No. 17 Texas AM will look to extend its winning streak to three games and continue its climb back up the rankings Saturday when the Aggies visit Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
The Aggies (3-1, 1-0 SEC) followed a stunning 17-14 loss to Appalachian State on Sept. 10 with wins over then-No. 13 Miami and then-No. 10 Arkansas to remain in position for their first SEC West Division title since arriving from the Big 12 before the 2012 season.
Left unmentioned this week by Texas AM will be next week's showdown at No. 2 Alabama, which has won six of the last eight West Division titles.
"We are by far not close to where we need to be," Texas AM coach Jimbo Fisher said after the Aggies' 23-21 win over Arkansas on Saturday. "We beat two good football teams not playing our best football."
Mississippi State (3-1, 0-1) entered the season looking to challenge, too, but the Bulldogs lost their margin for error in their conference opener, when they lost to LSU 31-16 on Sept. 17.
The Bulldogs bounced back to beat Bowling Green 45-14 last week. Last season, they knocked off the Aggies 26-22 in College Station, Texas.
"(Texas AM has) big, lanky guys and they run well," Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. "Once they see the ball, they do a good job chasing the ball."
Texas AM quarterback Max Johnson has given the Aggies consistency at the position after taking over for Haynes King, who struggled mightily against Appalachian State.
Johnson, who transferred from LSU, where he started last season, completed 21 of 41 passes for 291 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions collectively in the wins over Miami and Arkansas.
Devon Achane rushed for 159 yards against Arkansas and will continue to power the ground game, but Johnson will be without the Aggies' leading receiver.
Ainias Smith, who leads AM in receptions (15), yards (291) and touchdowns (two), will miss the rest of the season after breaking his fibula against Arkansas.
Evan Stewart has 13 receptions for 141 yards and a score, but no other Aggie has more than five catches this season.
Texas AM boasts the 10th-ranked passing defense (153.2 yards per game) in FBS. It will be tested by Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers, who is passing for 346.5 yards a game (second nationally), and his 16 touchdown passes are tied for first with North Carolina's Drake Maye and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud.
"It's going to come down to the secondary. We know we're going to get the rush up front, and as a back end we have to execute," Texas AM defensive back Jaylon Jones said. "We know they like to throw the ball. They're the Air Raid offense."
Rogers threw for 409 yards and a school-record-tying six touchdown passes in a 45-14 win over Bowling Green on Saturday.
Five Bulldogs have caught at least 15 passes this season, led by Caleb Ducking's 21 receptions for 258 yards and five touchdowns.
Dillon Johnson leads the rushing attack, averaging 6.5 yards on 36 carries.
--Field Level Media