Sam Houston St.-Texas A&M Preview

The Associated Press

After one of the most significant wins in school history, the stage is set for Texas A&M's euphoric return to Kyle Field.

With a sellout crowd expected, the ninth-ranked Aggies and Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Manziel will seek to avoid an upset Saturday against one of the top teams in the FCS, Sam Houston State.

Texas A&M's successful debut season in the SEC reached a new high last week with the program's second victory against a No. 1 team, a 29-24 stunner at Alabama.

"At the beginning of the season, (coach Kevin Sumlin) told us we can beat anybody on our schedule, and we firmly believed it," linebacker Jonathan Stewart said.

Manziel bolstered his Heisman hopes with 253 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The freshman also had 92 rushing yards, giving him 1,014 on the season to maintain the SEC lead.

Manziel also remained among the nation's best with 379.4 total yards per game, and kept Texas A&M (8-2) on pace to break the 1995 Florida squad's conference record of 534.4 yards per game. The Aggies have averaged 545.4 this season.

Texas A&M will try to keep its confidence high at home, where both of its losses have occurred this season against Florida and LSU. The Aggies will also seek to head into their regular-season finale, a home game against Missouri on Nov. 24, riding a four-game winning streak.

With some help and a win over the Tigers, they could capture the SEC West title and a place in the conference championship game.

"To be back home in Kyle Field, it's about to get crazy. With the win last week, everyone is trying to come to this game," said wide receiver Malcome Kennedy, who caught a key touchdown from Manziel in the fourth quarter in Tuscaloosa. "It's revitalizing to come back home."

The Aggies, though, may not want to celebrate too much as they face last season's national runner-up in the FCS and the current No. 3 team in that division's rankings.

Sam Houston State (8-2) has won seven in a row - outscoring its past five opponents 264-34 - and junior running back Timothy Flanders has topped 100 yards in four straight games to reach 1,087 along with 16 touchdowns on the season. He had 138 yards and a pair of scores in a 52-17 rout of Northwestern State this past Saturday.

That win gave the Bearkats a share of a second straight Southland Conference title and paved the way for a likely return to the FCS playoffs.

Flanders had 84 yards on 16 carries and caught a TD pass in Sam Houston's only previous matchup with an FBS school this year, a visit to Baylor on Sept. 15. The Bearkats led by 10 points at halftime of that game before falling 48-23.

Sam Houston is 3-25 against FBS schools with one of those wins coming last season, 48-45 in overtime at New Mexico. Flanders ran for a school-record five touchdowns in that victory.

The Bearkats are 0-3 all-time against FBS Top 25 opponents, most recently losing 38-14 to then-No. 19 Kansas in 2008.

"We have to make sure we don't take anybody lightly," Stewart said. "Sam Houston State isn't Alabama, LSU, Florida or a marquee name that you're going to get amped up about, but we just have to prepare and make sure we take care of what we have to take care of."

Texas A&M has won all 10 meetings in the series, but only one took place in the last 70 years. That was a 59-6 victory at Kyle Field in 1997.