PowerMizzou - Matchup Preview: Mizzou vs. Texas A&M
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Matchup Preview: Mizzou vs. Texas A&M

Missouri bounced back from a two-game losing streak last weekend by handling North Texas, 48-35. This week, a significantly more formidable foe from the Longhorn State travels to Faurot Field.

Missouri will host No. 21 Texas A&M, fresh off a 41-38 upset of No. 1 Alabama. Due in part to a rash of injuries that sidelined starting quarterback Haynes King, among others, the Aggies got off to an underwhelming start to the season, losing to Arkansas and Mississippi State in its first two SEC matchups. But behind a big game from backup quarterback Zach Calzada, Texas A&M bounced back in a big way, beating Alabama for the first time since 2012.

While the win over Alabama showed that Texas A&M can still play like the team that was picked No. 7 in the preseason AP poll on the right day, Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher worried aloud during his weekly press conference that it could lead to a letdown, especially given the 11 a.m. kickoff against Missouri.

“They’re going to be right there ready for us, waiting for us, to knock us off," Fisher said. "As Nick (Saban) said last game, this is a trap game. You get to listenin’ to all the stuff all week and you live in the past, that’s over with, man. That’s over with."

Missouri will hope to prove Fisher right and pick up its first conference win of the season in the process. Here is everything you need to know to get set for the matchup between the Tigers and the Aggies.

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Eli Drinkwitz and Missouri will look to pull an upset similar to when the Tigers beat LSU at home in 2020.
Eli Drinkwitz and Missouri will look to pull an upset similar to when the Tigers beat LSU at home in 2020. (J. Prather/USA Today)

Kickoff Information

Time: 11 a.m.

Location: Faurot Field; Columbia, MO

TV: SEC Network (Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang)

Radio: Tiger Radio Network (Mike Kelly, Howard Richards, Chris Gervino)

Spread: Texas A&M -9

Series history: Texas A&M leads 8-7

Last Meeting: Missouri won 34-27 in 2014

By the Numbers

2021 Offensive Statistics
Missouri Texas A&M

37.8

Points/game

26.3

467.0

Total yards/game

376.7

298.0

Passing yards/game

221.5

169.0

Rushing yards/game

155.2

2021 Defensive Statistics
Missouri Texas A&M

37.5

Points/game

16.8

499.0

Total yards/game

353.5

210.7

Passing yards/game

209.2

288.3

Rushing yards/game

144.3

Mizzou Injury Report

* Questionable:

OL Case Cook

WR Mookie Cooper

CB Ish Burdine

DL Akial Byers

DL Darius Robinson

* Doubtful:

WR Barrett Banister

DE Johnny Walker

*Out:

OL Drake Heismeyer

DB Mason Pack

Inside the Matchups

When Missouri has the ball:

The Missouri offense rebounded from a disappointing outing against Tennessee by moving the ball with ease against North Texas, at least for the first half. The Tigers scored 31 points in the first two quarters thanks in large part to star tailback Tyler Badie. Badie rushed for a career-high 217 yards and scored three total touchdowns in the game. He now ranks sixth nationally in scrimmage yards this season.

Getting Badie and the ground game going this week will be critical. Rushing success has been perhaps the most reliable predictor of overall success for Missouri under Eli Drinkwitz. Since the start of last season, the Tigers have averaged 217.8 yards per game and 5.55 yards per carry in their eight wins compared to 78.0 yards per contest and 2.80 yards per rush in eight losses. The bad news for the Tigers is that they've feasted on the ground against lesser competition this season this year while struggling to run the ball against Kentucky, Boston College and Tennessee. Texas A&M's defense hasn't been invincible on the ground this year, allowing three different opponents to average at least 4.5 yards per carry, but the Missouri offensive line will need to play better than it has against Power Five competition so far this season in order to create room to run.

Establishing the run will be especially important because the strength of Texas A&M's defense has been its pass rush. The Aggies rank tied for 11th nationally with 19 sacks this season. Missouri, meanwhile, has been adept at preventing sacks, only allowing five through six games, but Connor Bazelak has felt some more heat in recent weeks, having been pressured on 26 dropbacks across the past two games. That has made it even more difficult for Bazelak to push the ball downfield, as evidenced by the fact that Missouri gained just 160 yards on 21 completions last week. The Tigers need to try to stay ahead of the chains and avoid becoming one-dimensional, otherwise Bazelak will likely be scrambling for his life and the Aggie secondary will be able to sit on underneath routes.

ADVANTAGE: Push

When Texas A&M has the ball:

Making Texas A&M's upset of Alabama all the more surprising was the fact that the Aggie offense had looked dreadful during their first two SEC matchups. Across losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State, Calzada completed 32 of 56 passes for 286 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Then, against the Crimson Tide, he went 21 of 31 for 285 yards and three touchdowns. A big part of Calzada's success: he was able to push the ball downfield more effectively. He completed just five passes that traveled 10 or more yards downfield in the Arkansas and Mississippi State losses combined. He hit on 11 such throws against Alabama.

If Calzada, who briefly left the Alabama game with an apparent knee injury but Fisher said will play this week, is able to sustain that success from a week ago, it will make the job harder for a Missouri defense that surrendered 305 yards and four touchdowns through the air to North Texas. The Aggies' primary receiving threats are wideout Ainias Smith, who caught two touchdowns against Alabama, and tight end Jalen Wydermeyer, who Drinkwitz said this week "is always open."

But that may not matter if the Tigers can't slow down the run. Texas A&M's offense is built around its one-two tailback punch of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane. Both players are averaging at least 5.8 yards per rush this season, and both are threats in the passing game, as well. Missouri, of course, ranks dead last in the country at defending the run. Kentucky ran for 341 yards against the Tigers, Boston College for 275, Tennessee for 458. While Missouri did show some improvement against North Texas, holding the Mean Green to 188 yards on the ground, the defense still needs to prove it can provide resistance against a Power Five rushing attack.

ADVANTAGE: Texas A&M

Special teams

Normally, Missouri has had an advantage in the third phase of the game this season. Harrison Mevis remains a weapon in the kicking game, having made all eight of his field goal attempts (including two from beyond 50 yards) and all 29 extra points. Kris Abrams-Draine returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Tennessee and Missouri blocked a field goal against Kentucky. To top it off, Grant McKinniss remains a solid punter, averaging 44.4 yards per boot, and Sean Koetting leads the nation with 38 touchbacks.

But Texas A&M has been solid on special teams, as well. Achane's kickoff return for a touchdown provided the Aggies a massive lift last week, and Smith ranks in the top 20 nationally in punt return average at just over 10 yards per return. Kicker Seth Small has converted all of his extra point attempts and 11 of 12 field goals. His 28-yard kick on the final play broke a 38-38 tie with Alabama. Nik Constantinou ranks 12th in the country in punting at 47.3 yards per kick. The Aggies did have a punt blocked last week, however, so look for Missouri to try to find an opening in their punt protection.

ADVANTAGE: Push

Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis hasn't missed a kick this season.
Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis hasn't missed a kick this season. (USA TODAY)

Missouri's keys to the game

1. Slow down the run.

Even though North Texas did more damage against Missouri through the air than on the ground, and even though Calzada played well last week, look for Texas A&M to run the ball until the Tigers prove they can stop it. For the most part this season, they have been unable to do so. Once again this week, the realistic goal is not to stop Texas A&M for no gain on every single running play, it's to avoid the huge gains on the ground that have plagued Missouri's defense for much of the year. The Tigers rank last nationally in 10-plus-yard runs allowed and second-to-last in runs of 20 yards or more. If Missouri can just limit the big plays on the ground, it could force a redshirt freshman backup quarterback who has still played more bad games than good ones this year into making a few mistakes.

2. Avoid negative plays.

Texas A&M's defensive line has excelled at creating negative-yardage plays this season. The Aggies rank tied for 11th nationally in sacks and tied for 22nd in tackles for loss. That's been a bit of an issue for Missouri, which gave up 11 tackles for loss against North Texas and has allowed 38 on the year, tied for 91st in the nation. Missouri's methodical offense struggled when it continually fell behind the chains in the second half last week, and Texas A&M's defense poses a much tougher test than North Texas. If the Tigers can stay in favorable downs and distances, it would make life easier for Bazelak and allow Drinkwitz to get more creative with his play calls.

3. Come out swinging.

As Fisher alluded to, this has all the elements of a classic letdown game for Texas A&M. If the Aggies do start the game sluggish, Missouri needs to be able to take advantage. Starting slow has been a major issue for the Tigers in both of their SEC matchups so far this season, as they fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter against Kentucky and 28-3 in the first quarter against Tennessee. Building an early lead would be huge for the Tiger defense, as game script might be the best way to limit Texas A&M's success running the ball.

WATCH — Opposition Research presented by Edward Jones: Texas A&M

Numbers to Know

5: Of the past six meetings between these two teams won by Missouri.

285: Passing yards for Calzada against Alabama. Not only did that represent a season-high for Calzada, it was just one yard shy of his combined totals from the first two SEC games of the season.

4: Sacks recorded by Texas A&M against Alabama. The Crimson Tide hadn't had a quarterback sacked four times in a game since 2018.

24: Gains of 10 yards or more recorded by Badie so far this season. Only nine players in the country have logged more.

9: Consecutive games in which Missouri has failed to cover the point spread at kickoff.

59: Consecutive kicks made by Mevis since his last in-game miss, including both field goals and extra points.

PowerMizzou predictions

Gabe DeArmond: I think the hangover for A&M will be real. I think Missouri will come out as jacked up as it has for a game this year. I think Eli Drinkwitz will call every play in his playbook and might even draw some new ones up on the sideline. I think Missouri will cover for the first time this year. I just don't think it will be enough. Texas A&M 33, Mizzou 27.

Mitchell Forde: I agree that Texas A&M probably starts a little bit slow and that Mizzou will dip into the bag of tricks on offense. (If you can find odds on a non-quarterback attempting a pass in this game, I would bet on it.) But I ultimately think the Aggies will settle in and find success running the ball against Missouri, like everyone else this season. On the flip side, I think the Mizzou offensive line is going to struggle against this Texas A&M front. The most sure bet in sports for nearly a full year now has been picking against Missouri to cover the spread, so I'm sticking with that strategy. Texas A&M 34, Mizzou 24.


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