A good ol’ fashion SEC ground-and-pound game with a whole lot of athleticism will be on display when No. 7 LSU (9-2, 5-2 SEC) travels to College Station on Saturday to take on No. 22 Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3) in the regular-season finale for both squads.
The Tigers head to A&M on a high note after a spiritually uplifting 42-10 win over Rice in Week 12. The defense shut down the Owls' offense, limiting them to just 198 yards, while the Tigers' offense roared with 552 total yards including 372 passing yards. LSU was able to take care of business early, allowing second-string players to take over. That kept key players on offense healthy, but the defense enters Saturday banged up.
Not to be outdone, A&M had its own little breather out of conference, picking up a quality 41-20 win against then-9-1 UAB. The Aggies' offense looked good, gathering up 444 yards of total offense, but the defense was left looking shaky after allowing 417 yards to the Blazers. Although two UAB passes were picked off, Blazers’ backup quarterback Tyler Johnston III still threw for 306 yards with two scores.
LSU at Texas A&M
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Texas A&M -3
Three Things to Watch
1. LSU’s depleted secondary
Injuries to cornerback Kristian Fulton (shoulder) and to safety John Battle (foot) have left LSU’s capable secondary thread-bare. Added to the difficulties, backup cornerback Kelvin Joseph is expected to miss the A&M game for unspecified reasons. The Tigers have been hit and miss against the pass this season, allowing 200 yards per game and looking vulnerable against the Aggies. A&M has to watch out for corner Greedy Williams, one of the SEC’s best, as is safety Grant Delpit.
Like LSU’s pass defense, sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond has been up and down throughout the season for the Aggies, showing flashes of brilliance followed by disappointing turnovers. Mond has passed for 2,680 yards with 17 touchdowns, but has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, taking 32 sacks.
2. Texas A&M’s run defense
The ever-present Aggies linebacker corps is now showing wear and tear. Otaro Alaka is doubtful for Saturday’s game (concussion), and Tyrel Dodson is hobbled (foot). The loss of or limited play of Alaka and Dodson cannot be understated. The two linebackers are the top two tacklers on the team. Alaka leads the Aggies with 68 tackles and 12 tackles for a loss. Dodson has 55 stops and 5.5 tackles for a loss.
LSU’s ground game is not as dominating as years prior but still averages 171 yards per game led by senior tailback Nick Brossette. Brossette’s 861 rush yards are not flashy, but he is tied for the SEC lead in rushing scores (13).
3. Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams vs. LSU QB Joe Burrow
Statistically, Williams is the best running back in the SEC, entering this game with 1,326 rushing yards and 13 scores. Williams also is playing his best football coming into this one, having averaged 167 yards with five total touchdowns against Auburn, Ole Miss, and UAB. LSU has been solid against the run, allowing 131 yards per game. But, the Tigers' front seven can be roughed up for 200-plus yards as seen against Florida, Mississippi State, and Alabama.
To match Williams' production, Burrow has to come up big on third down plays, a trouble spot for the Tigers. LSU is in the lower half of the FBS ranks on third down conversions at a 38 percent clip. Burrow is good for about 209 yards per game and broke a four-game streak without a touchdown pass connecting for six in consecutive games against Arkansas and Rice. What can he do against A&M on the road?
LSU has won seven straight in the series against A&M, but the last six were against Kevin Sumlin coached teams. The Aggies have typically fallen apart come November, but appear to have a different demeanor under first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher. A win against LSU would break the notion that A&M falls apart late in seasons, but a loss...
Despite LSU being higher ranked and battle-tested having played six ranked teams this season, Vegas has A&M as a three-point favorite. Is it Mond’s arm against LSU’s secondary that will be the difference, or will LSU take advantage of an injury riddled linebacker corps for the win?
Prediction: LSU 24, Texas A&M 21
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.