Tiger Opponent Preview: Texas A&M Aggies

The Missouri Tigers head back out on the road to face the Texas A&M Aggies (5-2, 3-1)for the last time in Big 12 conference play, in what some are calling the "SEC Bowl" as the Aggies are headed to that conference and speculation grows about Missouri doing the same.

On Saturday (11:00 A.M., FX), the #16 Texas A&M Aggies (5-2, 3-1) welcome the Missouri Tigers (3-4, 1-3) to Kyle Field for a Big 12 showdown. The Aggies are coming off of a 33-17 road win over Iowa State.

Like Missouri, Texas A&M came into this season with very high expectations. But along the way, despite their current lofty ranking, the Aggies have suffered a pair of disappointing losses. They also own some impressive victories, including a road win over Texas Tech.

"Texas A&M is a very good football team," said Missouri Head coach Gary Pinkel. "They are playing well, and offensively, their numbers are similar to Oklahoma State's. This is a pretty high-powered offensive league this year."

Texas A&M brings one of the nation's top offenses into this game. The Aggies rank seventh nationally in total offense (522.57 yards/game), and thirteenth in scoring offense (40.43 points/game). And, they bring a balanced offensive attack as well, with a fourteenth-ranked rushing attack (230.43 rush yards/game), and a passing attack that ranks twentieth nationally (292.14 passing yards/game).

The Aggies senior QB, Ryan Tannehill 6'4" 222, is a converted receiver who averages 6.3 yards/rushing attempt, in addition to his impressive passing numbers. His 286.4 passing yards/game ranks fifth in the Big 12, and sixteenth nationally. His 146.61 passer efficiency rating ranks seventh in the conference. He's averaging 12.15 yards/completion, and 7.92 yards/pass attempt. Tannehill's 317.1 yards of total offense/game ranks fifth in the conference, and eleventh nationally. He's extremely mobile, and has completed 65% of his pass attempts this season, which is just ahead of his school-record pace in completion percentage from a year ago.

"(Tannehill) is having a great year," said Coach Pinkel. "He's experienced, and is very, very impressive. They run the ball real well. They also throw the ball real well. They're putting up big numbers! They've got great receivers, and their running backs are very talented."

A&M utilizes two outstanding tailbacks, in senior Cyrus Gray 5'10" 200, and junior Christine Michael 5'11" 213. These two great backs share the starting position equally. Michael has four starts, but Gray has a few more carries. Michael averages 6.4 yards/carry, and 101 yards/game. Gray averages 4.8 yards/carry, and 92.3 yards/game. Michael has 8 rushing TDs, and Gray has scored 7 TDs on the ground. Gray has more receptions (2.3 receptions/game, 9.2 yards/reception), and each of them have scored a TD through the air.

"(Gray and Michael) are quick, and they spin," explained Coach Pinkel, describing the Aggie backs. "They spin a lot. Right before you're going to hit them, they'll just do like a 360 in a flash."

Senior WR Jeff Fuller 6'4" 220 passed up the NFL Draft to return for a final season. Junior slot receiver Ryan Swope 6'0" 206 is A&M's Mr. Inside, to Fuller's Mr. Outside. Each of this dynamic duo finished the 2010 season with a school-record 72 receptions. This year, Swope is leading A&M in receptions, with 6.3 receptions/game, and in receiving yards, with 15 yards/reception. Fuller is second in receptions, with 5.6 receptions/game. He averages 10.9 yards/reception. The Aggies third receiver is junior Uzoma Nwachukwu 6'0" 194, who averages 4.1 receptions/game, and 13.8 yards/reception.

Senior PK Randy Bullock is the top placekicker in the Big 12, having connected on 94% of his placements this season.

The Aggies have had a tough time defending the pass, as they come into Saturday's game against Missouri ranked last in the nation (120th) in pass defense, allowing 335.43 passing yards/game. On the flip side, they've been tough against the run, as they rank 5th nationally in rushing defense, surrendering just 79.86 yards/game. Coach Pinkel talked about those statistics.

"Their run defense numbers are very good," began Coach Pinkel. "First of all, I think you should give them credit because they are doing a good job against the run. I think also, when you get a team that is a sack leader, a tackle for loss leader, all those yards come off the rushing game. So, that's where it filters down. You have to go back and do the math a little bit. But, they have a really good scheme."

A&M plays a 3-man front, although they often walk a linebacker or two up to the line of scrimmage, to give a 5-2 look, or a 4-3 look. Junior OLB Sean Porter 6'2" 230 leads Texas A&M with 46 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks, which also leads the conference. As a team, Texas A&M leads the conference in sacks. They play mostly zone coverage, although they will mix in some man-to-man.

"They do all different kinds of combinations of blitzes, and a lot of different things," explained Coach Pinkel, talking about how the Aggies scheme to create an effective pass rush. "For the most part, they try to free people up, by kind of confusing you a little bit………………………………… What the sacks do, is they get a lot of negative yardage, and that gets them out of drives."

Among the Aggies other defensive standouts are junior ILB Jonathan Stewart 6'4" 237, with 44 tackles, and senior FS Trent Hunter 5'10" 192, with 40 tackles and 2 INTs.

"(Texas A&M) is a very, very talented football team," said Missouri Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, David Yost. "Defensively, their stats are somewhat distorted, due to the fact that they've been up big in a lot of their games, where the other team is going to be throwing the football. They've been very good in their pass rush, and in college football, those yards come off of your rushing stats………………………………………. Their scheme is challenging, because they're a true three-four defense, which you don't see much in college."

Texas A&M Head Coach Mike Sherman talked about his team, as the Aggies head into the match-up with Missouri.

"I think we're getting better,"  said Coach Sherman.  "We're not where we need to be.  I think we're making improvement.  We're still trying to find our way a little bit.  But I think each week, we find something that we do a little bit better.  We're making progress, but we still have to shore up some things to be a real good football team."

Comparative Statistics

[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]

MISSOURI____________________ TEXAS A&M

491.43 [12th]___ Total Offense____ 522.57 [7th]

238.14 [13th]___Rushing Offense__ 230.43 [14th]

17___________TDs Rushing__________ 18

253.29 [39th]___Passing Offense__ 292.14 [20th]

139.83 [51st]__ Passing Efficiency__ 146.62 [33rd]

12___________TDs Passing__________ 15

33.86 [33rd]____Scoring Offense___ 40.43 [13th]

365.71 [51st]___ Total Defense___ 85th [415.29]

124.86 [41st]__ Rushing Defense____79.86 [5th]

11________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 9

240.86 [40th]___Passing Defense_ 335.43 [120th]

130.55 [65th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 133.93 [75th]

10________ TDs Allowed Passing________ 12

23.86 [46th]____Scoring Defense___ 25.43 [57th]

0.00 [T-57th]__ Turnover Margin___ -0.71 [97th]

7 / 4________ Fumbles/Lost_______ 11 / 4

7_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 6

7_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 4

20.91 [T-76th]__Kickoff Return Avg.__21.61 [62nd]

11.36 [27th]___ Punt Return Avg.____7.00 [75th]

39.47 [16th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 37.00 [51st]

2.14 [T-44th]_____Sacks By_______4.00 [1st]

1.43 [T-34th]___ Sacks Allowed_____0.86 [11th]

29:46 [55th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 29:13 [76th]

36.1% [93rd]___3rd Down Conv.__ 47.8% [26th]

63.6% [T-26th]__4th Down Conv.__25.0% [112th]

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