The LSU Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies come into this matchup having two totally different seasons.
The LSU Tigers, under first year head coach Brian Kelly, are coming in with a lot on the line as the number five team in the country and as the SEC West Champions. The Tigers are in the midst of the College Football Playoff conversation and would need to win out starting tonight and also next week in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia to get into the College Football Playoff.
What is also on the line tonight for the Tigers is that the program is trying to seek its 17th 10 plus winning season and could get it with a win.
“I don’t think they give you any ticker-tape parades, but it’s certainly a benchmark when people look back on seasons. I think we look at challenges within the program more than particular wins at this point.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on possibility of winning 10 games.
Meanwhile, it has been an extremely disappointing season for Texas A&M under head coach Jimbo Fisher. Ranked in the preseason Top 10 at the start of the year, the season has gone in the opposite direction much to the frustration of Aggies fans as not only Texas A&M will not play for a SEC championship this season, but the Aggies will not play for a bowl game entering the final game of the season with a 4-7 record. Despite the Aggies’ struggles and not having a SEC win since September, LSU head coach Brian Kelly recognizes that Texas A&M is still a dangerous team and knowing that there is no bowl game, the Aggies will throw everything in the kitchen sink to try and derail the Tigers’ playoff hopes.
“It’s arguably as talented of a football team as we’ll see all year. They don’t have the wins that they wanted, but all they need is one, and that’s to beat LSU. We’ll have to prepare well and perform well on Saturday.”
“Jimbo is obviously an outstanding football coach. I’ve gone against him when he was at Florida State. Certainly this is their game. They’ll play their absolute best against us, and we’ll have to meet and exceed out play.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on challenges that Texas A&M will bring
After starting the season at 4-2 and losing at home to Tennessee by 27 points, LSU has incredibly turned its season around defeating the likes of Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Arkansas to clinch the SEC West title. During the stretch, LSU has answered the bell week in and week out even in their last game against UAB. In a game which the weather was not ideal against a team that everybody expected the Tigers to beat a week after clinching the SEC West, the Tigers showed their mental toughness that has helped guide them to the success that they have had this season in a 41-10 victory last week.
“Less than ideal conditions, not a full crowd, coming off an incredible environment two weeks prior… all those things usually equal into a chance in the way you think. I was really proud of them.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on the team’s performance last week against UAB
After struggling on offense last week against Arkansas, it was a great tune-up game for the Tigers’ offense. Jayden Daniels got back into form in which he had an incredible three game stretch in which he accounted for 14 total touchdowns. For the third time this season, Daniels threw for over 200 yards (297) and ran for over 100 yards (129) with two touchdowns in the win. Overall, the former Arizona State quarterback has completed 69% of his passes for 2,377 yards and 15 touchdowns plus having 740 rushing yards and 11 more touchdowns on the ground. Daniels leads an offense that is averaging 33.4 points per game. They are throwing for 245.6 yards and rushing for 192.3 yards per game.
Without Josh Williams and Armoni Goodwin last week, the Tigers relied on Penn State transfer Noah Cain in the running game as the Baton Rouge native had the best game of his Tigers career with 13 carries for 76 yards and three touchdowns. With his three-touchdown performance, Cain now leads all Tigers running backs with seven touchdowns.
It has been a season in which a different receiver emerges for the Tigers as the number one option and last week, it was Malik Nabers, who had 7 catches for 129 yards in the win. Daniels evenly distributes the football as eight different receivers have double digit catches this season.
Defensively, the Tigers have one of the best coordinators in the country calling plays in defensive coordinator Matt House. House was recently named as a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the best assistant coach in the country. LSU’s defense is only allowing 20 points per game.
House has a lot of great pieces to work with especially freshman standout Harold Perkins leading the way. Perkins had 57 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and interception, and leads the team in sacks (6.5) as well as quarterback hurries (13). Last week, linebacker Greg Penn had one of his best performances as a Tiger leading the team with eight tackles. Micah Baskerville leads the team in tackles this season with 66 to go with 4 tackles for loss, a sack, and an interception. On the defensive line, BJ Ojulari leads the charge with 49 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy have had good seasons filling in for Maason Smith while defensive end Ali Gaye has proved to be the vocal leader of the entire defense. The secondary consists of a lot of transfers and the new look secondary has been good for the Tigers led by Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Mekhi Garner, Joe Foucha, and Greg Brooks while familiar faces Jay Ward and Major Burns have also been stalwarts in the back end.
The Tigers’ defense will face an Aggies offense that has played three different quarterbacks this season. Getting the start is five star freshman quarterback Conner Weigman, who has thrown for 741 yards and six touchdowns, but he has struggled being a consistent passer only completing 53% of his passes. The offense has struggled only averaging 21 points per game, but there are some skill players that are very talented and will provide some challenges to the Tigers defense most notably the explosive Devon Achane, who has accounted for 1,083 total yards and nine total touchdowns this season. Weigman also has two top receivers that are very talented in freshman standout Evan Stewart (49 catches for 607 yards and 2 TDs) and Moose Muhammad III (33 catches for 516 yards and 3 TDs.)
The Aggies defense has kept the team in games this season giving up 21 points per game. The defense is led by linebacker Chris Russell, who has 64 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. The Aggies defense have struggled to stop the run as this unit is last in the SEC giving up 249 rushing yards allowed per game but have been extremely good against the pass as the number two passing defense (152 yards per game) in the country led by Demani Richardson and Jardin Gilbert. In the Aggies’ 20-3 win over UMass last week, the defense gave up only 168 total yards of offense including only 55 yards through the air.
The Tigers have turned around their season after the slow start and have more than enough made up for it by their excellent second half of the season. LSU would love nothing more than to end the regular season on a high note entering their big matchup next week in Atlanta.
“This is another one. It’s going on the road against a really talented team that has nothing to lose, and you have to play well because they will play up to you.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on getting his team ready to play against Texas A&M
Game Prediction: LSU 31 Texas A&M 17
I trust Brian Kelly to make sure that the Tigers are still focused on the task at hand against Texas A&M and not looking ahead to Georgia. With nothing to lose and having no bowl game in sight, Texas A&M will make this their bowl game and will throw everything at the Tigers. However, there is a reason why both teams are having the seasons that they are having. LSU is just the better team and will pull away from the Aggies in the second half to win this by two touchdowns.
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