Any chance of Texas A&M's winning the SEC West disappeared two weeks ago in the defeat at Ole Miss. In response, the Aggies took out their frustration on FCS Prairie View A&M, 52-3. Now, they are focused on repeating what they accomplished last season: playing in a New Year's Six bowl game.
And to secure another top bowl game under head coach Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies will need to go into Death Valley and take down the LSU on Saturday night.
LSU is coming off a win to move to 5-6, but it was an inevitable letdown at home against ULM. After facing five opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 in their last six games, LSU's players went through the motions and emerged with the expected, though uninspiring, victory over the Warhawks. They'll need a much better effort to win a sixth game and secure bowl eligibility.
LSU leads the all-time series, 34-21-3, with that entire advantage due to the Tigers' 25-10-1 edge in Baton Rouge. Since Texas A&M joined the SEC, LSU has won seven of the nine meetings, although the Aggies have won two of the last three.
No. 15 Texas A&M at LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Aggies -6.5
When Texas A&M Has the Ball
The Aggies lost their starting quarterback, Haynes King, at Colorado in the season opener. Since then, they have relied more on their running game. They have exceeded 100 yards in eight of their nine games since then and topped 200 yards in four of those contests. They have accumulated more yards through the air than on the ground in just three of their last nine games, losing two of those.
Texas A&M has more than one dependable ball carrier. Isaiah Spiller leads the team with 168 carries for 984 yards and is second in scoring touchdowns with six. Devon Achane has the most rushing touchdowns (nine) along with the second-highest totals of carries (118) and yards (861). Freshmen Amari Daniels (20 att., 119 yds, TD) and LJ Johnson Jr. (21, 76) have appeared in just four games. Wide receiver/running back Ainias Smith has only seven rushes for 25 yards.
LSU's ability to stop rushing attacks has varied greatly this season. The Tigers have limited three opponents to under 60 yards on the ground. One of those was Alabama with a total of six yards. Three opponents exceeded 200 yards and scored at least two touchdowns (UCLA, Kentucky, and Ole Miss), all resulting in defeats. When the Tigers have held offenses below 140 rushing yards, they are 5-1, and they are 0-5 when they failed to do so.
When LSU Has the Ball
LSU has developed a habit of firing out of the locker room at the start of games then cooling off after halftime. The Tigers have led after the first quarter in seven games but lost three of those. LSU has also had the advantage at halftime seven times but ended up losing twice. They have been outscored 90 to 79 in the third quarter and 73 to 48 in SEC contests. In the fourth quarter, they have fallen short by a margin of 88 to 75, including 53 to 48 versus SEC opponents.
The Fighting Tigers' inability to hold leads is partially due to their struggles to run the ball during the season. They have averaged 109.8 yards per game. However, Tyrion Davis-Price setting the program record for most rushing yards in a game with 287 skewed that number. In their other 10 games, they have an average of just 88.7 yards. They have scored only nine touchdowns on the ground, just six of those against eight Power 5 members. The frequent changes in the offensive line due to injuries and a pre-season transfer account for much of the difficulty.
Texas A&M had been improving its rushing defense over the course of the season until two weeks ago. The Aggies allowed 226 and 171 yards plus a touchdown on the ground in each of the first two games. Since then, TAMU had limited opponents to under 100 yards in five of the next eight contests and only four touchdowns in total. However, they lost both times that they allowed more than 200 rushing yards, including at Ole Miss in mid-November.
Despite their first victory over Alabama since 2012, the season did not reach its ultimate goal for Texas A&M: an SEC West title. The main reason for that occurred in the two weeks prior to pulling the upset. The Aggies flopped in two games that they were expected to win. However, they can still accomplish something that no other TAMU squad has done since joining the SEC: a victory in Tiger Stadium.
This will mark Ed Orgeron's last home game as LSU's head coach. Whether it serves as his final game ever in that role depends on the outcome of the contest. A win in the regular-season finale would give him a shot at one more opportunity on LSU's sideline in a bowl game.
He has managed to keep his team motivated, even when outmatched by ranked opponents. He will do the same this week, even though his team will fall a bit short again as it has done so often in SEC contests during this historically terrible season. LSU's streak of 21 consecutive seasons without a losing record will come to an end.
Prediction: Texas A&M 27, LSU 20
Podcast: Week 13 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.