Johnny Manziel and the No. 12 Texas A&M Aggies visit the No. 22 LSU Tigers on Saturday in the best matchup of the weekend.
The Tigers have lost three games this year despite sound play from the offense and quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Last week LSU looked competitive before falling flat on its face in the second half against No. 1 Alabama en route to a 38-17 loss.
There is plenty to be learned from the loss to Alabama. While Texas A&M has the look of an unstoppable force, a blueprint was laid last week by Alabama, and LSU itself wrote one a year ago in a win over the Aggies.
The following is what the Tigers must do to pull off the upset.
Contain Johnny Manziel
"Contain" has a variety of definitions in the pigskin realm, but here we will narrow it down to on the ground.
Defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter must not only provide a stout rush in the passing game, but also prevent Manziel from slipping away and hurting the Tigers with his feet.
Manziel leads his team in rushing with 611 yards and eight touchdowns. He can extend plays with his feet, but more often than not he simply acts as a ball-carrier when things break down.
That simply cannot be allowed to happen Saturday.
Manziel has rushed for over 100 yards twice this season and has scored more than one rushing touchdown in three games.
It sounds scary, but the Tigers must force Manziel to the air.
Capitalize on Mistakes
Manziel restricted to the passing game is not as horrible as it sounds.
In those two games Manziel has rushed for over 100 yards this season, he had thrown a combined total of one touchdown to two interceptions (one in each) as his legs were taken out of the equation.
LSU is familiar with the strategy.
Last year, LSU beat the Aggies 24-19. Manziel was stuck in the pocket all day on the way to 17 carries for 27 yards. Through the air, Manziel managed 276 yards and three interceptions.
Manziel can and will make mistakes, especially with his understanding that he must make plays to cover for his porous defense that allows 30.9 points per game. He's a much better passer this year, but mistakes from Manziel will occur.
When Manziel does take those risks, the LSU defense must be prepared as it was a year ago.
Ride Jeremy Hill
Sophomore Jeremy Hill tops the SEC with his 6.8 yards-per-carry average and has 964 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Will LSU pull off the upset?
Hill is the heart of the LSU offense, and now he has a date with the second-worst rush defense in the conference with over 210 yards allowed per game.
LSU can look to last week's loss to Alabama for inspiration. The Crimson Tide allowed the Tigers to run 32 plays in the first half, but held the LSU offense to just 22 in the second half. The yardage differential surpassed over 170.
Most importantly, Alabama capped off lengthy drives with a score to keep the game out of reach and forced LSU into a predictable attack.
Heck, LSU can also look to last year's win over the Aggies. Hill rumbled for 127 yards and a touchdown to keep his defense off the field.
Bottom line—LSU has been gifted a strategy that works in recent weeks and would be wise to use it. Hill is one of the top backs in the nation and more than capable of pulling it off, especially against a weak Aggies defense.
Manziel can't do damage if he's not on the field.