Week 14 - Texas A&M at Missouri

Posted Nov 26, 2013

Week 14 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Texas A&M at Missouri

Texas A&M (8-3) at Missouri (10-1) Nov. 30 7:45, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: America, are you finally ready to accept the concept that Missouri might be really, really good at playing college football this year?

The two former Big 12 brothers stepped into a skeptical SEC world last season with no one believing there was a chance at either one to make too much of a dent in the power conference of all power conferences. However, Missouri was supposed to have the innovative, X factor offense that could've given the rest of the league problems, while Texas A&M was the program that couldn't make any noise in the Big 12 South against the Texases and Oklahomas of the world.

Of course, Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel had other ideas, and the Tigers ended up sputtering and coughing in a disastrous 5-7 campaign.

The tables have turned a year later, with A&M the hot team coming into the season and no one expecting anything out of Mizzou, but Gary Pinkel's club is knee-deep in the national title hunt.

The Tigers had one really bad quarter against South Carolina, and couldn't come though in the tough overtime loss. That's the only blip on the radar, and while they haven't beaten a team currently ranked in the top 25, Arkansas State, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Ole Miss will all go bowling, and Florida wasn't this bad when it came to Columbia over a month ago.

Fifth in the latest BCS standings, Missouri is in the same boat as Auburn, controlling its SEC title destiny and needing a little help to get into the BCS championship. However, with a loss, South Carolina will play the Alabama-Auburn winner for the SEC title, and Missouri's chance of at least getting into a BCS game would be gone.

Texas A&M looked really, really tired last week in a 34-10 loss to LSU. The high-powered offense sputtered and stumbled, and the struggling defense continued to falter. The Aggies haven't been bad this year – actually, check that; they've been awful on D – but they failed in tight games against Alabama and Auburn and needed to claw past Ole Miss and Mississippi State. A win over Missouri would up the bowl stock and keep a ten-win season in play.

Why Texas A&M Might Win: There's plenty of talent in the Missouri secondary, but it's giving up lots and lots and lots of yards, allowing an SEC-worst 272 yards per game. Granted, teams have been throwing to try to keep up the pace, but everyone but Florida has feasted off of the Tiger defensive backs. On the plus side for the Tigers, South Carolina is the only team to throw a touchdown pass on the MU secondary in the last five games. Mr. Manziel might change all of that. The offense has the right mix of explosion and control – when it has to take over a game – to match up with the Tigers score for score, and the Missouri defense is going to be stretched deep time and again.

Why Missouri Might Win: How do you slow down Manziel? Make him a pure pocket passer and take your chances. At his Heisman-worthy best when he's on the move making things happen, Manziel could have a long day against the all-star caliber Tiger defensive ends Michael Sam and Kona Ealy, who have the ability and speed to get around the edge on a regular basis and at least keep No. 2 contained. On the other side of the ball, the Missouri offense should roll at will on an Aggie defense that's getting hammered from all sides. The pass defense failed for the entire year, and then Mississippi State and LSU decided to pound away over the last few games. Auburn ripped up the Aggies with the spread and speed, but LSU simply blasted its way to 324 yards last week. The chances will be there for big runs, meaning …

Who To Watch Out For: It might be time for James Franklin to start taking off more. He wasn't supposed to be Johnny Manziel last season, but he was expected to be close, after running for 981 yards and 15 scores as a sophomore – with 97 yards and two scores in the win over A&M. Hurt throughout last year, he missed the game against the Aggies, and he missed a bulk of the second half of this season with a shoulder problem, but even before he was hurt he was turning into more of a passer. And why not? He has a huge, talented group of receivers to work with. Against A&M, though, and with the SEC East on the line, he might have too many enticing rushing opportunities to pass up.

- Who said the Heisman trophy was a done deal? With Jameis Winston's campaign in trouble and the idea of voting for AJ McCarron as exciting as eating a dry turkey sandwich, the chance is still there for Manziel to make one last push. After a disastrous 16-of-41, 224-yard, one score, two pick outing against LSU, his candidacy might have tumbled, but if he puts up one more monster game in what might be his final moment in the SEC – at least to make amends for last week – he could be right back in the thick of things. Last year against Mizzou he threw for 372 yards and two scores with a pick and ran for 67 yards and two scores to all but clinch the Heisman.

- The NFL scouts will be going over this tape again and again whenever Missouri DE Michael Sam and Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews are locked up one-on-one. Flip a coin on whether Matthews or Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio is the first offensive tackle off the board, but he's not slipping out of the top ten. Sam has played his way into the next level with ten sacks and 17 tackles for loss, terrorizing teams all season long, but at the moment, he's likely a third round pick. If he can put up a huge day against Matthews, he's going to make some money.

- Mike Evans could seal up the Biletnikoff with a big performance. The 6-5, 218-pound A&M big play man is averaging close to 22 yards per catch, making 61 grabs for 1,314 yards and 12 scores. However, he hasn't caught a touchdown pass in either of the last two games. Last year he caught eight passes for 99 yards and a score against Missouri, while Dorial Green-Beckham caught four passes for 55 yards and a score. This year DGB has started to show why he was the nation's No. 1 overall recruit two years ago, highlighted by a four touchdown game against Kentucky two weeks ago.

What Will Happen: Texas A&M will put up big numbers and Manziel will be brilliant, but Missouri is too balanced, too talented and too good on both sides of the ball. A&M might score a ton of points and crank up a bazillion yards, but Mizzou will score a ton of points and crank up a ton of yards, plus one, on the way to the SEC championship game.

Prediction: Missouri 48 … Texas A&M 40
Line: Missouri -4.5 o/u:
Must See Rating: (5 American Hustle – 1 The Sound of Music Live!) … 5
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