As the regular season comes to a close, only a visit from Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and No. 21 Texas A&M stand in the way of No. 5 Missouri and the SEC Championship game. The Tigers have been the surprise of the conference this season, following an injury-riddled 5-7 campaign with a 10-1 start in their second year of SEC play behind a balanced offense and a fierce pass rush. The Aggies took their turn as the hot newcomer last season, riding Manziel to a Cotton Bowl win, but have struggled defensively this season, especially against the run, ranking 107th nationally at 221 yards allowed per game.
The Tigers will to exploit that with their talented trio of running backs, led by Henry Josey (6.1 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns). If Missouri needs a blueprint to stop Manziel, it doesn’t need to look further than last week, when LSU used a conservative containment approach to hold the Aggies to 299 total yards and 10 points, both lows in the Manziel-Kevin Sumlin era. For a Texas A&M team that has played virtually no defense all year long, those kind of numbers offensively will continue to spell trouble.
TV: 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Missouri -4.5
ABOUT TEXAS A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC): Manziel has dropped down in the Heisman discussion after his poor performance against LSU, but that doesn’t mean Missouri shouldn’t be afraid of what the Aggies signal caller can do. He put up 439 total yards and five touchdowns a year ago against the Tigers in a 59-29 rout that all but sealed his Heisman campaign. That seems like a long time ago for an Aggies' team that is allowing a league-high 460.1 yards per game, forcing all of the pressure onto Manziel.
ABOUT MISSOURI (10-1, 6-1 SEC): For a Missouri program that has been defined by its offense in the Gary Pinkel era, the Tigers have been led by their defense this year. The pass rush leads the SEC with 35 sacks, 10 of which belong to defensive end Michael Sam, also a league high. Offensively, quarterback James Franklin proved himself healthy last week against Ole Miss, throwing for 142 yards and rushing for 42 after missing four games with a shoulder injury.
1. With a win, Pinkel will tie Don Faurot as the all-time winningest coach in program history with 101 victories.
2. Due to scheduling quirks related to conference realignment, the teams met in College Station in each of the last three seasons.
3. Missouri is one of five schools ranked in the Top 15 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
PREDICTION: Missouri 38, Texas A&M 31