STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s run defense ranks in the top 10 nationwide.

Texas A & M’s rushed offense is solidly in the middle of the pack thanks to a below-par offensive line.

But don’t expect that to mean the Bulldogs will thwart the Aggies on the ground when the two teams meet at 6 p.m. on Saturday in College Station, TX.

Because Mississippi State Defensive Coordinator Zach Arnett certainly doesn’t.

“I guess they watched last year’s game and saw they rushed over 200 yards and probably slept really well the night against us,” Arnett said. Wednesday.

The Aggies racked up 186 yards in a 28-14 win at Davis Wade Stadium on Oct. 17, but Arnett’s point still stands. Texas A & M’s offense – and its running game – cannot be overlooked.

The Aggies have Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane in the backfield. They have 6-foot-5 tight end Jalen Wydermyer. And even quarterback Zach Calzada, who starts on Saturday, can “make all the shots.”

“They do everything, and they’re obviously physical up front with the offensive line,” Arnett said. “They do a good job of mixing – throw the ball down your throat, then they pass you the action, comeback play and explosive plays in the air.”

Not much was on display in the Aggies’ 20-10 loss to Arkansas on Saturday, but Mississippi State still knows what it is up against. The Bulldogs allowed three touchdowns of 40 yards or more against LSU in Saturday’s 28-25 loss and are motivated to change that this weekend.

“If you can limit explosive plays and keep a team running throughout the pitch, you usually have a good chance of delaying and stopping them, and when you give up explosive plays – especially when you give up touchdowns – you give points, ”Arnett said. “And obviously we gave up a bit too much.”

Crumedy: MSU must put pressure on QB

A downside to Calzada’s game, according to Mississippi State junior defensive tackle Jaden Crumedy?

“I saw that he likes to hold the ball a lot, and it will be a perfect opportunity for us to reach for him and make plays,” Crumedy said on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs’ pass rush has not been as desired this season. Thanks in part to the loss of defensive end Jordan Davis to apparent injury, Mississippi State has just eight sacks in four games, which is good for a tie for 74th in the nation. They sacked LSU quarterback Max Johnson twice on Saturday with linemen Randy Charlton and Aaron Odom winning one out each.

Against a Texas A&M team with a smashed O-line, those numbers will need to improve. Aggies right-back Layden Robinson has missed the last two games and could miss a third, which will lead to further reshuffles along the line.

With injury issues and a young center quarterback, Mississippi State must pressure Calzada to disrupt the Texas A&M offense.

“I feel like it’s going to be very important to us,” Crumedy said. “On the one hand, we want to step up our game and show that we can do what we haven’t done in the first place.”

MSU OL takes a new step

Head coach Mike Leach was heavily criticized for his offensive line during the Bulldogs’ first fall scrum on Aug. 14 at Davis Wade Stadium.

“I think some of these guys have to get stronger,” Leach said. “Some of them probably think they’re better than they are, so we have to take that away from them.”

Everything he and offensive line coach Mason Miller have done since seems to be working.

After a few tough times early in the season, Mississippi State protected quarterback Will Rogers well against LSU, allowing just one sack. A solid run blocking also allowed the Bulldogs to rush for 115 yards on just 26 carries.

“They kept Will pretty clean all day and we ran 100 rushing yards,” running backs coach Eric Mele said Wednesday. “This is pretty much how you want it to look.”

Center LaQuinston Sharp said he feels comfortable in his new job thanks to at least 100 snaps a day during the offseason and a strict conditioning regimen.

He expressed confidence that his teammates on the O line are improving as well.

“Everyone is getting better at their jobs every day, doing what they’re supposed to do, and we’ll keep improving from there,” said Sharp.

Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi state sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.

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