STARKVILLE — The compliments were flowing from Collin Duncan as the Mississippi State football safety ran through the weapons No. 17 Texas A&M has on offense.
The running backs, led by Devon Achane, are electric, he said. The wide receivers are fast, he added. Quarterback Max Johnson has a cannon, he concluded.
“That’s a lot of people I just named,” Duncan said. “You’ve got to be on your toes. You’ve got to be ready to play top-down on this type of offense. You play with a lot of respect for them.”
There’s no sugarcoating it in the eyes of the Bulldogs. When Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0 SEC) arrives at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network), a battle awaits.
Mississippi State defense vs. Texas A&M offense
The Aggies will be without leading receiver Ainias Smith for the remainder of the season after he suffered a lower body injury in last week’s loss against No. 19 Arkansas.
The emphasis on slowing down Achane only increases.
Achane is fifth in the SEC with 355 rushing yards on 65 attempts (5.5 per rush). He was a preseason second-team All-SEC selection by the media. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the No. 5 running back in the upcoming NFL Draft class.
“He runs a 10.1 (second) 100-meter. I don’t know many college football players who have 100-meter times that probably qualify for the Olympics,” MSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett said.
Johnson is also a familiar face to Mississippi State (3-1, 0-1). The junior transfer put up 280 yards and four touchdowns in a win for LSU at MSU last season.
“He’s exactly why he was a big-time recruit,” Arnett said. “Big frame. Got the arm that makes all the throws. He can get out of trouble with his legs and doesn’t get tackled easily.”
Mississippi State offense vs. Texas A&M defense
Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns at A&M last year. However, that came with Charles Cross protecting his blindside.
Starting left tackle Kwatrivous Johnson went down with a leg injury in State’s win against Bowling Green. He did not return, and his status remains unclear.
Left guard Nick Jones, who was Cross’ backup, moved over to left tackle. Backup center Steven Losoya III stepped into Jones’ usual spot.
Texas A&M finished fourth in the SEC last season with 39 sacks, but the Aggies have recorded only six this season.
The battle of the trenches between Mike Leach’s offense and Jimbo Fisher’s defense will likely dictate the winner.
It has been a while since MSU’s special teams were held in high regard, but compliments were in line after beating Bowling Green. Every aspect of the third phase was strong for MSU. That’ll need to continue against a quality special teams unit for A&M.
Keeping the ball out of Achane’s hands stretches to special teams; he has averaged 40 yards per kickoff return so far in 2022, including a 95-yard touchdown. MSU’s Ben Raybon has 13 touchbacks on 21 kickoffs. He'll look to increase that number.
Mississippi State 24, Texas A&M: 20: Mississippi State (-3.5) has had a solid run defense during Arnett’s tenure. With Smith out, Texas A&M will lean heavily on Achane. That's typically a solid strategy. MSU is just a poor matchup. The Aggies will keep it close by getting pressure on Rogers, but the Bulldogs will prevail. A special teams play could swing things heavily.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi State football score, spread prediction vs. Texas A&M