Early Analysis: LSU vs. Texas A&M

No. 6 LSU at No. 18 Texas A&M
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ESPN
Line: LSU -4

There might not be a better matchup of great offense vs. great defense this entire college football season than what we’ll get Saturday, when the LSU Tigers travel to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tigers enter Kyle Field with the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense, and will have the fun task of trying to stop the nation’s fifth best scoring attack.

That’s right, Saturday sure will be fun. Miles vs. Sumlin. Johnny Manziel vs. Sam Montgomery, Eric Reid and the Tigers’ defense. LSU vs. Texas A&M.

We’re all excited.

And here’s what you need to watch out for.  

For LSU to Win: They need to run the ball like they did against South Carolina last weekend.

Simply put, it’s no secret that the Tigers run game hasn’t been as strong as in years past, thanks in large part to a depleted offensive line which was forced to start two freshmen last weekend against South Carolina. Thankfully for the LSU faithful though, it hardly seemed to matter as the Tigers ripped off a staggering 248 yards on the ground, against one of the nation’s best defensive lines. LSU averaged 4.9 yards per carry.  

But before LSU fans get too excited, remember that Saturday’s game was in the cozy confines of Death Valley. Also remember that the last time LSU went on the road, the Bayou Bengals rushing attack was grounded by Florida’s suffocating defensive line. Against the Gators, LSU finished with just 42 yards of rushing offense in a 17-6 loss in the Swamp.

So as the Tigers get ready to hit the road for the second straight week, the question has to be asked: Which LSU running game will we see? The answer to that question will likely decide this game.

For Texas A&M to Win: They need to let “Johnny Football” loose.

That’s right, for all the buzz about Heisman contenders like Geno Smith and Braxton Miller, it is Johnny “Football” Manziel who is putting up stats as good as nearly anyone in college football. On the season, Manziel has been nothing short of absurd, combining for 24 total touchdowns (14 through the air and 10 on the ground) while completing just over 67 percent of his passes. In the process, Texas A&M has scored at least 48 points in four of their last five games.

But as exciting as Manziel has been, he has yet to go up against a defense anywhere near good as LSU’s. The Tigers are ranked No. 2 nationally in pass defense and feature any number of players who will one day play in the NFL.

Speaking of which…

Key Player, LSU: If LSU wants to have any chance of slowing down Manziel and the high-powered Texas A&M offense, it’s going to take an extra special effort from the entire defense, no one more so than star safety Eric Reid.

Reid, was all over the field on Saturday against South Carolina and will need a similar effort against the dynamic A&M offense. Reid will be called on in both the pass and run defense, a role he is quite comfortable in handling; not only does Reid have two interceptions so far this season, but is also third on the team in total tackles.

No defender will be more important to slowing down Manziel and Co. than Reid.

Key Player, Texas A&M: In the same vein, we’ll go with Damontre Moore on Texas A&M.

Speaking of Moore, is there a defender who is doing more on the field (no pun intended) with less hype than he is? The junior defensive lineman is in line for a first-team All-American nod this year, as he’s currently leading the country in tackles for loss (15) and is second in the country in total sacks (8.5). Yet for some reason, no one seems to be talking about them.

Of course if he can help slow down LSU’s rushing attack and lead Texas A&M to the upset win, he might be a household name by this time next week.

Key Stat: 11, as in in 11:00 a.m., which will be the local time in College Station when these two teams kick-off.

To which we’ve got to ask: Why, ESPN? Why?

More importantly, it makes us wonder if A&M’s biggest advantage heading into this game (the home-field) may have been negated by something completely out of control (the schedule makers). Safe to say Kyle Field won’t be rocking at 11:00 a.m. quite like it might’ve been for a 6 or 7:00 p.m. local start.

Will it be the advantage LSU needs to steal a tough road win?

We’ll find out Saturday.

For all his opinion, insight and analysis on college football, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.