Despite uncertain future, LSU final with Texas A&M is intriguing – Crescent City Sports

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(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

Normally when the curtain falls on a football season at LSU, there can be some sadness and time for reflection on the part of LSU fans. This time it is not as widespread.

Their focus is on the future with a new head coach leading the Tigers to future success. For some, the expected announcement of Ed Orgeron’s replacement is an early arrival of Christmas.

However, the end game does matter.

This weekend, the Tigers will collide with Texas A&M, which now sits behind Alabama as LSU’s fiercest rival, overtaking Auburn, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Florida.

LSU leads the all-time series 34-22-3, winning eight of the last 10 matches. The Aggies survived the 74-72 thriller in seven overtime in 2018. The last meeting in Baton Rouge was an LSU 50-7 rout.

Visitors are currently the favorite at 6.5 points, for what it’s worth.

It will be swan song for many who walk through the goalposts on the floor of Tiger Stadium this Saturday. Orgeron bids farewell to his dream job. Many of his assistants will seek other jobs. Some players will advance for a chance at the NFL. Others will audition for the new coaching staff. A few more will seek greener pastures through the transfer portal. The list will be very different in 2022.

Now let’s talk about the football game.

The LSU offense will need to keep the Texas A&M defense honest and not just rely on the pass. The Tigers must pass their first and second downs against a fierce defense. Third and long for LSU on a regular basis would be a nightmare. The o-line will be physically put to the test by the Aggies’ defensive front, and the lack of a running game will make managing their missions much more difficult.

There’s a reason A&M is only allowing 15 points per game. The challenge for the Tigers to score is significant, but while LSU’s total offense count is only 12th in the conference, the Aggies aren’t much better at 11th.

The Tigers have nothing to lose. Coaches could unveil one or two other gadgets, similar to the Alabama contest.

The recipe for defensive success is early contact. Put a helmet on the runner before it ignites. The Aggies quarterback’s situation is precarious, so they’ll try to pound the rock. LSU’s defensive line and linebackers will have to wade through traffic and tackle. We can not count on the secondary to lead the team in the stops on Saturday.

Getting the Aggies behind the chains will be very important for LSU to be successful. If they do, the points will be increased on Saturday evening.

When both teams reach the red zone, they must convert the moves into points.

LSU succeeds 80% of the time but drops to 76.4% at home. A&M is 79.4% in the red zone, but improves to 88.8% on the road.

The Tigers have been the better passing team, although the two are inconsistent. LSU has the SEC’s fifth best passing offense. The Aggies are ranked 12th.

LSU and A&M both arrive at QB, accumulating 32 and 33 sacks respectively. However, the Tigers gave up 32 sacks to just 15 by A&M.

Max Johnson is the fourth ranked passer in the conference, completing 60 percent of his throws for 2,509 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. Zach Calzada completed 55.9% for 1,943 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Tyrion Davis-Price is LSU’s top rusher, 81 yards under 1,000 this season. Jack Bech is LSU’s top active receiver with 42 catches for 478 yards and three touchdowns.

Butkus Award finalist Damone Clark continues to punctuate all college football with 127 tackles, including three sacks and one interception. Senior linebacker Micah Baskerville has 77 saves and a pick.

The dynamic duo of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane for the Aggies totaled 1,845 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Spiller is the nation’s 28th ranked runner with 984 yards (average 5.86 yards) and six scores. He’s thrown as high as a late first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Achane, 5-9, 185 pounds, is a sprinter who has amassed 861 rushing yards with a good 7.3 yards average and nine affected.

A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer (6-5, 255) should be a late first pick early in the second round. It causes shifts. Wydermyer has caught 36 passes for 491 yards and four touchdowns this year.

Another weapon of Aggie is Ainias Smith (5-10, 190), a junior who possesses fast twitch reflexes. Another one who pushed to break through in the first round is expected. Smith leads the team with 41 catches for 472 yards and six touchdowns.

Up front, the Aggies are led by versatile Kenyon Green (6-4, 325, Jr.), who has lined up everywhere along the offensive line except in the center. It has 34 departures. The 2020 All-American did not allow a bag. Jimbo Fisher calls him a “flashback player”. Green is expected to go midway through the first round of the 22 draft.

Up front defensively, there is an A&M Murderer’s Row.

Defensive end DeMarvin Leal (6-4-290, Jr.) is ranked among the top three in his role in college football. A showing in the 1st round, he racked up 52 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks. On the opposite side, Michael Clemons (6-5, 270, Sr.) has 7.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks. Pass rush specialist Tyree Johnson (6-4, 240, Jr.) had eight sacks and 8.5 TFL.

Linebacker Aaron Hansford (6-3, 240, Sr.) will still be around the ball with 81 saves and a pair of sacks. Defensive tackle Jayden Peevey (6-6, 295, Sr.) with seven TFLs.

FYI: There are three players with local ties to the Aggies …

-SS Keldrick Carper (6-2, 200, Sr.) with eight career starts. Outside of Plain Dealing, he was a three-star prospect in 2017.
-FS Jardin Gilbert (6-1, 185, Fr.) of University Lab has played nine games this season. He recorded five saves against South Carolina.
-LB Edgerrin Cooper (6-3, 220, RS Fr.) of Covington has made 54 career tackles over the past two years, making a start in ’21. He led the team with eight tackles in Missouri.

There is a strong Louisiana flavor to Aggie’s coaching staff…
-Jimbo Fisher was LSU’s Offensive Coordinator / QB Coach from 2000 to 2006.
-Offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey was LSU’s tight ends coach from 1991 to 1993.
-WR coach Dameyune Craig held the same role at LSU in 2016.
-RB coach Tommie Robinson held the same position with the Tigers (2017-’19) before Kevin Faulk arrived. Robinson was also recruiting a coordinator and assistant head coach at LSU.
-Offensive line coach Josh Henson was TE / recruiting coordinator at LSU 2005-’08.

LATEST THOUGHTS

Texas A&M is the only team to beat Alabama this season. LSU closed it in Tuscaloosa. There is in-game bowl eligibility for LSU, but going forward, for some, there is much more at stake.

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