Texas A&M handled Mississippi State 28-14 last October in Starkville en route to a 9-1 season for the Aggies in 2020.
A year later, the two teams will meet up for the 10th straight season, this time on Oct. 2 in College Station in what looks likely to be one of the most difficult games on the Bulldogs’ 2021 schedule.
Here’s what to know about Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies squad before this year’s contest.
Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in The Dispatch’s 2021 Scouting the Schedule series. The fourth installment was published in Tuesday’s edition. The series continues Thursday with a look at Mississippi State’s sixth game of the season.
Texas A&M quick facts
2020 record: 9-1
Coach: Jimbo Fisher, fourth year
ESPN Football Power Index: No. 6
All-time series: Tied 7-7
Last meeting: Oct. 17, 2020
Mississippi State and Texas A&M have played every year since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
The Bulldogs won three of the five previous matchups — three of which took place in the 1910s — and have won four of nine SEC contests. That puts the all-time series at an even 7-7.
Mississippi State beat Texas A&M when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 12 and the Aggies No. 6 in 2014. The next year, A&M returned the favor in College Station with both teams in the top 25.
Texas A&M was blown out in its second game of 2020, losing 52-24 to an Alabama team that went on to an undefeated season and a national title.
Other than that, the Aggies had an excellent year, winning all nine games that weren’t played inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. They held off Florida by a field goal in College Station, took down Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and more in the regular season before beating North Carolina 41-27 in the Orange Bowl.
But A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for 2,282 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2020, is off to the NFL. Backup Haynes King and sophomore Zach Calzada will battle for the starting job in training camp.
Running back Isaiah Spiller, who made the all-SEC first team as a sophomore, will be a problem for opposing defenses this season. Spiller ran for 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns on 188 carries last fall. Devon Achane (363 yards) and Ainias Smith (293 yards) also saw some touches.
Smith was even the Aggies’ leading receiver at 564 yards, scoring six touchdowns to boot. Tight end Jalen Wydermyer returns after 506 receiving yards in 2020, as does wideout Chase Lane (409 yards).
On defense, linebacker Buddy Johnson went in the fourth round of the NFL draft after 86 tackles and four sacks. Defensive lineman Bobby Brown, who led the team with 5.5 sacks, was also selected.
Defensive end DeMarvin Leal and linebacker Aaron Hansford will lead the defense in 2021.
Five-star defensive lineman Shemar Turner leads a 2021 signing class that ranks eighth in the nation, according to 247 Sports.
Fifteen four-star recruits, including a pair of top-50 national players — defensive lineman Tunmise Adeleye and running back LJ Johnson — accompany Turner.
The Aggies got three-star offensive tackle Jahmir Johnson to transfer from Tennessee, although a lot more A&M players are headed on their way out of the program.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.