3:30 PM ET, November 23, 2013
Tiger Stadium, BATON ROUGE, LA
(AP) -- If Les Miles is worried about how his embattled defense will hold up against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M's relentless, up-tempo offense, he isn't showing it.
The ninth-ranked Aggies' visit to Death Valley on Saturday will feature two of the top quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference, as well as some of college football's best receivers and running backs -- seemingly all the needed ingredients of a high-scoring affair.
LSU's coach, however, said he is "not looking forward to that style of game."
"I want the defense to stop them," Miles said. "Certainly we recognize the challenge that an offense like A&M will bring. ... I like my defense. I suspect they'll play best in this game. I think they'll be a challenge to A&M and I think being in Tiger Stadium will be a challenge to A&M. It's a much different environment and a place where the home team generally does pretty good."
No. 18 LSU (7-3, 3-3) has opened as a four-point favorite and has been good at home, winning all five contests this season.
Yet its defense has been inconsistent and shaky at times. In LSU's last game -- a 38-17 loss at Alabama two weekends ago -- the Tigers' defense looked strong in the first half before wilting in the second, when the No. 1 Crimson Tide put together three unanswered touchdown drives, turning a tense 17-all tie into a laugher.
Now LSU must contend with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, whose talent, according to Miles, is unsurpassed in college football.
Manziel has accounted for 300-plus total yards in 19 straight starts. He racked up 500 total yards against an Alabama defense that leads the SEC with 272.8 yards allowed per game.
Texas A&M's 578 yards per game and scoring average of 49.2 easily lead the SEC. Auburn ranks second with 499.9 yards per game and Missouri is second in scoring with 41.3 points per game.
"It's a great challenge," Miles said. "It'll be a great matchup. I think our defense is really looking forward to it. These Tigers look forward to a challenge and this is really going to be one. I think our guys will play well. I think we have a nice scheme and a variety of ways to pressure, disguise coverage, get in the backfield."
Miles said his defense will need to be good at getting off the field on third down to avoid wearing down against A&M's up-tempo offense. The coach added that LSU plans to rotate at least two players at every defensive position, and as many as three players at some spots, to stay fresh.
LSU cornerback Jalen Mills said the Tigers defense is bracing for a test of stamina.
"It is a day game. It's going to be hot. If somebody catches a cramp or somebody may be gassed and may need to sit out for a play or two, we do have the depth for it," Mills said. "Your name could be called at any time during that game, so you have to be ready. No sitting on the sidelines."
LSU, which had a bye last week, also has been using explosive receiver and kick returner Odell Beckham Jr. as the scout team quarterback, whose job is to mimic the opposing team's starter in practice against the first-team defense.
"It was fun pretending to be Johnny this week and running around, just trying to make plays, trying to give my defense the best look possible," said Beckham, who played some quarterback out of the "wildcat" formation in high school.
LSU is also hoping to control the football, which will put a premium on its ability to run as much as it may like the passing chemistry quarterback Zach Mettenberger has had with top receivers Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
"We know what kind of offense they have over there and the recipe for success against those guys is running the football successfully," LSU running back Jeremy Hill said, noting that LSU's ability to run was a key factor in the Tigers' triumph at Texas A&M last season.
"We want to get 35 minutes or more in time of possession, just keeping (Manziel) off the field as much as possible and helping our defense, keeping those guys fresh," Hill said. "In the Alabama game, they were out there for a lot of plays and we were on the sideline for most of the second half and that hurt our defense. ... They got tired out there."
A&M (8-2, 4-2) has scored more than 50 points in winning its past three games, and another big offensive showing could result in its first victory in three meetings with LSU since moving to the SEC. Neither of the past two, though, was played at Baton Rouge.
"I want nothing more than to win these next two games and to get into a good bowl game and go 10-2 in another regular season," Manziel said. "I can't even put into words how bad I want that for seniors on this team and for this team in general."
Top 25 Overview
Neither team can win the SEC West at this point, but there's still something on the table for each. For the Aggies, there's Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy candidacy and a glimmer of hope at sneaking into a BCS bowl. For the Tigers, coach Les Miles wants to see them finish with 10 wins, the final one coming in a quality bowl game. And Saturday should be compelling, because the Tigers were the team that corralled Johnny Football the best last season in a 24-19 win at Kyle Field.
|Avg Points Allowed||31.2||22.3|
In his career, Johnny Manziel is 0-2 with a Total QBR of 21.5 against the Tigers. The Aggies are 16-3 when Manziel plays against all other FBS opponents, with a total quarterback rating of nearly 90.[+]
Johnny Manziel Career vs FBS opponents
Johnny Manziel completed 4-of-14 passes thrown 15 yards or longer, including a season-high eight such passes that were off target. It was his second start this season in which he completed less than half of his passes thrown at least 15 yards. He entered the game, completing 56.1% of such passes, fourth best among AQ quarterbacks.[+]
LSU rushed for 130 of its 324 yards after contact, its most rushing yards and yards after contact in a game against an FBS team in the last two seasons. The Tigers are averaging 98 yards after contact in their wins this season and 41 in their losses. Terrence Magee led the way for LSU with career highs in rushing yards (149) and yards after contact (71). Texas A&M entered the game allowing 102.2 yards after contact per game, the most in the SEC and fourth worst among AQ schools. Saturday was the fifth time this season the Aggies have allowed more than 100 yards after contact in a game. They allowed three such games in the previous two seasons combined.[+]
LSU Rushing, This Season
Today wasn't much different than Johnny Manziel's 1st game vs LSU. Today, Manziel threw for just 224 yards, while completing 39.0% of his passes. It is his 1st career game with a completion percentage under 50 percent.[+]
Can't Tame the Tigers - Johnny Manziel vs LSU
Johnny Manziel completed a career-low 39% of his passes and finished with a career-low 14.9 Total QBR. It was his first game in which he did not complete at least half of his passes and his second game with a below average Total QBR (50 = average). His previous career lows in both stats were set in last season's loss to LSU.[+]
Johnny Manziel Passing, Career in Conference Games
ESPN Stats & Information