LSU vs. Texas A&M In Cotton Bowl: 5 Keys To A Tigers Win
The 2011 AT&T Cotton Bowl features two evenly-matched, if diametrically opposed, teams.
For the No. 11 LSU Tigers (10-2), a highly-rated, intimidating defense has overcome many of the troubles of a sputtering offense.
The No. 17 Texas A&M Aggies (9-3) has used its explosive offensive prowess to compensate for an average defense.
The early betting lines have LSU as a one-point favorite, which means the game is a toss-up.
For LSU to defeat Texas A&M, here are the Tigers players who will need to play big games.
No. 5: Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, QB
Tigers coach Les Miles has rotated Jefferson and Lee at quarterback all season. While both showed glances of potential, neither junior QB has been good enough to place complete trust in. LSU ranked 107th in pass offense nationally.
Jefferson threw four TDs and nine INTs, while Lee tossed two TDs and a pick.
They need to step up against the Aggies 94th ranked pass defense to give LSU a balanced offensive attack. If Jefferson and Lee can't use their arms to stretch the field, Texas A&M will just load the box and make LSU one-dimensional.
No. 4: Stevan Ridley and Michael Ford, RB
Can Ridley and Ford find holes in the 15th-ranked Aggies run defense?
Ridley has over 1,000 yards for the season, but he has rushed for less then 90 in his last seven games. He hasn't run for over 100 yards since Oct. 2 vs. Tennessee.
Ford has seen more playing time in the second half of the season. His 6.3 yards per carry average is impressive, but he hasn't gotten enough touches to scare opposing defenses.
LSU will need Ridley and Ford to carry a heavy workload, keep drives going and keep the Aggies high-powered offense on the sidelines to win.
No. 3: Dravis Nevis, DT
Texas A&M brings the nation's 20th-ranked offense (447.6 yards per game) to the Cotton Bowl. They are riding a six-game winning streak on Cyrus Gray's six consecutive games with over 100 rushing yards.
However, the Aggies offensive line has allowed 35 sacks this year.
Nevis needs to exploit this weakness for the Tigers defense to create chaos and turnovers. He is tied for a team high in sacks (6), forced fumbles (3) and leads the unit in tackles for loss with 13.
Expect LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis to call plenty of exotic blitz packages on Aggies QB Ryan Tannehill headed by Nevis.
No. 2: Josh Jasper, K
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Given the way these teams have played down the stretch, this Cotton Bowl will either be a low-scoring affair or a shootout.
Either way, it will likely come down to the kicker to decide the result. Fortunately for LSU, Josh Jasper has been the best kicker in the country this season.
He has made 83.9 percent of his field goal attempts (26-of-31), including 17-of-18 from less then 40 yards.
Jasper is also the Tigers pooch punter and has a knack for pinning opponents deep in their territory. Plus, he is a key component in Les Miles bag of trick plays (see the fake punt against Alabama and the fake field goal against Florida).
No. 1: Patrick Peterson, CB
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Peterson, the nation's best cornerback, has four INTs on the year. He will be covering the Aggies top wide receiver Jeff Fuller, who has made 65 receptions for 983 yards and 12 TDs this season.
His ability to contain Fuller by himself will free up the rest of LSU's secondary to blanket the other Aggies receivers or blitz Tannehill.
Peterson has another prominent role as LSU's returner. He is fifth nationally in kick returns (29.3 yards) and fourth in punt returns (11.3 yards) with two touchdowns. He will give LSU a huge advantage in the field position battle.