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Friday, October 19, 2012
Predictions: LSU vs. Texas A&M

By Sam Khan Jr.

LSU 23, Texas A&M 20

Can the Aggies win this game? Yes. If LSU stays under the 30-point mark, I think Texas A&M has a good shot. That being said, it isn't an easy challenge by any stretch. LSU's defense is good, fast and physical. And the way the Tigers can run the ball, they might be able to limit Texas A&M's offensive opportunities. The Aggies have run the ball much better as a team lately than they did in the first few games of the year (outside of Johnny Manziel), but I'm not yet sold that they can move the chains well enough against this LSU defense to beat the Tigers. I typically prefer to pick the team that I think has the better quarterback (and I think the Aggies do here with Manziel vs. LSU's Zach Mettenberger), but I was impressed by the depth of the Tigers backfield and way they were able to run the ball and particularly their ability to convert on third downs, an area where the Tigers were 11-of-19 last week against then-no. 3 South Carolina. It'll be close, but I think LSU has the edge.

Player to watch: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

The most intriguing battle to watch may be between Manziel, the redshirt freshman quarterback, against LSU's defense and the speed it brings to the field. The last time Manziel, who has put up incredible numbers so far this year including leading the SEC in rushing, faced a defense that had the caliber of athletes that LSU does was in the season opener against Florida. It was a 20-17 loss for the Aggies and Manziel played respectably (23-of-30 passing, 173 yards, 60 rushing yards and a touchdown) but it wasn't quite what we've seen from "Johnny Football" in subsequent games where he has gone over 100 rushing yards. Can that be attributed in part to the fact that it was Manziel's first collegiate start? You bet. He wasn't as comfortable throwing the ball downfield as much as he has been lately, as he tuck and ran it many times in the second half rather than risking a turnover. That was part of the reason the Aggies' offense stalled out in the second half that day after scoring 17 points against Florida in the first half. Still, LSU's defense is ranked second in the nation for a reason. The speed the Tigers bring and the talent they have will be a tremendous test -- perhaps the toughest yet -- for the young Manziel.

Matchups to watch:

• Texas A&M LT Luke Joeckel vs. LSU DE Sam Montgomery The 6-foot-6, 310 Joeckel, who along with Jake Matthews has played consistently well at the tackle spot, particularly in pass protection, will match up against Montgomery, a Hendricks Award watch list member. The 6-5, 260 Montgomery has 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season. He was SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his play against South Carolina (three tackles, two sacks and starts at right end, meaning he'll line up against Joeckel.

• LSU RT Vadal Alexander vs. Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore
Alexander is starting as a true freshman at right tackle for the Tigers. He has plenty of size (6-6, 350), and he'll line up against Moore, who has been nothing short of impressive this season. Moore leads the team in tackles, leads the SEC in sacks (8.5) and leads the nation in tackles for loss (15).