Texas A&M vs. LSU: Last-Minute Preview for Titanic SEC Battle

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2013

Oct 20, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) scrambles from LSU Tigers linebacker Kevin Minter (46) during the fourth quarter at Kyle Field. LSU won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel looks to redeem himself on Saturday when the Texas A&M Aggies (8-2, 4-2 SEC) travel to Death Valley to take on the Tigers (7-3, 3-3 SEC).

Revenge will no doubt be on Manziel's and Texas A&M's minds, as LSU handed the Aggies their second and what would prove to be last loss of 2012. Although he went on to win the Heisman Trophy, Manziel likely hasn't forgotten that October game, as it was one of his worst performances of the season.

Texas A&M is also playing for a spot in the BCS. Should the Aggies win out, they'll be hard for somebody like the Sugar Bowl to pass over.

While this season hasn't gone to plan for LSU, this game offers a chance for one more big home victory before a game against Arkansas and an eventual bowl.


When: Saturday, Nov. 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

Watch: CBS


Key Texas A&M Storyline: Will the Defense Be a Liability

Oct 26, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) reacts after throwing a touchdown against the Furman Paladins during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Furman 48-16. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Sometimes not enough is made about the strength of the LSU offense. The Tigers have a well-balanced unit that's capable of beating teams either through the air or on the ground.

It's unfair to simply look at that loss to Alabama and make a blanket conclusion that this is a poor offensive team.

Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 2,733 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In that three-point loss to Georgia, he had 372 yards and three touchdowns. If this becomes a shootout, Mettenberger will be prepared.

In addition, there's also the LSU ground game. Jeremy Hill had 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the 35-21 win over Auburn.

Oct 26, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham (3) runs after a catch for a touchdown against the Furman Paladins during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Furman 48-16. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Defense has been a concern for Texas A&M all season. It ranks 86th in scoring defense (30.9 points a game) and 106th in total defense (454.4 yards a game).

It's understandable that with an offense as quick and explosive as the Aggies offense, you're going to give up quite a few yards to the other team.

The problem comes in when the other team has a tough defense, and an offense that can put points on the board. The Tigers have one of the best defenses in the country, and with Mettenberger, Hill, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, they also have enough weapons to go toe-to-toe with Manziel and the Aggies.

Texas A&M can't let this turn into a track meet.


Key LSU Storyline: Can Tigers Stop Johnny Manziel, Again?

Last year, LSU did a great job of handling Manziel. He threw for 275 yards, but he also had three interceptions and got just 27 yards on the ground.

In order to pull off the win on Saturday, the Tigers will need lightning to strike twice.

The first way to make this happen is forcing Manziel into costly turnovers and then capitalizing on them. Last year, LSU got 14 points off those three picks, and it could've been 17 points if Drew Alleman made his 54-yard field goal in the third quarter. But those 14 points were huge when you consider the Tigers only scored 24.

Manziel has thrown 11 interceptions to 31 touchdowns this season, so it's not as if this is an unattainable goal.

Oct 12, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers defensive end Jermauria Rasco (59) celebrates making a play against the Florida Gators during the second quarter of their game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The second key for LSU might be: containing Manziel in the pocket.

The Heisman winner seems to have relished becoming more of a pocket passer, but make no mistake, he's perfectly capable of tucking the ball and running if need be. He had 98 yards rushing in that seven-point loss to Alabama and 124 in that three-point win over Ole Miss.

A lot will rest on defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter. They'll be pressuring Manziel in the pocket and spying on him to ensure he doesn't break containment.

Although Manziel's throwing has improved this season, LSU would still be at a huge advantage if it can keep the A&M QB inside the pocket for most of the game.