7:45 PM ET, November 30, 2013
Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, MO
The scenario is simple for Missouri -- it must win Saturday night's regular-season finale to capture the SEC East crown.
What figures to be difficult is finding a way to slow down Johnny Manziel after the Heisman Trophy winner was impressive in last year's blowout win for Texas A&M in this series.
The fifth-ranked Tigers have plenty on the line when they host Manziel's No. 19 Aggies, who are 0-3 against ranked foes this season.
Missouri (10-1, 6-1) must win to reach the Dec. 7 title game in Atlanta. A loss will result in a tie for first place in the East with No. 10 South Carolina, which would advance on the basis of its Oct. 26 victory over the Tigers.
"We're excited about playing this game," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We worked real hard to get to this position. You know what, you compete for a championship, you've got to beat good people."
Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3), meanwhile, is trying to regroup after failing yet again against a Top 25 team with last Saturday's 34-10 defeat to then-No. 18 LSU.
Manziel had one of the worst games of his career as he completed 16 of 41 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a career-low, yards-per-attempt figure of 5.46. He ran 12 times for 54 yards but failed to reach the end zone in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
"It wasn't fun to get beat like that," said Manziel, who needs 208 passing yards to break Ryan Tannehill's single-season school record of 3,744 set in 2011. "We will see how we handle adversity. This team with a bunch of young guys -- we just have to see how they bounce back."
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin admits he has had to rebuild his team's morale.
"I think the guys are just ready to play," Sumlin said. "We are playing in a real season and real opponents and real games. Are we where we want to be right now? No. It doesn't mean the sky is falling either."
This could be the final regular-season contest for Manziel, expected to declare for the NFL draft. The sophomore has refused to discuss his plans.
"We'll have an analysis by the NFL, I'll talk to some different people and what I try to do is give our guys as much factual information that I can gather from the NFL specifically instead of what's being said on television or on blogs and things like that," Sumlin said. "That's my job as a coach to give them as much information as I can so they can make the best decision for them and their family."
The Tigers know they have to plan for a player who leads the SEC in passing yards per game (321.5) and touchdown passes (32). Manziel has also rushed for 665 yards and eight TDs.
Manziel completed 32 of 44 for 372 yards and three scores while running for 67 yards and two more TDs in last season's 59-29 rout that ended Missouri's three-game win streak in the series.
He's the first reigning Heisman Trophy winner to visit Missouri since Oklahoma's Billy Sims in 1979.
"He's such a great player," Pinkel said. "If you watch him game in and game out, then you see the consistency on how he plays and the way he does it. You have to contain him the best you can, and you have to score points on offense. There is nothing magic about this."
The Tigers should be better equipped to deal with Manziel with a defense that leads the SEC in sacks (35) and interceptions (18). Defensive end Michael Sam has a conference-best 10.0 sacks for a unit that has forced turnovers in 41 straight games for the nation's longest streak.
"They've really improved from last year, obviously, and statistically lead the league in sacks," Sumlin said. "They lead the league in interceptions too, which is an underrated stat."
Missouri will also be counting on a rushing attack ranked second in the SEC with 238.0 yards per game. Henry Josey, who missed last year's loss to the Aggies with an injury but rushed for 162 yards and a TD against them in 2011, has five total touchdowns over his last two games.
Josey had 95 yards and a score in last Saturday's 24-10 win at then-No. 24 Mississippi that improved Missouri's record to 3-1 against ranked teams.
And although school is out this week for the holidays, students are expected to flock back to campus for one of the most important games in the Tigers' history.
"It'll be just nuts because it's Senior Night and because of how we've been doing this year," said senior quarterback James Franklin, who returned last weekend after missing four games with a shoulder injury. "The fans want to come for what's on the line."
Top 25 Overview
It all comes down to this for Missouri. The Tigers control their own destiny: Win and they're in the SEC championship game. Lose and they get to watch South Carolina stroll into Atlanta. So the task is clear with a sellout crowd expected and a stadium "blackout" against the Aggies. Texas A&M is coming off its worst loss of the Kevin Sumlin era, a 34-10 road defeat to LSU, and is basically playing for bowl positioning and trying to work toward a second straight 10-win season.
|Avg Points Allowed||30.9||19.4|
Johnny Manziel gained 25 yards on five scrambles against the Tigers, and averaged his lowest yards per scramble (5.0) this season. He came into the game averaging 8.4 yards per scramble and had 209 more scramble yards than any other AQ quarterback this season.
Johnny Manziel faced four or fewer pass rushers on 36 of his 41 dropbacks (88%) against the Tigers Saturday. In such situations, Manziel averaged 5.6 yards per attempt, 4.4 fewer yards per attempt than his average coming into Saturday. Missouri leads all AQ schools in rate of sending four or fewer pass rushers after the opposing quarterback this season. --Manziel attempted five passes that traveled more than 15 yards downfield, completing two, tied for his fewest such completions this season. Coming into the game, he was averaging 9.8 such throws per game.[+]
Johnny Manziel against Four or Fewer Pass Rushers - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information