SEC Newcomers to Square off
By Donovan Tennimon
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If the Aggies beat Missouri, then it would be their first double-digit winning season since 1998.
Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC) and Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2) have gone in opposite directions since the start of the football season, both figuratively and literally. Missouri was supposed to be the immediate contender in its respective division. The Aggies were supposed to slowly break in their new coaching staff and a redshirt freshman quarterback. The Tigers find themselves in a must-win game just to reach .500 and go to a lower-tier bowl game. With a victory, Texas A&M will hit the 10-win mark and will keep alive the hopes of playing in a BCS bowl game.
Missouri is banged-up, especially on offense, and is coming off a tough loss at home to Syracuse. The loss probably ended their hopes for a bowl game. Obviously, this is not the way they had envisioned their first year in the SEC. They were the new team entering the conference with a tenured coaching staff and returning an experienced dual-threat quarterback. James Franklin has struggled this year, even when he has been healthy enough to play. The junior from Texas is ranked 76th in the country in passing efficiency and has thrown just 10 touchdowns passes with seven interceptions.
Johnny Manziel, on the other hand, is everybody’s new Heisman frontrunner. No freshman has ever won the award, but with another big game against Missouri, Johnny “Football” might rewrite history. He ranks second in the country in total offense, averaging just over 378 yards a game. More importantly, he has led his team to a possible 10-win season, beat then No. 1 Alabama on the road, and has played beyond his years since the first game of the season. Overall, the Aggies rank in the top six nationally in total offense (543.73 yards per game) and scoring offense (43.45 points per game).
The Tigers have to be drained both psychologically and physically. They have experienced many ups and downs this season, with injuries, close games, and blow-out losses. Missouri has not looked good against the top-tier teams in the conference, having lost by at least 21 points to Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. They were able to stay close to Florida on the road, and will have to play a near perfect game in order to stay close with Texas A&M. Whoever is playing quarterback for the Tigers will have to eliminate mistakes, and Missouri cannot give the Aggies any cheap penalty yards. This will be exceptionally difficult to do in front of over 80,000 yelling fans at Kyle Field.
Game Within the Game: Look for the Tigers to try and contain Johnny Manziel at the line of scrimmage. Problem is - there is no game film for the Tigers to study that shows a team stopping Manziel for an entire game. Missouri has to hope that Texas A&M is overlooking them and already making plans for its bowl game. That’s not likely, as Missouri has won this game the last three years and has beaten the Aggies five out of the last six years.
Extra Points: Since losing the first game of the season, the Aggies have won nine out of their last 10 games. Texas A&M is currently on a four-game winning streak. Both losses this year have come to teams ranked in the top ten, both losses were at home, and both losses were close games. If the Aggies beat Missouri, then it would be their first double-digit winning season since 1998. Texas A&M leads the all-time series 7-5.