One way of another, Saturday will be huge in determining who wins the SEC East. Almost simultaneously, Missouri will play at Texas A&M (6:30 p.m. on SEC Network) and Georgia will host Auburn (6:15 on ESPN).
If Georgia wins and Missouri loses, the Bulldogs clinch the East. If both teams win or if both lose, Missouri has to win both of its two remaining games to win the East. And in the dream scenario for Tiger fans, if Georgia loses and Missouri wins, the Tigers just have to win one of two against Tennessee and Arkansas to play in the SEC Championship Game for the second straight year.
Generally, playing Auburn would be viewed as a much tougher task than playing A&M this year, but then A&M went into Auburn and pulled off a shocking upset last Saturday, aided by two ghastly Auburn fumbles late. Georgia should still expect a stern test from Auburn.
Missouri (7-2, 4-1 in SEC play) had a bye week to rest up heading into its trip to College Station, while the Aggies (7-3, 3-3 in SEC) will have to try to avoid a letdown after their huge win.
Missouri has had success agains A&M lately. Due to a quirk of the schedule, the Tigers played at A&M three straight years, from 2010 to 2012, winning two of three. The Aggies finally came to Columbia last year, and Missouri won.
Still, A&M’s Kyle Field, known as the “Home of the 12th Man,” can be a daunting place to play. The already-massive stadium is undergoing expansion and renovation, and there’s a chance this will be the biggest crowd Missouri’s football team has ever played in front of. That record is currently 104,578 for a 1975 game at Michigan’s “Big House.”
But Kyle Field has been more bark than bite of late, with the Aggies losing six of their last 10 conference home games.
This game will feature strength vs. strength when A&M has the ball, and weakness vs. weakness when Missouri does.
Missouri’s defense has done most of the heavy lifting for the Tigers this year. Texas A&M is a pass-heavy offense, gaining 329.6 yards per game through the air and just 152.6 on the ground. That will test Missouri’s pass defense, which will be without safety Braylon Webb for the first half after he received a targeting penalty in the second half against Kentucky. The Tigers could also be without cornerback Aarion Penton, who has a drug-related indefinite suspension.
Missouri’s best defense against the pass may be defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden getting heat on the quarterback. Kenny Hill had been the starter for the Aggies, but while he was suspended freshman Kyle Allen played an outstanding game against Auburn.
On the flip side, Missouri’s wobbly offense against A&M’s weak defense will be fascinating for different reasons. In theory, one of the two has to succeed. Whichever one it is will help determine who gets the win Saturday night.