By Christian Clark, KBIA Sports
COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team heads south this weekend to take on Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. The Tigers (7-2, 4-1) are looking to remain in the driver’s seat of the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division with a win. Both teams are trending upward. Missouri has rattled off three straight victories since getting blanked by Georgia 34-0 at home. Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3) has won two straight games — including a wild 41-38 victory over Auburn last weekend — since getting throttled by Alabama 59-0 on Oct. 18. Here are four things to watch for when the Tigers and Aggies kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday:
Texas A&M passing attack against depleted Tigers’ secondary: Missouri will be without two of its regular starters in the secondary when the first whistle blows Saturday. Senior strong safety Braylon Webb is suspended for the first half of the game because of a targeting penalty he committed in the Tigers’ 20-10 win over Kentucky. Sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton will miss the entire game after he was arrested on suspicion of possessing 35 grams or less of marijuana early Friday morning. Both players have started all nine games for the Tigers this year, who will face a Texas A&M passing attack that is one of the most dynamic in all of college football. The Aggies average 329.6 passing yards per game and have thrown 31 touchdowns through the air — marks that rank first in the SEC by comfortable margins. Highly-touted freshman quarterback Kyle Allen, who threw four touchdowns last weekend against Auburn, will start under center for Texas A&M. The Aggies feature a bevy of talented receivers. Four wideouts have notched at least 400 yards receiving on the year.
Missouri rushing attack: By no means is the Missouri rushing attack a juggernaut on par with SEC schools such as Auburn, Georgia or Mississippi State. The Tigers average 159.9 yards per game on the ground, which puts them 10th in the SEC and 65th nationally. Missouri is merely mediocre running the ball. Against Texas A&M, however, mediocrity might just be enough. The Aggies rushing defense has given up 1,963 yards on the year. They allow 4.6 yards per attempt. Both numbers rank 12th in the SEC. After reshuffling its offensive line following the loss to Indiana, the results have been so-so for Missouri on the ground. If the Tigers are to upset the Aggies on the road, they will need to have a productive game on the ground.
The return of Darius White: Senior wide receiver Darius White will start this weekend after missing four of Missouri’s last five games due to multiple groin injuries. White has played in just one SEC game this year since catching 15 balls for 230 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ four-game non-conference slate. His return should be welcomed by a passing game that has been putrid in conference play. Quarterback Maty Mauk is completing 52.4 percent of his passes, while averaging 6.03 yards per attempt. Missouri ranks last in the SEC in passing offense.
Texas A&M pass rush: There is not a whole lot to love about Texas A&M’s defense if you’re a fan of the Aggies. The unit ranks 13th, 11th, 12th and 11th, in total defense, passing defense, rushing defense and scoring defense, respectively, in the SEC. Opponents rack up a whopping 22.4 first downs against them per game, the worst mark in the conference. Really, the only aspect of defense Texas A&M doesn’t struggle with is rushing the passer. The Aggies rank first in the SEC with 32 sacks. True freshman Myles Garrett, who already shattered Jadeveon Clowney’s record for most sacks by an SEC freshmen, leads the team with 11.
Briefly: The Missouri football program officially filled the final hole in its schedule for next year. It was announced on Thursday morning that the Tigers will take on the Brigham Young Cougars on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The contest is the first of a two-game series between the teams, with the other game scheduled for 2020.