The Texas A&M Aggies have played very well for most of the season, but their slip-ups in September prevented their October resurgence and early-November results from acquiring maximum value.
By Matt Zemek
Had A&M not lost to Arkansas or Mississippi State in the first several weeks of the season, the Alabama win would have put A&M in position to win the SEC West and face Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Had A&M at least split the Arkansas-MSU pair of games, the Aggies would be in good position for a New Year’s Six bowl. However, by losing each of those two early-season games, the Aggies have three losses and will find it hard to get a coveted NY6 slot. Ole Miss jumped in front of them by beating Texas A&M in November.
The season has not met its goals, but the LSU game is always a point of pride for the Aggies, and beyond that, a recruiting battle since LSU tries to recruit the greater Houston area and expand its footprint beyond the state of Louisiana. Anytime A&M can beat LSU, it gains leverage on the recruiting trail, which is a huge and central part of SEC football success. Let’s look at what the Aggies need to do to win on a night when Jimbo Fisher gets to coach against the team he helped lead to a national title as Nick Saban’s assistant in 2003.
1 – Second wind for the offense
When Zach Calzada got hurt against Auburn a few weeks ago, the momentum the offense had generated over the previous few months evaporated. This season has been a play in three acts for the A&M offense: the horrible start, the great October spurred by the win over Alabama, and then the weeks since Calzada got hurt against Auburn. The Aggies were easily contained by Ole Miss’s defense, which shouldn’t happen if the Aggies have everything in order. Fisher needs to find plays which maximize big-play capability yet involve comparatively little risk for Calzada. LSU’s defense was terrible in the first two months of the season but has been a completely different group in November. Fisher needs to look at the adjustments LSU defensive coordinator Daronte Jones has made and find ways to exploit what the Tigers are doing.
2 – Make Max Johnson win this game
LSU has shown the ability to run the ball well at times this season, most centrally in the 49-42 win over Florida, but LSU quarterback Max Johnson has been consistently mediocre, regularly unable to make the defining plays which help both his running backs and his defense. If Max Johnson’s downfield passing is the central variable to this game, A&M will be delighted. The Aggies would bet everything that Johnson won’t be able to beat them on vertical pass plays.
3 – Front four dominance
The Aggies’ defensive front dominated Auburn, and it contained the Ole Miss offense. This has been a sturdy and dependable unit all year. Keep in mind that even though Arkansas and Mississippi State beat A&M, the Aggies’ defense did not allow more than 26 points in those two contests. This group has been there for A&M throughout the season. Coordinator Mike Elko just needs one more standout performance, and if he gets it, LSU’s offense will be in deep trouble.