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Early Observations on the Cotton Bowl

Well, it's been a while, but LSU has a game this week, right? I suppose we ought to get down to the business of breaking down an opponent, right?

Here are some early observations on Texas A&M...

  • For all the talk of the LSU defense versus mobile quarterbacks and the worry that it'll be a problem, the Aggies' Ryan Tannehill hasn't done much damage on the ground. Just 33 yards on 44 carries in the final 6 games he started. That being said, he's a pretty efficient passer, especially in third-down, long-yardage situations, with a 65-percent completion percentage and a 59-percent first-down conversion rate.
  • He's also distributed the ball much more evenly since taking over the passing duties. Through the season's first three months, leading receiver Jeff Fuller accounted for 25 percent of A&M's receptions and a full third of the receiving yards. Through the final month both of those rates were cut in half. Tannehill used tailback Cyrus Gray and backup wideout Kenric McNeal much more in the passing game (both nearly doubled their receiving yardage totals in the final four games) down the stretch.
  • The Aggies don't fit the profile of a dominating running team, but they are incredibly efficient. The team per-carry average jumped from 3.6 to 4.5 in the final four games of the season, and on the year A&M is converting 71-percent on third-and-short runs. That could be a problem, as LSU allows a 55-percent conversion rate in those situations. Overall, Texas A&M converts 42 percent of third downs compared to 36 for LSU.
  • In the ND (NO DUH) department, the line of scrimmage will be pretty big. A&M was second-to-last in the Big 12 in both sacks and tackles-for-loss allowed. Vanderbilt quarterbacks were sacked as many times as Aggies were (35 apiece).
  • A&M does have an outstanding punt team, allowing just 3.95 yards per return despite punting 67 times - 13 more than LSU (which allows 4.9 per return).
  • The Aggies batted down 61 passes, compared to 63 for LSU. But the A&M secondary saw nearly 200 more passes (491 attempts compared to 308 for the Tigers).