- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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The stakes are almost as high as they can be for No. 5 Missouri.
The Tigers (10-1) have a chance to punch a ticket to the SEC championship game in Atlanta next week when they host No. 21 Texas A&M (8-3) on Saturday. The scenarios are simple: win and the Tigers are in, lose and they cede that berth to South Carolina.
But what's left for the Aggies? Prior to its 34-10 loss to LSU, Texas A&M held out hope that it could sneak into a BCS bowl for the first time since 1998, but Saturday's loss eliminated any chance of that happening. While Missouri can clinch an outright SEC East Division championship on Saturday night, Texas A&M is out of the SEC West Division hunt -- that will be decided between Alabama and Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
So what are the Aggies playing for when they head to Columbia, Mo.?
The Aggies can still win 10 games this season if they were to win on Saturday and win their bowl game. That would make two consecutive 10-win seasons and that's something that has only happened a few times in Texas A&M history: the Aggies won 10 in 1975 and 1976 and they had a stretch of four consecutive 10-win seasons from 1991 through 1994.
"After discussions with the players, they understand where we are at this point and that we still have some things to play for too," head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We have an opportunity, with a win here, to get into a bowl situation, to be a double-digit win football team which would only be the third or fourth football team in Texas A&M University history to achieve that in back-to-back years."
Texas A&M is also trying to position itself for a good bowl game. The Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Chick-Fil-A Bowl all appear to be within the realm of possibility for the Aggies at this point.
But more importantly, the Aggies first get a road game against a top five team. The Aggies haven't beaten a team that was ranked at the time of meeting all season. This is a chance to do that and that should serve as plenty motivation.
"I think the challenges this week as we go on the road again for the second straight week as an underdog opponent against a team that’s talented and excited and playing for a division championship, we’ve got to find a way to pick ourselves back up and get rolling," Sumlin said.
The hopes of quarterback Johnny Manziel repeating as the Heisman Trophy seem all but gone as well. Though he likely is still a finalist when it's all said and done, it might be difficult to get back into the position of frontrunner.
Sumlin said that even though the Aggies haven't met some of their own expectations or done some of the things they wanted to this season, it's no reason for panic and indicated that the season has still been worthwhile.
“I think they're just ready to play," Sumlin said. "I don't think anybody's mad. I drive through here and I was at the gas station and it's like Henny Penny around here, 'The sky is falling.' Heck, we lost on the road as an underdog and it's the first time we lost by double digits (under the current coaching staff). We're playing in a real season and real opponents and real games.
"Are we where we want to be right now? No. It doesn’t mean the sky is falling either. We are going on the road again this week as a road [underdog] and the good news is that people expect us to win. That’s a completely different attitude than when I first got here.”
3dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon