Steve Robertson/

New SEC West Rivalry Features Offensive Fireworks

Heading to Kyle Field this weekend? Excellent idea. But, a cautionary note: start consuming extra caffeine in advance. Not because these Bulldog-Aggie games get boring, not at all. They just run long. Very long.

In fact, the three meetings since these programs became SEC West rivals have lasted 3:33, then 3:53, and finally 4:09 last year. Yes, the quantity (though rarely quality) of commercial content by SEC network partners; and maybe more so the proliferation of replays and reviews do extend college football games.

But so have spread offenses. And two of the top are colliding on Kyle Field Saturday evening. Texas A&M is much better-known for a tempo approach, of course. Coach Kevin Sumlin brought his snap-it-often philosophy from Houston—where the Bulldogs beat him in 2010 by the way—to College Station with even better results.

The 2015 twist is how Mississippi State has upped its own tempo. Primarily, because Coach Dan Mullen has—for the moment—shifted away from his preferred power running priority to take advantage of All-SEC quarterback Dak Prescott and the best collection of receivers at State since…ever? The 2014 Bulldogs re-wrote lots of offensive records and this team is already on pace to break many of them again.

In these three games the total offensive snaps have averaged 162 for the two teams. That does not include kicking plays, plays negated on penalties, etc. So get ready for a long evening by the Brazos. But wait, won’t all the explosive offensive plays keep everyone wide-away?

Possibly. But even fireworks get exhausting.

*The plays run, or passed, are usually prolific too. Almost one out of four snaps, 23.9%, have produced gains of ten or more yards.

*Much was rightly made last week of Dak Prescott’s productive career in Auburn games. In fact he finished with 1,001 career yards in the four games. Well, this week it is worth noting Prescott’s results against Aggie defenses aren’t too far behind that pace.

Through three games in this series, Prescott has piled up 653 total yards with seven touchdowns. Most came in the starts of course, as he only got in briefly in 2012 with 14 yards on two rushes. Not a bad average, to be sure.

Then in ’13 at A&M, he rushed 16 times for 154 yards; and was 14-of-26 passing for 149 yards with an interception and two touchdowns. Notice the average on his feet wasn’t much shy of what his completions picked up. It’s something the Aggies noticed.

Because last year they did attack Prescott more often and limited him, relatively, to 77 net yards on 23 carries with a series of sacks. He still carried the ball across the goal line three times himself, and threw two more touchdowns on 19-of-25 passing for 259 yards.

Also, these stats could be a bit bigger. Last year the Dogs dialed it back leading 48-17, allowing the Aggies to trim the final margin. And in 2013 of course Prescott went down after taking a shot to the left arm and shoulder late in a touchdown drive, costing him several more snaps.

*Wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson has had a fine career against Texas A&M himself. In a pair of games the junior has caught eleven passes, good for 147 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scores were thrown by Prescott, one each season; the other by Tyler Russell entering after Prescott was knocked out of the 2013 game in College Station.

*There are seven active Bulldogs who have caught a pass against A&M, and three of them have done it consecutive seasons; Wilson, Fred Brown, Joe Morrow. But Morrow’s 2013 touchdown was not tossed by a quarterback. It was receiver Jameon Lewis delivering the throw.

*In fact, Prescott has caught a pass in this rivalry, too. Last season in the second quarter wideout Gabe Myles took the sweep pitch, then fired back to the quarterback for an 11-yard gain. It didn’t score but did give State first-and-goal on the nine-yard line.

*Of course every time the offense snaps something, there’s a defense on the field too. And they’re reacting, often frantically, because Bulldog-Aggie games send the ball every which way.

It’s not correct to say no defense is played in these matchups. Just that the defenses are over-worked. In three games the respective offenses have had 86 series. 34 of them ended in scores of some sort (none by a defense) and 12 in turnovers. There have been just 26 punts, combined, in three years.

*But since not every play ends in points, there are tackles being made. It won’t surprise after reading the above to be told defensive backs have an over-sized share of the stops. Though, in the past three years linebacker Benardrick McKinney was the busiest Bulldog with 29 tackles.

Of the current Dogs, it’s CB Will Redmond who has been active with 15 total tackles in two years. He had five of those in the ’13 game, only his third after finally being cleared to play; and one was for a loss. Redmond doubled the total last year though, with ten tackles. And he got another TFL in the process.

Note, all of this was off the bench in the cornerback rotation. Now Redmond will get his first start against the Aggies. He hasn’t picked off any A&M passes so far, but with two picks this season the odds seem favorable this time.

*Redmond will have trouble though matching what LB Richie Brown did last year. His three interceptions tied the State game record, and they were done as the 1B rotation middle ‘backer. That was also all the passes Brown picked in 2014. He did begin this season by snaring a deflected Southern Mississippi pass.

*In the three games, Bulldog defensive backs have combined to account for 68 total tackles.

*As soon as everyone exited the stadium two years ago, de-construction got underway. Literally, pieces of the Field turf were being dug up for a fund-raising program, not to mention unofficial souvenirs.

The re-construction process has been completed, raising A&M’s capacity to 102,512. That’s listed. Over 104,000 have packed the place already in 2014 and now slightly larger crowds can be crammed in for 2015.

So, could this be the largest crowd ever to watch Mississippi State play in-person? As Bulldog teams have never visited Michigan, the record would have to be at long-time SEC ‘big house’ Tennessee.

The largest listed attendance is 104,223 when the Bulldogs visited Neyland Stadium in 2003. That’s the official count of course. That was a gray, damp November day in Knoxville with a struggling State squad visiting. The main attraction was more the farewell tour of Jackie Sherrill (ironically a former head coach for both State and A&M) in fact. So the real attendance was something in the 90,000s. But, official is official.

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