Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gig'em Tigers

By Tiger Fan

This is a big weekend for the Tiger Fan Family. My parents both went to Texas A&M, so I grew up as a huge Aggie fan. To this day, one of my favorite sporting event memories was celebrating with my family in our Ohio living after Sirr Parker scampered into the end zone in overtime to beat K-State for the Big XII title. But now I have split loyalties: 23 years of cheering for the Aggies from afar vs. 5.5 seasons of living and breathing Tiger football (first in the band, then in the front row of Tiger’s Lair, now as an alumni season ticket holder).

When I decided to come to Mizzou, this was supposed to be pretty easy. A&M was a football school, so I could cheer for the Aggie football team. Mizzou was a basketball school, so I could cheer for the Tigers on the hardwood. But a funny thing has happened… the Tiger football team is on the rise while the Aggie basketball team will be a preseason top 10 selection. What the…?

Still, when my mom asked earlier this year who I would be cheering for, I said I would wait and see who needed the game more. But that’s not going to work either. The Tigers are an almost unprecedented 6-0 and suddenly have a chance to compete for a Big XII title. Meanwhile, the Aggies are 5-1 and need this win to start regaining some respect (and Coach Fran may need it to keep his job). Decisions, decisions.

The most disappointing thing this week has been the behavior of both sets of fans on message boards. Some Aggie fans are living in the past, pretending that opposing teams never win at Kyle Field, Mizzou’s win over Texas Tech was a fluke and the Aggies will win in a blowout on Saturday. Not to be outdone, many Mizzou fans have suddenly developed a superiority complex, refusing to believe the Tigers could possibly lose on Saturday and it is disrespectful for anyone to say otherwise.

The truth is somewhere in the middle (Born-a-Tiger will sort some of that out in his Myth and Fact piece). I personally think Mizzou will win on Saturday if the Tigers play their best game, but it certainly won’t be a blow-out. Most people are latching on to Texas Tech comparisons to make their predictions: Aggie fans point out that Tech “handed the game to Missouri” with five turnovers and A&M actually held the Red Raiders to fewer yards. Mizzou fans point out that the Tigers won by 17 on the road in Lubbock while the Aggies lost at home. In reality, the games can’t really be compared. Because of the turnovers, Tech ran 77 plays against Mizzou compared to 56 plays against A&M. Yes, the Tigers gave up more yards (456 to 433), but they only gave up 5.9 yards/play compared with 7.7 yards/play for the Aggies. That’s the beauty of statistics… look long enough and you can find one that backs up your opinion.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a great game this weekend. Contrary to some of the garbage that has been posted on the net this week, Missouri and Texas A&M are both great schools with great traditions. This is a big game for both teams, so let’s all bury the hatchet and hope for an exciting, safe game for both sides… and then we can focus all our negative energy on t.u. and kansas. Now, on to the teams:


When the Aggies have the ball:

If A&M is smart, their game plan will revolve around pounding the ball in the rushing game via RBs Jorvorski Lane (who is an absolute beast) and Mike Goodson (the quicker back) and QB Steven McGee. The Aggies boast the No. 13 rushing attack in the nation, averaging 203 yards/game on the ground. The Tigers counter with the No. 10 run defense. Something has to give… but it’s hard to be sure what to make of either side. A&M has compiled its stats against Army (56th best defense), Louisiana Tech (118), UL-L (87), Texas Tech (30) and kansas (83). Meanwhile, Mizzou has yet to face a legit rushing attack: Ole Miss (56), Ohio (95), Colorado (44), Tech (104), NM (102).

McGee, the reigning Big XII Offensive Player of the Week, has also shown the ability to throw the ball well (see: his game-winning drive last week against the beakers) and has a talented corps of wide receivers, headlined by TE Martellus Bennett. Up front it will be strength vs. strength as the solid A&M O-line goes up against the dangerous Mizzou defensive line.

Look for the Aggies to grind it out and try to keep Mizzou’s high-powered offense off the field as much as possible. But don’t be surprised to see them mix in some deep pass plays to keep the Tigers honest… and with Coach Fran, you never know when a trick play might be coming.

When Mizzou has the ball:

Contrary to what many think, the Tigers have a balanced attack, averaging 179 yards/game on the ground (25th nationally) and 244 yards/game through the air (29th nationally). That adds up to a unit ranked No. 15 in total offense. The Tigers will be facing off against the nation’s No. 35 defensive unit… but those stats include three games against teams with offenses ranked above 80th. I think the Tigers will be able to move the ball against A&M. The Aggies seem to be under the mistaken impression that the Mizzou offense relies solely on short passes, kind of like Texas Tech. If they crowd near the line to take away short routes, they will be introduced rather rudely to Wiliam Franklin and Jared Perry. Regardless, just like Bennett on the other side, I can’t see the Aggies matching up favorably against TEs Rucker and Coffman. Oh… and I haven’t yet mentioned Tony Temple and Chase Daniel (who gets kinda angry when he plays Texas teams).

QB Advantage: Mizzou

RB Advantage: TAMU

O-Line Advantage: TAMU

Receiving Advantage: Mizzou

Overall offense: Mizzou


On defense, A&M runs an unorthodox 4-2-5 after getting destroyed by opposing passing attacks last season. The Aggies are strong up front with defensive ends Harrington and Jack. Tiger fans should also keep an eye out for linebacker Justin Warren, who has been a tackling machine this season. Despite improvements from last year, the weakness still lies in the secondary, which is great news for Chase Daniel and Co. The Aggie defense is solid, but they don’t compare favorably to the nation’s No. 11 defense. The Tigers, with a superb defensive line, excellent linebackers and a solid secondary, have allowed just 11.8 points/game this year. One of the keys to the game will be the possible return of DT Ziggy Hood. If Ziggy is back, A&M will have a tougher time running the ball.

DL Advantage: Mizzou

LB Advantage: Mizzou

Secondary Advantage: Mizzou

Overall defense: Mizzou

Special Teams

Here’s the painful part about being a fan of both A&M and Mizzou: You have to watch them play special teams. Mizzou has looked better in recent weeks (in fact, the only big return they gave up against Tech was because Crossett outkicked his coverage), but you never know when we might return to the days of the 10-yard punt. Wolfert has been pretty solid on field goals for the Tigers, but I still hold my breath any time the field goal team trots onto the field. The one thing I will say is that Mizzou has blocked a lot of kicks this year. As for the Aggies, things aren’t much better… though Kerry Franks has shown he has the potential to be dangerous in the return game. Given that this is a big game for him, don’t be surprised to see Coach Fran pull out a fake kick at some point on Saturday.

Advantage: Even… in a bad way.

Bottom line

I think this will be a close game and the Aggies are very capable of winning it if they can move the ball effectively on the ground. It’s not like it was in the early ‘90s, but it’s still never easy to go into Kyle Field and come out with a win. If TAMU keeps the Tiger offense off the field and holds them under 20 points, they will win. But I don’t think it will happen. I’m picking the Tigers to continue their magical season and come back to Columbia for Homecoming next weekend with a 7-0 record. Mizzou wins it, 31-24.

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