Texas A&M and LSU meet for the third time as SEC opponents in a Thanksgiving night matchup at Kyle Field. The Aggies and Tigers enter the regular season finale at 7-4 and 3-4 in conference play. Both teams have spent time in the top 25 and a win on Thursday night would nudge either back into contention for next week’s rankings.
With Texas A&M and LSU out of the conference title mix in the SEC West, Thursday night’s game is all about bowl positioning and establishing momentum. Neither team should be considered a disappointment with a 7-4 record, as both programs had to replace a significant amount of talent in the offseason. However, question marks and personnel concerns have continued throughout the year for both teams. Thursday night’s game is a chance to finish with momentum and establish something positive before bowl practices in December.
LSU owns a 29-19-3 series edge against Texas A&M. The Tigers have won both meetings between these two teams as SEC members. LSU has played at Kyle Field only once since 1995.
LSU at Texas A&M
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -3
LSU’s Key to Victory: Establish the Run
In LSU’s last game against Arkansas, the rushing attack was held to just 36 yards on 32 attempts. That’s the fewest rushing yards by the Tigers since recording 43 on 31 attempts against Alabama in 2013. Establishing the run on Thursday night is critical with the struggles of quarterback Anthony Jennings. The sophomore is completing only 47.9 percent of his throws and passed for 87 yards on 12 completions against the Razorbacks. In LSU’s last two games against Texas A&M, the Tigers have gashed the Aggies for 543 yards and four scores on 100 carries. Averaging 5.4 yards per rush on Thursday night isn’t out of the question with Texas A&M giving up 208.9 rushing yards per game. True freshman Leonard Fournette recorded only five carries against Arkansas, but the true freshman should see 20-25 touches against the Aggies. And if Fournette needs a rest, LSU has Terrence Magee (471 yards) and Darrel Williams (4.6 ypc) to hammer away against the Texas A&M defense. If LSU can establish the run, Jennings will have opportunities to hit plays downfield on play-action passes.
Texas A&M’s Key to Victory: Push the Tempo/Style of Play
LSU’s identity on offense is clear with a struggling passing game: Establish the run and control the clock. The Tigers average 33:19 in time of possession, which ranks second in the SEC behind Arkansas. On the flipside, Texas A&M ranks last in time of possession with a 26:15 mark. Time of possession doesn’t mean much in terms of success, but it’s critical in a matchup like the one on Thursday night. The Aggies want to speed up the tempo and get the ball in space to their playmakers. Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen has made three starts this year and threw for 237 yards and three scores in Texas A&M’s 34-27 loss to Missouri. He also completed 19 of 29 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-38 win over Auburn. LSU’s pass defense has been stingy this season, limiting opponents to just eight passing scores and a 49.4 completion percentage. The Aggies know they have a struggling rush defense and can’t afford to let the Tigers hammer away for four quarters on the ground. The best counterpunch to LSU’s offense is Texas A&M’s ability to push the tempo and let Allen hit receivers Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds, Malcome Kennedy and Ricky Seals-Jones. If the Aggies get ahead, they can take the Tigers out of their preferred offense and force coach Les Miles’ team to take to the air.
In the two previous meetings between LSU and Texas A&M as SEC members, the Tigers have controlled the pace of the game with a punishing ground attack and a quick, athletic defense. For the Aggies to reverse the trend on Thursday night, they have to get Allen going early and strike first on offense to force LSU out of its ground-and-pound gameplan. Which team establishes the tempo will emerge on Thanksgiving night with the victory. The guess here is LSU’s rushing attack and offensive line controls the pace of game and Texas A&M struggles to stop the run once again.