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Friday, November 2, 2012
Prediction/matchups: A&M vs. Miss. State

By Sam Khan Jr.

Texas A&M 31, Mississippi State 27

Of all the games on the Aggies' schedule, this feels the closest to a coin flip, point spread notwithstanding. The teams are next to each other in the rankings (the Bulldogs are 15th in the BCS standings, A&M 16th), both have performed above preseason expectations and both teams' only losses are to ranked foes (the Aggies dropped games to Florida and LSU; Alabama is Mississippi State's only defeat). There appears to be good quarterback play on both sides with Johnny Manziel for Texas A&M and Tyler Russell for Mississippi State. Davis Wade Stadium, in all its cowbell-filled glory, is no picnic, but coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies have excelled on the road this year, winning all four games away from Kyle Field. This one will be the toughest to date on paper, with the toughest of the year awaiting a week later at Alabama. If the Aggies and Manziel take care of the football -- and I'm going to guess that they do -- then this team is good enough to go into Starkville, Miss., and get a quality road win. Behind a balanced offensive attack, and some pressure applied to Russell defensively and some key third-down defense, I'm going to say the Aggies pull it off in a close, hard-fought battle.

Player to watch: Mike Evans, Texas A&M

Mike Evans
Redshirt freshman Mike Evans leads the Aggies in receptions and receiving yards.
The redshirt freshman receiver has been Manziel's go-to guy in the passing game and he has also been the Aggies' most explosive receiving threat. He has come up with key catch after key catch and currently leads the team in receptions (47) and receiving yards (705). He has been battling a hamstring injury for the last two weeks and has had to come out of games at times because of it, but has battled through the injury and has combined to catch 11 passes for 156 yards in the last two games. It'll be worth watching on Saturday to see if the hamstring affects him again.

Matchups to watch:

" Russell vs. Texas A&M secondary Aggies defensive coordinator Mark Snyder came away impressed with Russell's poise in the pocket while under pressure and noted that his defensive backs will have to cover "a second-and-a-half longer" than normal because Russell is willing to hang on to the football and take a hit in order to allow his receivers a little extra time to get open. He showed that patience and pocket presence consistently against Alabama and took some shots.

" Evans vs. Mississippi State CBs Darius Slay and Johnathan Banks
Banks is considered one of the top corners in the country and Auburn receiver Emory Blake called him the best in the SEC, but he and Evans don't consistently line up on the same side of the formation, meaning Evans could be looking at Slay, a talented corner in his own right, for much of the day. Slay has four interceptions this year and picked a pass off in each of the first three games of the season. Both corners have good size (Slay is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds; Banks is 6-2, 185) but Evans is bigger than both (6-5, 218).