Five Keys to Victory - Missouri

The Texas Aggie football team is one win away from the school's first double-digit win campaign since the 1998 Big 12 Championship season. The Missouri Tigers stand in their way. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop discusses the five keys to victory for Texas A&M.

1) Can't Lose Turnover Margin by More Than Two

The Aggies are 21-point favorites at home on senior day. If you look at every major statistical category, Texas A&M has an edge. Missouri's offense has struggled with consistency all season and ranks No. 99 in total offense. Starting QB James Franklin has had a disappointing sophomore campaign after a promising freshman season, ranking No. 74 among QB's in passing efficiency. Several injuries throughout the season has also slowed down his ability to run. Franklin is also questionable after suffering a concussion against Syracuse last week. His backup, freshman Corbin Berkstresser, has struggled all season completing less than 50% of his passes and throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Missouri has a solid yet unspectacular defense ranked No. 54 in scoring defense. A&M's offense has scored at will against better defensive units. As a result, Missouri will have a hard time winning this game without some turnover help. I think the Aggies can withstand a turnover or two, but if A&M has another "Ole Miss" game, then this becomes a dogfight to the end.

2) Johnny Needs to Play Like the Usual Johnny

The biggest barometer of any football game is the play of the quarterback. For Texas A&M, it's magnified with the unique play of Johnny Manziel. While he's cut down on the turnovers in recent weeks as he's gained valuable experience, he'll have to play another clean game for the Aggies to end the Tigers' three-game winning streak in the series. It seems unlikely at this point that Manziel would lead another six turnover effort that had the Aggies sneaking out of Oxford with an improbable win, but A&M fans should be concerned with the current circumstances. Manziel has played loose all year, but does that change on Saturday with the Heisman Trophy clearly in is grasp. We forget he's still a freshman, and a freshman has never been the odds-on favorite to win college football's most prestigious award with one week to play. Manziel will need to play his game and not force the issue. If he feels compelled to put up big numbers, that could lead to turnovers.

3) Defensive Backs Must Limit Big Pass Plays

If James Franklin plays, his effectiveness in the scrambling game will be constrained given his injuries. He still has a dangerous yet inconsistent arm and a bevy of tall, talented receivers. Dorial Green-Beckham at 6-foot-5 was the nation's No. 1 recruit last February and he's starting to show signs of getting acclimated to the college game. He had a 70-yard touchdown catch last week versus Syracuse. Marcus Lucas is another tall playmaker that the A&M secondary must contend with down the field. While consistency has been an issue, you don't need consistency if you hit 2-3 big scoring plays. A&M's DB's can't let these receivers get behind the coverage.

4) No Big Plays Against Coverage Teams

Missouri ranks in the Top 25 in only two statistical categories – punt returns (7) and kickoff returns (10). And the person responsible for those rankings is former Desoto speed athlete Marcus Murphy, a high school playmaker that A&M briefly recruited but did not offer. Hopefully for A&M fans, they won't regret that he's not on the west sidelines in maroon. The Aggie coverage teams have been phenomenal all season and there's no reason to think they won't have a good game on Saturday. However, if Murphy has a couple of big returns, that could become an equalizer in this game.

5) Play with Intensity and Sense of Purpose

The Aggies are in the unusual situation of playing a non-rival underdog in the season's finale. In the Big 12, A&M's schedule was backloaded with Nebraska, OU, and Texas to end the season playing the biggest games of the year. It's been two weeks since A&M played Alabama, and with the SEC Championship out of their grasp, the regular season's last game is somewhat anti-climactic when compared to previous seasons when the Longhorns were always waiting at the end of the line. Thus, the ingredients are in place for a flat performance. Missouri has proven the past two seasons that they can win at Kyle Field when not taken seriously. The Aggies better play with as much urgency as they did against Auburn, MSU, and Alabama or the Tigers could be the first team EVER to win three consecutive games at Kyle Field.

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