Saturday, November 23, 2013
Five things: Texas A&M-LSU
By Sam Khan Jr.
Saturday afternoon in Death Valley, it all goes down. No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 22 LSU meet in what should be an entertaining SEC clash at 2:30 p.m. local time at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Here are five things to keep an eye on from the Aggies' perspective:
1. Manziel vs. LSU D and John Chavis: Last season, LSU did the best job of bottling up Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. He threw three interceptions and had career-worst marks in completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and yards per carry in a 24-19 loss. Well, guess what? Manziel is better this year, LSU's defense is far from what it was last season and Texas A&M's offensive scheme has progressed significantly since last October. But the constant on the LSU side, even though most of the 2012 defense is now playing in the NFL, is defensive coordinator John Chavis. The plan he devised against Manziel was effective. Can he pull it off again with a different level of talent in the front seven? And can the improved Manziel make LSU pay with his arm, as he has other teams this season, not just with his feet?
2. A&M D vs. Jeremy Hill and the LSU running game: There's no sugarcoating it -- Texas A&M's run defense has been poor this year, except for a couple games. LSU has a traditional scheme when it comes to running the football, with a fullback and a big physical back who has quickness in Jeremy Hill. As Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said, Hill will try to "concuss you" when he has the football. And in this era of the spread, rarely do teams have to deal with big physical fullbacks, but the Aggies will have to deal with fullback J.C. Copeland, who is 6-0, 270. A&M's run defense ranks 105th in the country. The unit has had a few good games but most recently allowed 299 rushing yards to Mississippi State. And LSU has more than just Hill to throw at the Aggies. The Tigers average 184.8 yards per game on the ground.
3. Elite receivers on display: If you like great receivers in college football, this is a game for you. LSU has one of the best two-receiver tandems in the country in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Texas A&M has a guy who has been arguably the nation's best this year, the 6-foot-5 Mike Evans. All of them are playmakers, productive and fun to watch, so sit back and enjoy when Manziel and Zach Mettenberger are pulling the trigger.
4. The turnover battle: One of the big reasons LSU won this game last year was the turnover battle. The Tigers had 5-0 edge in turnovers last October, and while the Aggies are plus-two this season overall in turnover margin, they aren't immune to them. They committed four against the two ranked teams they played (two each against Alabama and Auburn) and lost the turnover battle both games. LSU on the other hand is minus-four in turnover margin this season.
5. Special teams: With Les Miles, you never know what you're going to get, special teams included. This is another area where LSU won last year when the teams met. A&M had a poor day placekicking, but that has since been rectified. Both teams have quality return specialists: Beckham is one of the best all-purpose guys around, and running back Trey Williams for A&M has been solid lately on kickoff returns. As Kevin Sumlin said, "From the time we get off the bus, our special teams units have to have the hair on the back of their neck up looking for stuff to happen."