STARKVILLE, Miss. – When the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season were released Tuesday, the biggest surprise was Texas A&M. The one-loss Aggies were ranked No. 4, ahead of a Washington team that had yet to lose and fellow one-loss contenders Ohio State and Louisville.
All three of those teams can breathe a little easier.
On Saturday, Texas A&M became the latest top-10 team to fall victim on the road this season, losing 35-28 to a 3-5 Mississippi State team.
“We got whipped,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “It was extremely inconsistent all the way around for us. In all three phases, we got beat.”
It was clear that the Aggies weren’t quite awake yet when they mishandled the opening kickoff. Then after a punt, Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald took the first snap, faked it to the running back and ran 74 yards untouched for a touchdown.
Fitzgerald, doing his best Dak Prescott impersonation, finished with 209 yards passing, 182 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.
It went from bad to worse for Texas A&M when starting quarterback Trevor Knight injured his throwing shoulder on a 19-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter. Knight tried to return, but after falling on the shoulder again, he was done for the day. The senior was one of just five FBS players with at least 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing coming into Saturday.
Jake Hubenak replaced Knight and did his best to keep the Aggies in the game, throwing for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, but he threw a late interception that sealed the Bulldogs' victory.
Defensively, Myles Garrett and Armani Watts both returned for Texas A&M after missing last week’s victory over New Mexico State. However, Garrett was limited to playing only on third down and failed to register a tackle or quarterback hurry. Even with Garrett and Watts back, tackling continued to be an issue. In the fourth quarter, the Aggies allowed Mississippi State to conduct a 14-play touchdown drive that ate up more than seven minutes of clock.
With the loss, Texas A&M’s playoff chances now look slim to none. Sumlin can hang his hat on the fact his team was part of the playoff conversation in November, but it’s hard to ignore another late-season disappointment. The Aggies (7-2, SEC 4-2) will look to bounce back with home games against Ole Miss, UTSA and LSU to close the regular season.
“We’ve still got a lot of football to play,” Sumlin said. “What we have to do is look at it for what it is, accept it for what it is -- coaching, playing, the whole bit -- and go back to work and not let this affect anything more than today.”
But the bigger news might be that teams such as Washington, Ohio State and Louisville have one less obstacle between themselves and the playoff. Auburn fans can celebrate, too. They now control their destiny in the SEC West.