Is the Texas A&M Game a Must Win?


Sep 20, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs tight end Christian Holmes (44) celebrates with fans following a win against the LSU Tigers in a game at Tiger Stadium. Mississippi State defeated LSU 34-29. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Things have changed in Starkville. When the 2014 season began, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were viewed as a team that could have a really good season by possibly getting to 9, maybe 10 wins if everything breaks just right. Then the Beatdown on the Bayou happened, and now people are talking about Mississippi State as a contender in the SEC West and College Football Playoff. Things have changed so much, Bill Connelly of SB Nation who specializes in advanced stats for college football, put this out Wednesday that Mississippi State has the best chance to win the West. All of this talk though centers around one thing:

Beating Texas A&M this weekend.

If you didn’t click the link, the one thing that did stick out to me is that Connelly suggested the Bulldogs have the most to lose this weekend. The likelihood of us getting to 6 SEC wins without beating the Aggies is cut in half if we don’t. So this game is really important. Many of us thought the A&M game was winnable when the season started, but then they went out and slaughtered the Gamecocks on opening night and made us question everything we thought we knew about this team. The Aggies appear to be even better without Manziel and are trying to keep their West and Playoff hopes alive as well. It would be much more difficult to do so if they don’t, so this game is going to play a pivotal role in determining who wins the West. The winner continues to be a legitimate contender, and the loser has to almost win out to have any shot at getting to Atlanta. But does that make it a must win?

I say yes.

When the SEC expanded to 12 teams back in 1991 and introduced the SEC Championship Game, Mississippi State has only played in it once. That was back in 1998. The Bulldogs had a chance to go back to Atlanta in 1999, but what essentially was an SEC West Championship Game in Tuscaloosa that year, the Bulldogs weren’t able to hold back the Tide. Since then, we haven’t been anywhere close to a division championship. In 23 years, we have only been or come close to getting to the SEC Championship Game twice, so these opportunities don’t come along very often. We have one now, and we need to take advantage of it.

I know the history of Mississippi State. I know the limitations that one of the smallest schools in the most powerful football conference in the country faces. I know that getting the Bulldogs to be able to compete for an SEC Championship or national title consistently is difficult at best. But for one year, I think it’s time we start to expect something more. This team is good and we have an elite level quarterback. The defense is still really good, despite the big plays that have been given up. Dan Mullen finally proved that he knows how to win a big time game. For once, things seem to be going our way. I want this win, and I want to see our Bulldogs in Atlanta.

Can Mississippi State lose and still get to Atlanta? Sure, but the road to do so will be much more difficult. It would mean beating at least two more top ten teams in Auburn and Alabama, and possibly one more in Ole Miss if they can pull off some upsets of their own. Not being able to beat Texas A&M at home when you are the favorite makes doing all that seem much less likely.

Can Mississippi State still have a good season if they don’t win? Absolutely. The team would still be on track for 7 or 8 wins, get to a bowl, and say it was a good year. I’m just tired of being good. Good teams don’t win SEC Championships, elite teams do. I don’t know if our team is elite, but I honestly believe they have the potential to be elite. So is the Texas A&M game a must win? I want a season that will go down in the history books, and I don’t see that happening if we don’t beat the Aggies. So yes, it’s a must win.