College Football Picks: Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M

Willie Bee

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 3:24 PM GMT

How much has the improvement of Texas A&M's defense the past two weeks been the Aggies' doing, and how much should be attributed to the offenses they faced? We might have a better idea of that Saturday when the Aggies host the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field.

Texas A&M takes aim at its third straight victory, and a chance to remain no worse than third in the tough West Division of the SEC in the 3:30 PM (ET) matchup with Mississippi State that can be seen on CBS. Online sportsbooks first opened the spread at -19 on the Aggies, and remains at that spot with some sports books showing 19.5 for their college football odds.

[gameodds]6/248600/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

It is just the seventh time for the Aggies and Bulldogs to meet -- third since calendars flipped to the 21st century -- with the series level at 3-3 following Texas A&M's 38-13 win in Starkville just over a year ago. Johnny Manziel had a big day in directing the Aggies to nearly 700 yards of offense while rolling to a 31-0 third-quarter lead. The Aggies easily covered the 6.5 point spread, but the game never really threatened the 61.5 point total.

Bulldogs In Middle Of Tough 3-Week Stretch

Dan Mullen brings Mississippi State (4-4 straight up, 3-5 against the spread) in following an embarrassing loss at South Carolina. The Bulldogs had an early 7-0 lead before the Gamecocks took charge on the scoreboard thanks to short fields attributed to five MSU turnovers. South Carolina turned those five mistakes into 20 points en route to a 34-16 final. 

Four of the turnovers were by Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (3 INT, 1 Fum), and the picks doubled his season total after entering the game with only three interceptions in seven previous contests. While Prescott gets the goat award for the loss at South Carolina, it's been an overall effort by the MSU offense that has been lacking all season. Almost half of the 227 points the Bulldogs have put up came in wins over Alcorn State (51-7) and Troy (62-7).

Connor Shaw did have four TD passes against Mississippi State last week, but Mullen and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins have had a sound stop unit for the most part. The Bulldogs rank 22nd in total defense allowing a little more than 350 yards per game, and limited the Gamecocks to just over 300 last week. Those stats will surely be tested against Texas A&M before facing No. 1 Alabama in Starkville seven days later.

Can Aggies Be Caught Looking Ahead?

Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies have two big road games coming up after this that could ultimately determine who gets the No. 3 slot from the SEC in bowl pecking order. The good news is Texas A&M (7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS) will have a week off after Saturday's matchup before playing at LSU and Missouri to close out the regular season.

Last week saw Manziel and the offense sputter at the start before finally putting things together against a UTEP squad that, quite frankly, provided nothing more than a scrimmage opponent for the Ags. Johnny Football continues to be a magician running Sumlin's system, and sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans will create matchup problems on a bunch of 5-10's in Mississippi State's defensive backfield. 

Take a look at our SBR's College Football Picks for Week 11 Betting Odds Report

Mother Nature & Final Thoughts

T-shirts & shorts on the second Saturday of November? That is the forecast for this SEC clash in College Station where a muggy afternoon high of 77º is in the mix a few clouds and only a slight SE breeze; college football bettors should confirm that before placing their wagers. 

Early sports picks quickly shot the total up to 66 or 66.5 after opening at 64. Texas A&M just saw a string of four 'over' winners come to a halt in the victory over UTEP, in part due to a far better effort from the Aggies defense. Mississippi State, meanwhile, is riding a string of three consecutive 'unders.'

Assuming Prescott and his pals can get back to at least protecting the ball, the Bulldogs should at least stay inside this spread. The Aggies are going to have to adjust to a different speed after the overmatched Miners a week ago, and I'm not buying into A&M's defense just yet. My free college football pick is on the 'Dogs in this battle, with a lean to the 'over.'

My pick: Mississippi State +19

Season record: 18-7 (+9.3 units); four picks pending