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Crossroads

If I didn't know the schedule, and you asked who the most perfect team for A&M to be facing this weekend was, I'd say Texas. But aside from the Longhorns, it's the Missouri Tigers.

Kevin Sumlin doesn't have a recent history with Missouri, but his program does.

Gary Pinkel's team has been a nightmare for the Aggies in recent years. From the embarrassment of 2010 to last year's microcosm of the entire season in one overtime, Missouri has haunted Aggie Football lately.

So it's fitting, with the Aggies in the hunt for a BCS game and with a quarterback trying to win the Heisman trophy, that they'd have to close the season with the Tigers.

Missouri was supposed to be the team that was better prepared for the SEC. With an established coach and a returning quarterback, many thought that Pinkel's team could actually challenge for supremacy in the SEC East.

Instead, it's been A&M that's taken the SEC by storm. Kevin Sumlin is a finalist for national Coach of the Year, and first year starter Johnny Manziel has captured the imagination of all of college football.

Two teams, with two very different paths, that are forever linked because of their history.

A&M and Missouri is never going to be a rivalry game. Despite their coupled past in the Big 12, the series lacks any animosity, and I'm not sure you could find two fan bases in the Big 12 that overlap less.

That also makes Missouri perfect though. To have their best season since they won the 1998 Big 12 Championship, the Aggies are going to have to shake off a ghost of the Big 12. Missouri has beaten A&M three straight times, including two straight times at Kyle Field.

Two years ago, A&M helped Blaine Gabbert become a first round NFL Draft Pick. It was also the game that effectively ended the college football career of A&M's Jerrod Johnson. Missouri decimated an A&M team that day, and the loss prompted Mike Sherman's “burning of the gameplan.”

Last season, again at Kyle Field, A&M managed to cram an entire season of disappointment into one game. Leading 28-14 with 3:11 to go in the third quarter, it would take Missouri all of 11 minutes to erase that two score lead. Missouri missed a field goal at the end of regulation, and it looked like maybe A&M had a chance to pull this game out. But of course they didn't really. With 3rd and 2 in their possession in overtime, Sherman made a mystifying play call on a pitch to Ryan Swope and then Tannehill's fourth down pass attempt was batted down at the line of scrimmage.

These though, are a new look bunch of Aggies.

Led by the confidence of their head coach and their quarterback, there's really no limit to what this A&M team thinks they can do. There's also plenty on the line for A&M on Saturday.

It's a long shot, but the Aggies still have an outside chance at a BCS game. The Aggies haven't played in the BCS since 1998, and to do it in Kevin Sumlin's first season and their first season in the SEC would be an incredible achievement.

Less of a long shot is the fact that their freshman quarterback is playing for the Heisman Trophy. There are those who are looking for any reason not to give the trophy to a freshman, so Manziel can't exactly hand the ball off and coast in this one. That's not his style anyway though.

A&M got to this point by throwing out history and trying something new, and if there's one thing you can say about this year's Aggies, they definitely play to win the game.

But before hopes of the Heisman and BCS games can be realized, the Aggies have this final hurdle, and it's such a perfect one. Unlike every challenge this season, this is one the Aggies have seen recently, and that's why it couldn't be more perfect.

To realize their ten win season in the SEC, the Aggies have to overcome a link to their past in the Big 12. To move forward to the future, they have to exorcize a demon of their recent history. And for Johnny Manziel to win the Heisman, he has to do something that Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill couldn't.

That's why if it couldn't be Texas to end A&M's 2012 regular season, it had to be Missouri.

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