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Thursday, October 18, 2012
Five storylines: Texas A&M vs. LSU

By Sam Khan Jr.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For the second straight week, Texas A&M will be engaged in a top-25 battle as the No. 18 Aggies host No. 6 LSU.

The Aggies (5-1) have won five straight since their season-opening home loss to Florida while LSU's only defeat (6-1) also came via the Gators. The Tigers are coming off a 23-21 home win over South Carolina while the Aggies were engaged in a thriller with Louisiana Tech before escaping Shreveport, La., with a 59-57 win. Here are some storylines to be watch for heading into this Southeastern Conference battle:

1. Moving up the SEC West ladder
These two teams are tied for third place in the SEC West at 2-1 in conference play so far behind Alabama and Mississippi State, who are both 3-0. If LSU still has BCS championship game hopes, it must win while the Aggies could seriously validate their strong start by taking down a top 10 team. If Texas A&M comes away with a win, it will be in a great position heading into a three-game road stretch that includes games against both teams ahead of them in the SEC West standings.

2. What will we see from Johnny Football?
Since stepping on the field for the Aggies, redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has been nothing short of impressive. He's the SEC's leading rusher (yes, you read that right, leading rusher) and he's third in the league in passing yards and passing efficiency. The level of competition he's facing defensively takes a considerable step up as LSU comes to town, as the Tigers are ranked No. 2 in the nation in total defense. The last time Manziel faced a defense of this caliber -- Florida -- he had an impressive first half but he was bottled up, as was the rest of the Aggies offense, in the second half. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that it was Manziel's first game as a collegian. Will that experience make a difference come kickoff on Saturday?

3. Containing the LSU run game
The Tigers have used five different starting offensive line combinations, and despite that, they've been a productive running team, averaging 206.9 yards per game on the ground. Three different backs have gone for over 100 yards in a game, the most recent being freshman Jeremy Hill with 124 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina. How the Aggies' defensive front stands up to LSU's run game will go a long way toward telling the tale of the game. The Tigers are 30-2 under coach Les Miles when a running back goes for 100 yards.

4. Re-emerging rivalry?
With the Aggies no longer playing longtime rival Texas, could the annual game against LSU turn into an intense rivalry all its own? The teams have history, playing 50 times (LSU leads 27-20-3 in the overall series) and they played a home-and-home series annually from 1986-1995. The schools aren't far apart, both have rabid fan bases that provide tremendous support and care greatly for football, and with the Texas/Louisiana border sitting virtually equidistant from both schools, it would stand to reason that this game could be one circled on the calendar annually for Aggies fans.

5. Recruiting effect
There will be plenty of significant recruits on campus for this game, some of which are considering both the Aggies and the Tigers, but this isn't just about this year's recruits. Texas A&M and LSU will clash annually as they battle for recruits as LSU reaches into Texas and Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies go into Louisiana. That should only make things more interesting as these teams play moving forward.