PHOTO: USA Today Sports
#12 Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2) at #22 LSU (7-3, 3-3)
Saturday, 3:30 PM, CBS
Line: LSU by 4.5
LSU comes into this game having lost two of their last three and three of their last six. For a program like LSU, they are definitely in a bit of a funk. Defensively, the Tigers have given up less than 20 points per game in each of the last four years. This year they are giving up 23 ppg and a whopping 36 ppg in losses. LSU's defense faces a huge test with Johnny Manziel coming to town as these SEC West teams jockey for bowl position.
For LSU to win: A&M has turned the ball over 18 times in 2013 (which is second to last in the SEC) but LSU has struggled to cause turnovers with just 12 this season. In the three losses, LSU has gained just 3 turnovers. For them to beat A&M they need to win the turnover battle and then the offense needs to capitalize on their opportunities. On offense, LSU needs to ground out this A&M defense that gives up 5.25 ypc. Establish the run game (and keep the ball away from Manziel) and then go to your star wide receivers once A&M has committed to stopping the run.
For A&M to win: The Aggies haven't been on the road much this year so they need to get in front of the Tigers early to keep the crowd out of the game. The LSU defense has been suspect this year, so the Aggies just need to do what they do and not force anything. On defense, it's about not giving up big plays and making LSU earn everything they get on offense. In LSU's wins they have 22 plays of 30 or more yards. In their losses, they have just 4 plays of more than 30 yards.
Key Player, LSU: Jeremy Hill, RB. I already mentioned that A&M is giving up 5.25 ypc. Hill is second in the SEC with 107.1 ypg and averages 6.84 ypc. Hill has been better in the first half (7.73 ypc in first half vs 5.73 in second half; and 8.75 ypc in 1st quarter vs 4.88 ypc in 4th quarter) so he needs to be more consistent in this game. The great running backs get better as the game goes on and they wear down the opposing defense. That is what Hill needs to do in this game if the Tigers want to maintain Manziel and keep the Aggies off the field.
Key Player, A&M: Johnny Manziel. The Aggies offense is full of weapons but Manziel is the straw that stirs their drink. Last year, LSU stumped Manziel holding him and the Aggies to just seven second half points and causing five turnovers. Manziel has grown a lot as a player since that game and I expect him to show this Tigers defense (which is not the same group as last season) just how much he has improved.
Key Stat: LSU is 7-3 on the season, but they are 5-0 at home and have not lost a home game since last November when they fell to #1 Alabama.