Your Missouri Tigers are going to Atlanta, and they didn't get help from anybody. All the caveats about injured QBs are by the wayside now. They played a game bunch of Aggies last night, and the moment was not too big, despite some near-heroics from Johnny Manziel.
Onto my thoughts.
1. The defense was sublime, despite playing a magician and a hot playcaller
Coach Steck was at his level best last night. He pushed every button and pulled every lever. Despite what people have been saying all week, John Chavis and LSU did not devise any sort Johnny Football-proof scheme. There is no one way to beat Manziel. We played zone. We played man. Andrew Wilson, who I have to think has turned himself into a draftable MIKE linebacker, spied, and was pretty effective.
After the opening few series, Texas A&M lost interest in Manziel on designed runs. Missouri held Manziel to his lowest yardage total since playing only one half vs. Rice in 2012 (according to the twitterverse). The Tigers forced so many negative plays and short gains ... yet still gave up 21 points, including a touchdown on a 98-yard drive. That's how good A&M is. The defense forced Manziel to take checkdown throws all night. That's exactly what you want to do. The A&M skill position players found the open spot and/or broke enough tackles to keep the defense on its heels. That's why the Aggies field one of the best offenses in the nation. Even when you think you got 'em you don't got 'em.
And yet, Missouri held the Aggies to three total scoring drives. That may not be LSU good, but it's better than everybody else. Finally, what a fantastic day in coverage and tackling for E.J. Gaines shadowing Mike Evans. Unbelievable.
2. A&M made James Franklin win with the game with decision-making
This was an up-and-down game for Tanklin, but when you step back and consider that he had to do a bit of everything to win, and do it at the right time, this was like many of his 2011 wins. As we know by this point, the hole in Franklin's game is extending plays when the first read is taken away. Now, some of that--my impression here--is that Henson's offense, particularly vs. man coverage, is not very check-down friendly. That's hard to say with certainty without access to All-22 footage, but we really don't throw much to the backs or tight ends. We also throw very few shallow crosses to the wide receivers.
It's also worth asking, is it me or does Franklin have just the worst luck on deep throws? Now, he clearly has a knack for overthrowing. Last night he clearly missed Marcus Lucas for a wide open TD on a drive where I believe we eventually scored. An obvious miscommunication. Earlier, though, he had L'Damian Washington streaking down the sideline after beating his man like a drum. Either the turf monster jumped up and nipped Washington's heel, or his feet got tangled with the DB, but that little stumble cost him a sure thing TD.
Franklin lost a handful of throws in the second half but, overall, was the quintessential dual threat QB we have come to know and love. I was overjoyed to see that kid walk off Faurot Field victorious in his last game. On a team filled to the brim with great kids that make you proud, the school cannot have a better representative.