Football

Texas Power 5 football previews: Texas A&M looks to keep CFP spot

Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight and the Aggies are listed fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings. Texas A&M will need to defeat Mississippi State on the road Saturday to keep its lofty rating in the CFP.
Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight and the Aggies are listed fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings. Texas A&M will need to defeat Mississippi State on the road Saturday to keep its lofty rating in the CFP. AP

No. 4 Texas A&M (7-1, 4-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3) (11 a.m. Saturday, SEC Network): Texas A&M was a surprise coming in at No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. The Aggies snuck past undefeated Washington based mostly on their tougher schedule. But that final four spot will evaporate quickly if A&M doesn’t perform well in its final four games. The Aggies need to beat Mississippi State soundly on the road to justify their position. The Bulldogs are second to last in the SEC West and are giving up 30 points a game. The Aggies sported a stiff rush defense for the first several weeks, but gave have reverted to giving up bigger numbers in the past three games against Tennessee, Alabama and New Mexico State. A&M will need to clamp down on Mississippi State’s ground game early to take control.

Texas (4-4, 2-3 Big 12) at Texas Tech (4-4, 2-3) (11 a.m. Saturday, FS1): Texas is coming off its second top-10 win of the year, yet the Longhorns are still at a season crossroads. Texas coach Charlie Strong has faced criticism amid speculation that he will be let go at the end of the year. Yet Strong’s team knocked off an unbeaten Baylor team last week to reach .500 and gain some momentum. In Lubbock, coach Kliff Kingsbury is also on the hot seat. The Red Raiders stopped a three-game skid with a win at TCU last weekend, but Texas Tech is still a mess on defense. The Red Raiders are No. 2 in the nation in scoring and No. 123 in points allowed. Whichever team wins this matchup will gain some breathing space, and the loser will face some tough questions.

TCU (4-4, 2-3 Big 12) at No. 17 Baylor (6-1, 3-1) (2:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4): This matchup lost its big-game status after TCU lost three Big 12 games in October and Baylor lost at Texas. But this rivalry still means a ton to fans. The series is even at 52-52 with seven ties. Last season’s game was a rain-soaked, double-overtime thriller ending in a 28-21 TCU win. Even though Baylor is at home, favored and has the edge in most statistical categories, expect this game to go down to the wire. TCU is searching for answers on offense, where QB Kenny Hill and kicker Brandon Hatfield have both been inconsistent. Hatfield missed three field goals in last week’s double overtime loss to Texas Tech, and Hill was benched in the second half after throwing for just 160 yards and an interception.

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