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Early Analysis: Texas A&M at Missouri

Most fans have been calling for Alabama. Missouri fans are just focused on Johnny Football this week. Photo: USA Today Sports

No. 5 Missouri (10-1, 6-1 SEC) vs. No. 21 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC)

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ESPN

Line: Missouri -5

Missouri's SEC Championship hopes are on the line Saturday night in Columbia, Missouri as the once-beaten Tigers look to hold off Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. A win for Missouri will send them to the SEC Championship Game to face either Alabama or Auburn. A loss would send South Carolina to Atlanta as the SEC East representative. It does not get much simpler than that. Missouri also hopes the Aggies come to town a little sluggish after a rough loss at LSU last weekend. Does Texas A&M have enough in them to be the thorn in the paws of their Big 12 to SEC partner?

For Texas A&M to win: Johnny Manziel's Heisman campaign may have been shredded by LSU, but he is still capable of being the best player on the field every time he steps on to the green. That will not change this weekend, as Manziel is fully capable of making plays happen out of nowhere and chucking the football down field in hopes Mike Evans comes down with the football. Manziel will also have the luxury of going up against the SEC's worst pass defense in terms of yards per game, so big pass plays are absolutely a possibility. Manziel will just have to avoid forcing plays and making mistakes under pressure

For Missouri to win: Missouri's pass defense may be the SEC's worst in yards per game, but they excel at causing turnovers against opposing quarterbacks. Missouri enters the week with 18 interceptions to just 14 passing touchdowns allowed. Manziel may get some big plays, but he is prone to turning the football over and this plays in to Missouri's game plan. No team in the SEC has more interceptions than Missouri.

Key Player, Texas A&M: Everybody knows about Manziel, and as the season has progressed we have gotten to know his top receiver just as well. Mike Evans is a top All-American candidate and the SEC's leading receiver with 1,314 yards and 12 touchdowns. His size and hands make him a terrific go-to option for Manziel, who has faith in Evans to take some chances down field. Evans has had some up and down games but is always a big threat anywhere on the field.

Key Player, Missouri: James Franklin returned to quarterback the Missouri offense last weekend at Ole Miss and did not show many signs of rust. Franklin completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 142 yards and was intercepted once, but his command on the road was promising against an Ole Miss team that has been difficult for visiting opponents this season (LSU for example).

Key Stat: Missouri is averaging 238.0 rushing yards per game this season. Only Auburn has a better rushing average. Against a woeful Texas A&M defense, the Tigers should look to control the clock and keep Manziel off the field as much as possible. Shortening the game and allowing the running game to set the tone should play out well for Missouri against the SEC's worst rushing defense.

Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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