Although he’ll be hoping for a similar result against Texas A&M on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS), the LSU Tigers’ Zach Mettenberger is nothing like the quarterback he was a year ago.
In fact, odds are that the senior even outperforms Texas A&M’s heralded gunslinger, Johnny Manziel.
Last year, LSU escaped College Station with a 24-19 victory over the Aggies. However, the majority of the credit for that win belongs to a Tigers defense that forced five turnovers—including three interceptions.
For his part, Mettenberger was awful. He constantly missed open receivers and struggled on third-down situations, converting just one of 10 opportunities when trying to pass.
He finished the day with just 97 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-29 passing. That was good for a career low in both passing yards and quarterback rating (77.4).
However, this season has painted an entirely different picture.
|Yards Per Game||200.7||273.3|
Through 10 games, Mettenberger has been truly fantastic. He holds the second-best passer rating in the SEC while already topping 240 yards through the air eight times this season—he only accomplished the feat three times in 2012.
Furthermore, Mettenberger has helped LSU rank No. 1 in the nation in third-down conversation rate (57.7 percent) after ranking No. 63 (40.2 percent) in the category a year ago.
All things considered, it comes as no surprise that the Watkinsville, Ga., native is on pace to have the best passing season in school history. His 2,733 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns already rank fourth and fifth all-time, respectively.
Yes, first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been a large part of this newfound success, but a lot of it can also be attributed to the growth Mettenberger has made over the offseason.
On Saturday, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect Mettenberger to put together his best performance yet.
Entering Week 13, Texas A&M’s defense ranks as one of the worst in the nation. The unit ranks No. 88 in scoring (30.9 PPG), No. 107 in total defense (454.4 YPG), No. 91 against the pass (243.7 YPG) and No. 106 against the run (210.7 YPG).
Already this season, the Aggies have made Alabama’s AJ McCarron (20-of-29, 334 YDs, 4 TDs), Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace (22-of-36, 301 YDs, 3 TDs) and even Auburn’s Nick Marshall (11-of-23, 236 YDs, 2 TDs) appear to be dominant through the air.
That can only mean good news for one of the nation’s most potent signal-callers.
On the other hand, Manziel should have his hands full against a very good Tigers defense.
Thus far, the unit ranks No. 38 in scoring (23.5 PPG), No. 24 in total defense (353.7 YPG), No. 17 against the pass (200.8 YPG) and No. 51 against the run (152.9 YPG). Furthermore, LSU has only conceded 3.97 yards per carry and 6.7 yards per pass attempt.
Did we mention that Manziel had arguably the worst game of his career against the Tigers last year?
The then-redshirt freshman threw for 276 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions on 29-of-56 passing. He also only managed a season-low 27 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Although LSU returns just four starters from that unit, the defense has been playing pretty well of late. The unit has given up 380 yards or more just once in the past four games.
Moreover, the Tigers have finally discovered a pass rush, sacking the quarterback 14 times over the last five contests.
Who will come out on top Saturday?
Needless to say, Manziel versus Mettenberger will take center stage on Saturday.
The two quarterbacks may both be Davey O’Brien semifinalists and first-round draft picks in next year’s NFL draft, but that’s where the similarities end.
Mettenberger is looking to avoid a disastrous late-season stretch that may leave LSU out of the final Top 25 for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile, Manziel is chasing a second consecutive Heisman Trophy and a long-shot bid at an at-large berth into a BCS bowl.
Believe it or not, though, it’ll be the former that will land the knockout punch at Tiger Stadium.
Who would have thought that was possible just a year ago?
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.