Missouri is affectionately known as the "Show Me State." College football handicappers sometimes put that moniker under a critical microscope when shuffling through mounds of data and comparing teams.
The Tigers enter today's Big 12 Conference game at Texas A&M with a 5-0 mark and a No. 19 ranking in one poll. But is Missouri's unblemished record more a function of its schedule or overall team strength?
The toughest opponents the Tigers faced were Illinois and San Diego State. The Illini are certainly better than originally thought, and the Aztecs are fast improving under second-year coach Brady Hoke.
Illinois and San Diego State are both roughly 50 percent propositions to qualify for a bowl. Missouri's other previous opponents -- McNeese State, Miami of Ohio and Colorado -- will probably have their helmets and shoulder pads stowed away well before Christmas.
The Aggies, meanwhile, are smarting after back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas.
Senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who entered the season as a probable NFL Draft choice, has struggled with interceptions as the Aggies have committed four turnovers in each of their past three games.
Ironically, Johnson set a conference record last season for most throws without an interception at 242. In the 13 games since setting the record, Johnson has tossed 17 interceptions.
Texas A&M, which ranks 15th in the NCAA in total offense at 472.6 yards per game, undoubtedly has talent, especially at the skill positions. If the Aggies avoid the turnover bug, it could be lights out for many Big 12 opponents.
Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is battling a hip pointer, and Tigers sack specialist Aldon Smith will miss his third straight game with a fractured left fibula.
Go with the desperate Aggies as 3½-point home favorites.
Six more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ COLORADO (+1½) over Baylor -- Quarterback Robert Griffin and the Bears have the far sexier offense, but Baylor is playing its fourth game in five weeks away from home. The Buffaloes have been live 'dogs in Boulder, covering six of their past eight in the role.
■ COLORADO STATE (-3) over Unlv -- While the Rebels have been stuck in neutral for most of the season, the Rams are showing incremental improvements under freshman quarterback Pete Thomas. Colorado State rushed for 285 yards in a 49-27 loss at Air Force last week. The Rebels are 8-22 against the spread as road underdogs since the start of the 2004 season.
■ NAVY (-1½) over Southern Methodist -- Navy's triple-option attack with Ricky Dobbs at quarterback is difficult for defenses to prepare for. High winds forecast for Annapolis could somewhat ground SMU's aerial show.
■ Texas (+10) over NEBRASKA -- College Football Handicapping 101: Take the Longhorns when they are double-digit underdogs off back-to-back losses with an extra week to prepare. Despite the glaring lack of offensive playmakers, Texas' defense is too talented to be catching this many points from the Huskers.
■ Ohio State-WISCONSIN (Under 49) -- In its previous four trips to Camp Randall Stadium, Ohio State has averaged 19.8 points, with its high-water mark of 23 points during that span coming 10 years ago. Opponents do not live by the run alone against the Buckeyes' defense, which will put the heat on Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien.
■ TEXAS TECH (-2½) over Oklahoma State -- Last week's game against Sun Belt pushover Louisiana-Lafayette represented the Cowboys' first road trip of the season after four straight home games. Oklahoma State is 11-23 ATS as a road underdog over the past 10-plus seasons.
Last week: 3-4 against the spread
Texas-based handicapper Paul Stone of Vegassportsauthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.