Two of the most underrated teams in the SEC will battle it out this weekend, in a matchup between Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Although the squads are a combined 13-3 on the year and ranked inside the Top 25 of the BCS rankings, the respect is still lacking for both clubs.
Texas A&M will travel to Davis Wade Stadium, which will make the second straight road trip for the Aggies. Mississippi State will try to recover from its first loss of the season, as the Bulldogs were pounded by Alabama last week by a score of 38-7.
While both teams have already locked in a bid for the postseason, the winner of this contest will take that step forward in gaining respect in its own conference.
With the matchup quickly approaching, let's throw a few predictions out there, including the outcome of this interesting SEC West showdown.
You would be crazy to pick Tyler Russell over Johnny Manziel in this game as the leading passer.
The freshman quarterback has quickly taken over the sport of college football and is completing 64 percent of his passes. He has thrown for over 250 yards in five games this season, including a 453-yard performance against Arkansas.
Russell, on the other hand, though he makes good decisions with the ball, is more of a game manager for this Mississippi State offense and hasn't shown he can be an accurate quarterback consistently.
Manziel will be challenged by the Bulldogs secondary, but he has held his own already this year against defenses such as Florida and LSU.
Predicted Stats: 67 percent completion percentage, 289 passing yards and two touchdowns
We could also go with Manziel in this slide as well, but LaDarius Perkins is the workhorse for this Mississippi State offense. He is second in the SEC with 762 rushing yards and is averaging well over five yards a carry.
Although he hasn't quite made himself a household name quite yet, he has rushed for at least 100 yards in four games this season and has seven carries that have gone for over 20 yards. He is an explosive runner that is capable of taking one the distance if the opposing defense doesn't get to him quickly.
The Aggies have allowed seven teams this season to rush for over 100 yards, including LSU to manage over 200 on the ground. Expect a big day from the junior running back this weekend, as he is the go-to guy in this offense.
Predicted Stats: 25 carries, 138 yards and a touchdown
Freshman Mike Evans has quickly emerged as one of the better wide receivers in the SEC. He is third in the conference with 47 receptions, has 705 receiving yards and has eight receptions that have gone over 25 yards.
Even though Mississippi State has a terrific secondary, Evans is one of the tougher covers this Bulldogs team will face all season. At 6'5", 218 pounds, the freshman is more of a tight end trapped in a wide receiver's body. He has great hands, is capable of fighting for the football and has underrated speed to watch out for as well.
Evans has become the favorite target of quarterback Manziel and he should have yet another solid day catching the football.
Predicted Stats: Six receptions, 111 yards and a touchdown
While we can talk about how great this Mississippi State defense is all day long, the Bulldogs have yet to defend an offense as good as the Aggies. Texas A&M is going to spread the defense out, which will allow Manziel to either throw to wide open receivers or create plays with his legs. Either way, it is a tough task, and no defense has been able to figure it out yet.
Sure, LSU did a good job of managing the freshman with second-half adjustments, but he still finished the game with over 300 yards of total offense. In fact, that seems to have become the norm for him, as he has also gone over 500 total yards in two games.
Mississippi State may have the better overall players on defense, but Texas A&M has the better offense that will give the Bulldogs fits all afternoon. Not to mention, the Aggies do pressure the quarterback well, as Damontre Moore has become one of the best pure pass-rushers in the country.
Predicted Stats: Three sacks, a forced fumble and two interceptions
If you haven't figured it out by now, I am going to go with the Texas A&M Aggies. And a lot of that reason has to do with the guy that is quarterbacking the team.
The Aggies are going to move the football because there is talent at every skill position on this team. On the other side, we simply have not seen enough from the Bulldogs offense to assume that they will be able to move the ball, as the team hasn't really played anybody this year. Despite struggling against a terrific Alabama squad, Mississippi State hasn't shown enough to believe it will be able to keep up in this matchup.
Sorry, I just can’t count scoring on Auburn, Kentucky and Middle Tennessee as impressive.
Since 2009, the Bulldogs are 2-13 against ranked teams, which can't make anybody confident in picking them to knock off a hot and competitive Aggies club. I haven't seen Mississippi State accomplish much this season, while Texas A&M could have easily beaten teams such as Florida and LSU, while it did manage to beat a ranked Louisiana Tech team.
And I'm always going to go with the team that has shown the most promise throughout the year.
Texas A&M wins: 35-21