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Double-Digit Dogs?

By Matt Smith
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While all of the Bulldogs five SEC meetings have been decided by double digits, the Aggies have had a knack for close games.

We talk a lot about Alabama and Georgia because they are elite football teams.

We talk a lot about Arkansas and Tennessee a lot because they are unmitigated disasters.

We talk a lot Auburn and LSU because they have each ridden wild rollercoasters this season.

Heck, we even talked Vanderbilt because, for a fleeting second, it was a good football team.

One team that has been completely off the radar for the past month is 5-2 Mississippi State. Why? For starters, we inherently talk less about Dan Mullen’s program than the SEC’s bluebloods. Secondly, the Bulldogs promptly exited themselves from SEC title conversation with blowout losses to Georgia and Auburn in late September. Finally, Mississippi State’s 35-10 pasting of BYU two weeks ago is actually the closest margin of victory in a Bulldogs game this season.

If there’s a chance for Mississippi State to play a game not decided by double digits, it’s probably going to come Saturday night in a showdown with another 5-2 team, Texas A&M, in College Station (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN). Mississippi State’s November schedule consists of a non-conference game with Massachusetts and dates with two SEC teams who are falling apart – Arkansas and Ole Miss. There’s also a visit from Alabama, meaning November has a chance to be four more blowouts for the Bulldogs, with three in their favor.

While all of the Bulldogs five SEC meetings have been decided by double digits, the Aggies have had a knack for close games. All of their five contests with Power Five opponents this season have been decided by one score.

Something has to give on Saturday night.

Both maroon-clad teams prefer to move via the ground, with Mississippi State and Texas A&M ranked No. 12 and No. 13 in the SEC in passer rating. Nick Fitzgerald and Kellen Mond are capable passers, but are most dangerous because of their ability to make plays with their legs. They’ve combined for 18 passing touchdowns, but have added 12 rushing scores.

Defensively, Auburn shredded Todd Grantham’s unit, but Mississippi State has held its other six opponents to just 76 total points – a far cry from last year’s sieve that allowed 32 points per game in a disappointing 6-7 season. The Aggies haven’t reached 30 points in the past three weeks, so Saturday night presents an opportunity to flourish.

Mississippi State is 0-2 in College Station in SEC games, including a 30-17 loss in Dak Prescott’s final season in 2015. A year earlier, Prescott had led the Bulldogs to a 10-win season – just the third in program history.

Very quietly, this Bulldogs team is on track to potentially match the final win total of that 2014 team that spent a month ranked No. 1 in the country. With a near-certain loss to Alabama ahead, getting to double-digit wins will require conquering College Station for the first time. Do that, and Mississippi State will be poised to finished 9-3 heading into a bowl game. Mullen is an impressive 5-2 in postseason contests, giving the Bulldogs a great chance to reach 10 wins.

While the Bulldogs aren’t double-digit underdogs on Saturday night (the line currently has them as a one-point road favorite), double digits are a common theme in Starkville this season.

The double-digit final scores are keeping Mississippi State out of the spotlight, but the potential for double-digit wins, if they can knock off the Aggies, has the chance to put the Bulldogs right back in it.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.