Mizzou closes out its regular season with a trip to No. 9 Texas A&M at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. The Tigers will play their fifth game of the season against an opponent that was ranked in the top nine when the game was played.
College Station is a familiar and friendly place for the Tigers in recent history. When both teams were in the Big 12, the Tigers won in 2010 and 2011 at Kyle Field. The 2010 matchup was the coming out party for Blaine Gabbert, who was 31-for-47 with 361 yards and three touchdowns. It is possible that the poorly managed Jacksonville Jaguars only looked at the film from this game before they moved up six picks to select Gabbert 10th overall in 2011 Draft. The 2010 game was a week before the classic home game against No. 1 Oklahoma, which was another one of Gabbert’s big performances.
A year later the Tigers overcame a big day from Ryan Tannehill and a 14-point deficit to shock the Aggies in overtime. Earlier in the game James Franklin produced the best play of the Tigers season:
Franklin then went on to lead the Tigers to a fourth quarter comeback, and then hit Marcus Lucas in overtime for the game winning touchdown.
Enough of reminiscing to better times – on to the current Texas A&M team. It’s amazing that one team can have a starting quarterback get drafted eighth overall, and end up with an upgrade the next season. That is exactly what Texas A&M has in Johnny Manziel. “Johnny Football” is an explosive dual threat quarterback that had as many fans in South Bend as College Station for one night. The redshirt freshman has flourished under first year head coach Kevin Sumlin. Manziel might be the Heisman Trophy leader going into this week. He has thrown for 3,047 yards and 21 touchdowns, and has added 1,114 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Manziel has two reliable targets in Mike Evans and Ryan Swope, the latter having his best game against Alabama. Defensively, the Aggies are 28th in the country in points against. Defensive lineman Damontre Moore is tied for the national lead in sacks with 12.5.
The Tigers are heavy underdogs going into this game. James Franklin is a game time decision with a concussion. The only way Mizzou will win this game is if it stops Manziel on the ground. In the Aggies two losses against Florida and LSU, Johnny Football recorded his two lowest rushing totals at 60 and 27 yards respectively. When the Tigers have the ball they need to eliminate mistakes, keep a star pass rusher like Moore away from the quarterback and run the ball heavily with Kendial Lawrence. If the Tigers lose control of the game early, then Manziel can begin to pad his stats before picking up the Heisman Trophy in two weeks.