is always great to get points on every drive, but when you are facing a team that can score like Texas A&M, you better score every chance you get because the Aggies will get theirs. 

Final Thoughts

This game is crucial for the Bulldogs on so many levels. This is a game where State needs to show they can beat a Top 25 team and a game in which they can regain positive momentum. 

The Bulldog fans are again expected to sell out Davis Wade Stadium and the place should be rocking. 

Dan Mullen is 1-1 against Kevin Sumlin and both games were fantastic, exciting games. I expect the same this time around. 

If the Bulldogs can garner a few turnovers and turn those into scores while continuing to mix their run game with Tyler Russell's precision passing, I expect a high scoring Bulldog win. 

However, if Johnny Football does as he pleases and the Bulldogs fall behind, this could be a long day in Starkville.