LSU heads to Texas A&M after finally reaching .500 for the first time this season by escaping Fayetteville with a victory. T.J. Finley completed a touchdown pass to Jaray Jenkins with four minutes remaining in the game. That score provided the deciding points. As Jay Ward blocked the Razorbacks’ game-tying field goal attempt on the next series to clinch the win.
Texas A&M returns to the field after not playing its last two scheduled games. In their most recent contest, they demolished the Gamecocks in Columbia, leading 21-0 at halftime before the 48-3 final score. Meanwhile, the Aggies’ victory over Florida has improved in value with each passing week.
LSU leads the series, 34-21-3. In College Station, Texas A&M holds an advantage of 7-4-1. The Fighting Tigers have won eight of the nine most recent meetings, dating back to the Cotton Bowl at the end of the 2010 season.
Previewing: LSU at Texas A&M
Aggies’ passing attack vs. LSU’s secondary
Quarterback Kellen Mond has begun to resemble the highly touted quarterback as he was lauded to be. He has averaged 244.67 yards through the air despite attempting less than 30 passes in four out of six contests. His pass completion percentage equals 64.3 percent. He has tossed at least one touchdown pass per game with three or more in four of their outings. Just as importantly, he has just two interceptions.
Ainias Smith has served as a formidable dual-threat. He leads the Aggies in receiving yards (312) and touchdown receptions (five). He ranks second in catches (26). Additionally, his 187 yards on the ground are second-most while his 34 carries and two rushing touchdowns are tied for second place.
LSU’s defensive backs have looked atrocious throughout the season. The Tigers have given up an average of 335.8 passing yards per game, the third-worst in the FBS. They have allowed 300 or more yards through the air in four of six contests. Opponents have scored 15 touchdowns through the air.
The Tigers’ secondary must hold the Aggies’ aerial assault in check. When they have limited opponents to less than 300 passing yards, they won both times. When they surrendered only one touchdown through the air, they emerged victorious all three times.
Can LSU’s rushing attack provide some balance to the offense?
LSU’s offense has provided its expected contributions, for the most part, averaging 40.3 passes and 36.7 rushes per contest. However, a noticeable imbalance exists in the results. The Tigers have averaged 327.2 yards and 2.7 yards through the air. However, on the ground, they have averaged only 124.3 yards and exactly one touchdown per game.
LSU has yet to settle on one primary running back. Ty Davis-Price has appeared in every game of this season, leading the team in carries (77), rushing yards (349), and touchdowns on the ground (three). Davis-Price has also caught six passes for 41 yards. John Emery Jr. has also played in all six games, ranking second in terms of carries (60), rushing yards (279), and touchdowns on the ground (two). Emery has also caught 11 passes for 58 yards. Chris Curry, despite missing a game, has run the ball 23 times for 73 yards and no touchdowns. He has caught one pass for 10 yards. Is LSU’s running game better off rotating this trio instead of relying on just one of them?
Texas A&M’s stout rushing defense will provide much resistance to LSU. The Aggies have permitted a per-game average of 95.7 yards on the ground, the second-lowest in the Southeastern Conference and the tenth lowest in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They have surrendered just four rushing touchdowns, tied with Georgia for the fewest in the SEC. Only one opponent had a player exceed 65 rushing yards although that opposing team was Arkansas who had two players gain more than 90 yards on the ground.
At this point, LSU has modest goals. The first is finishing with a winning record, or, at worst, avoiding a losing season. Secondly, the Tigers can play spoiler. Third, more wins mean a greater likelihood of receiving an invitation to a bowl.
In contrast to LSU, Texas A&M has much at stake going into this game. The Aggies appeared at number five in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. They not only need to win their remaining regular-season games but also must look impressive in doing so. Turning in a blowout victory against LSU would bolster their résumé. Additionally, such a performance would return the treatment that they received in Baton Rouge last year as LSU tried to impress the College Football Playoff Committee.
Prediction: Texas A&M 45, LSU 23