The Missouri Tigers entered the 2011 season with high hopes but through seven games the team is really struggling to find its identity. Now sitting at 3-4, the Tiger faithful are anxiously looking for something to grasp in their waning optimism.
The Tigers are three wins shy of bowl-game berth and while that doesn't seem like a tall order, you may start second guessing yourself after analyzing the rigor of the remaining schedule.
In Week 9, when they visit the Texas A&M Aggies, they'll attempt to form such identity.
Missouri has done this before. Just a year ago Blaine Gabbert and company stormed the pastures of Kyle Field and handed the home team a crushing 30-9 loss. As much as we wish it wasn't true, Blaine Gabbert is off to 'greener' pastures (get it $), and the team now belongs to James Franklin.
So we'd like to believe.
Texas A&M is a stout football team, who thrives playing within their own walls. Here are 10 things you need to know about the Aggies before Missouri attempts to make it back-to-back wins in College Station.
Texas A&M became the alpha male this college football season by starting the college realignment domino effect with its threat to move to the SEC.
A&M is now safely a member of the SEC after weeks of legal rifts and somewhere within this dust and rubble, Missouri has decided to join the campaign.
Now while Missouri hasn't officially become a standing member of the Southeastern Conference, it's difficult not to state the inevitable.
Saturday's matchup in College Station is the last time we'll see both members play as Big 12 schools.
Whether or not we see them play as SEC opponents in the coming years still remains to be seen.
Texas A&M currently finds itself at a respectable 5-2 (3-1) record with bumpy road ahead.
Here's the funny part—if we were talking about solely the first half, the Aggies would find themselves at 7-0. But as the age-old quote reads, "and that's why they play the game!"
Texas A&M's second half struggles have been well documented and well reported.
When they hosted Oklahoma State in Week 3 the Aggies took a 20-3 lead into halftime against the then-seventh ranked Cowboys. A game they would ultimately lose, 30-29.
Just one week later the Aggies threw down with the Arkansas Razorbacks in Cowboys Stadium. In that game they took a hefty 35-17 lead into the half and proceeded to be man-handled in the second half and lost 42-38.
They have since seemed to figure it out by protecting the football in the closing quarters of the game.
All they can think about now is where they might have been ranked had they been able to hold their sizable second-half leads in those games.
The Big 12 is and always has been a showcase of premier quarterbacks.
Yes, I just referred to Ryan Tannehill as a premier quarterback, because when his game is on, he deserves set credit.
Little do people know, it was Texas A&M's loss to Missouri in 2010 that propelled head coach Mike Sherman to jettison then-starter Jerrod Johnson from the top of the depth chart. In turn, allowing Tannehill to begin his career as the quarterback for the Aggies.
Tannehill hasn't looked back.
He has accounted for over 2,000 yards through the air and 18 total touchdowns, however, he is no stranger to turning the ball over.
When teams put pressure on him he essentially loses composure and forces himself into difficult situations.
He can easily beat you. I've seen him just as easily beat himself.
"The Wrecking Crew" was a name coined by an ex-Aggie defensive back in the 1980s for the Texas A&M defense. The name has stuck ever since.
Often you'll see the defensive players for the Aggies hold up a hand symbol after making big plays and during moments where they are capturing momentum. It simply is a 'W' and a 'C' formation with their hands.
This year's "Wrecking Crew" is giving up a shade over 25 points per game, but when you look at some of the offenses they've faced it isn't all that bad.
The pass defense is certainly susceptible to big games but the run defense is as good as any in the country—fourth-best in the nation, to be exact.
The matchup of the game will be Texas A&M's ability to stop the run against the Big 12's leading rushing offense, including the conference's leading rusher—Henry Josey (122 YPG).
He's big. He's fast. He's physical. No one knows who he is—he's Jeff Fuller.
I realize the audacity of my statement, but in a conference dominated by game breaking receivers like Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles, Jeff Fuller is the most talented pass-catcher that no one knows about.
The 6'4", 225-pound senior hasn't put up the prime-time numbers for the pass-happy Aggies, but his statistics over his four-year career have been more than serviceable.
You could easily make the case that his drop-off in numbers are credited to Ryan Tannehill's maturation as a quarterback and his ability to find his second and third looks. However, there's no question that Fuller is still his quarterback's go-to man in the red zone.
Fuller will get his own, in college and on the next level, we just need to appreciate what he's done in his career as an Aggie.
I earlier mentioned the success of Missouri's running game—Texas A&M has equal successes in running efforts.
The Aggies rank 14th in the nation in rushing offense and boast not only one, but two, running backs that have the ability to dice up any defense.
Cyrus Gray is the main man and more experienced of the two, but No. 2 Christine Michael has been the more productive of the lot this season.
Between the two of them they have accumulated over 1,350 yards and 15 touchdowns.
It's very difficult to game-plan for a running back duo like Gray and Michael because they are essentially interchangeable pieces within the offense.
If you were to pin-point a weakness about the tandem, it'd be their carefree attitude when running the ball and how they are prone to coughing up the football upon contact. Missouri will have to capitalize on forced turnovers to beat Texas A&M.
It reads loud and clear etched against the gleaming sun: "Home of the 12th Man"
Texas A&M's Kyle Field is the epitome of your quintessential college football stadium. It's loud and rocks like a high-magnitude earthquake, giving the Aggies the ultimate home-field advantage.
The stadium can hold over 83,000 intense, relentless Aggie fans.
According to college football enthusiast Phil Steele, Kyle Field holds a Vegas advantage of +4.75. Vegas advantage is a ranking that refers to how many points Las Vegas aids the home team. It's a numerical description of what we call home-field advantage.
Needless to say that Kyle Field is no easy place to play, especially when the Aggies are clicking on all cylinders.
I've already made myself crystal clear as to how good Texas A&M is on offense, so I'm going to use this slide to provide some statistical evidence to bolster my argument.
Red-zone offense is a major statistic that we analyze teams on because it essentially spells a team's ability to score the football.
On the season A&M has registered points on 94 percent of red-zone possessions, seeing 69 percent of possessions end in six points.
At home, the Aggies are even more dangerous as we've seen them cash in on 18-of-19 red-zone possessions.
The Wrecking Crew is the fourth-best rush defense in all of college football.
They also have an impressive pass rush and one of the things they pride themselves on is their ability to put pressure on the quarterback.
Against Missouri, they'll attack James Franklin hard because as we've seen, Franklin often becomes flat-footed and when he's pressured he makes poor decisions.
On the season the Aggies have penetrated offensive lines to the tune of 28 sacks. That's tops in all of college football.
I've mentioned many tidbits of information regarding the success of Texas A&M. But coupled with their inability to finish games, this could be their major downfall.
Texas A&M puts pressure on the quarterback and stops the run, but they don't force turnovers. In fact, they've only forced five total on the season.
I've also alluded to their collapses in the early season. Those losses are much in part to untimely interceptions and fumbles by the Aggies skill players.
Through seven games Texas A&M has a turnover margin of -5, that's tied for 97th in the country.