A month ago, the LSU Tigers were doubtlessly hoping that by the time the first BCS standings were released, they would be at the very top along with Alabama.
That's not exactly how it's turned out, and as such, the Tigers have a lot of ground to cover, starting with Texas A&M on Saturday.
It won't be easy. A&M hasn't lost since facing then-No. 24 Florida in its season opener, and even then, before we knew just how good Florida would be, it was close.
But the Aggies have some issues to work out before facing LSU—most notably, with their defense, which allowed a whopping 57 points to Louisiana Tech the last time out. Somehow, A&M managed to escape with a two-point win, but if you give the Tigers that many opportunities, rest assured—they'll make you pay.
A loss to Florida is the one thing these two teams have in common; LSU's happened two weeks ago. But the Tigers followed it up with a huge 23-21 win over No. 3 South Carolina on Saturday to prove that they can, in fact, compete with a top-10 team.
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN 3D
Betting Line (via OddsShark): LSU -3
LSU Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- T Alex Hurst is out with personal issues and is questionable for Saturday's game
- G Josh Williford (concussion) is questionable for Saturday
- LB Kwon Alexander (ankle) is out for the season
- LB Alfred Blue (knee) is out indefinitely
- DE Jordan Allen (knee) is out for the season
- WR Travin Dural (knee) is out for the season
- TE Tyler Edwards has been declared academically ineligible for the season
- LB D.J. Welter has been declared academically ineligible for the season
- OL Evan Washington has been declared academically ineligible for the season
- LB Tahj Jones has been declared academically ineligible for the season
- T Chris Faulk (knee) is out for the season
Texas A&M Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- LB Steve Jenkins has been suspended and is questionable for Saturday's game
- DB Howard Matthews has been suspended and is questionable for Saturday's game
- OL Shep Klinke (foot) is out for the season
- RB Brandon Williams is ineligible and is out for the season
For the first time this season, these teams have some idea of where they stand in the BCS. This is especially significant for LSU, which stands at No. 6 as the top-ranked team with a loss. That means that if anyone in the top five slips up, the Tigers are moving right in.
It also means that LSU cannot afford another loss, by any means. It has a great opportunity here, and chances are, some other top-five team will lose—if not this week, then sometime soon. If LSU can hold strong, it could very well get back to the national championship game.
A&M, on the other hand, has a lot more ground to make up, starting way back at No. 18. And chances are, all 17 teams ahead of the Aggies won't falter enough to allow the them to climb the standings. Then again, with a win over the No. 6 team, A&M could make a big leap.
What They're Saying
The Aggies have more than earned their keep in the SEC, as evidenced by their No. 20 ranking in the AP poll and their 5-1 record. Much of that can be attributed to the play of quarterback Johnny Manziel, according to ESPN.com's Chris Low.
Manziel has led the Aggies to five straight wins in which they've scored at least 30 points, according to Low, and overall, the A&M offense ranks fifth in the nation, coming up with 47 points per game. In four of their wins, the Aggies have scored at least 48 points.
As we saw the last time out against Louisiana Tech, the strategy for this team is to outgun their opponent when the defense isn't there—but is that strategy going to work against the top-tier teams in the conference, like LSU?
Meanwhile, as you can see from LSU's injury report, this is a team that's had plenty of problems—on and off the field—in 2012. According to ESPN.com's Gary Laney, the Tigers have lost four starters for the season, and at least eight other players who have had opportunities to start in 2012 have gone down with injuries, too.
But to the surprise of many, the Tigers have somehow found the depth and the resilience to go 6-1 for a No. 6 ranking in the AP and BCS polls, despite all the adversity they have faced.
The road, however, doesn't get any easier: The Tigers are in the midst of a brutal five-week stretch against five consecutive ranked opponents, so it is absolutely crucial that they continue to find ways to improve—especially before they face No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3.
LSU Player to Watch
Saturday's game against South Carolina was a battle, and the Tigers did just a tiny bit more than the Gamecocks in order to win. Credit much of that to freshman running back Jeremy Hill, who came up with both of LSU's touchdowns in the contest.
The first came on a seven-yard run a few minutes into the second half, but the second one, which would prove to be the game-winner, came on an electrifying 50-yard run with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
LSU has been decimated by injuries this year, and Hill has proven that he can come up big—and he's proven that he can come up huge in crunch time. If he can do that versus the Aggies, he will put LSU in a very good position to win.
Texas A&M Player to Watch
There was one big reason why the Aggies managed to escape last week's game with a win, and that was because of quarterback Johnny Manziel. In A&M's 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech, he came up with six touchdowns, 395 yards in the air and 181 on the ground.
On a night when only an insane offensive performance could save the Aggies (because the defense sure wasn't going to get the job done), Manziel was Superman. Two of his touchdowns came with less than seven minutes remaining in the game to keep Louisiana Tech at bay.
In four of six games this year, Manziel has rushed for 100-plus yards while throwing for at least 190 yards, and there's only been one game in which he's failed to register two or more touchdowns. He'll need to do all of that, plus more, against the Tigers on Saturday.
Lost in the euphoria over the Aggies' stunning offensive performance last weekend was the absolutely dismal performance of their defense. After holding Louisiana Tech scoreless in the first quarter, and after staking a 39-16 halftime lead, A&M inexplicably fell apart in the second half, allowing 41 points to Louisiana Tech in the final two frames.
Allowing 41 points to a team throughout the entirety of a game is bad. But allowing that many points in the second half is unacceptable. If the Aggies D plays like that on Saturday, this is going to be a disaster.
LSU scores an average of 32 points per game, but even more significant is the fact that it allows just 14—the eighth-best mark in the nation. The Aggies aren't going to be able to outgun LSU, so they better find a way to get their defense back to a functional level and try to win that way.
The party is over for A&M. Beating up on Louisiana Tech is one thing; if the Aggies are under any illusion that they're going to pin 40-plus points on the Tigers, they need to think again.
Both of these offenses can score, but what this game will come down to is whether the defenses can hold their own. LSU's is far more likely to fit the bill.