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What To Watch For: Texas A&M

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sam Craft, AP

So we’ve arrived at “rivalry weekend.” It doesn’t feel like a normal rivalry weekend, Ohio State isn’t playing Michigan, a bazillion games are postponed, and it isn’t the last weekend of the season. Also, LSU-A&M isn’t really a rivalry.

But it is an interesting matchup. It’s a difficult one for this LSU team, but it’s not completely insurmountable, and a string of lucky breaks could conceivably make this really interesting. If LSU could somehow pull this one off, it’d be absolutely huge for the team. If not, whatever.

There are some cool things to watch, so let’s get into it.


The pass rush

Now, this seems like a weird inclusion since it’s the lone strength the LSU defense has had this season. That said, LSU’s defense is awful, and it’s the only aspect that can—to some degree—make some difference in LSU’s favor. Texas A&M’s offensive line has been revelatory this year, and Jimbo trusts them. Texas A&M operates out of empty protections an insane amount, almost like LSU last year. Despite this, Kellen Mond has only been sacked twice. Seriously, it’s just a wall of a unit. LSU’s defense is horrendously installed, but this is the kinda game where you need blitzes, stunts, and sim pressures. If they can handle it Bo, now’s the time. If they fail to rush the passer, Texas A&M may enjoy a cool 50 burger on the heels of some turkey.

Wyde open

The matchups with Jalen Wydermeyer and Kyle Pitts excited me preseason. I had assumed LSU would have enough of a defense installed to have a deep call sheet of coverages, but that was too much to assume apparently. That said, LSU has intriguing defensive personell for defending such players like Wydermeyer. JaCoby Stevens is a 220 pound athletic safety and, in an actual defense, is uniquely equipped to handle the size and athleticism of NFL tight ends like Wydermeyer. He isn’t alone though, Jabril Cox is 6’4, 230 and possesses terrific coverage skills. This will all likely mean little, as this defense’s monumental schematic limitations will allow A&M to adjust and slaughter them offensively, but I thought about it a lot when Cox first transferred and Stevens came back so now you have to hear about it. Can’t leave that gun on the shelf.

On Schedule.

Since TJ Finley took over the LSU offense took over has been considerably better than anybody expected, but it has been very reliant on staying ahead in the sticks and operating on schedule. It has been deficient in the big play department, which ironically was Myles Brennan’s biggest strength. It is important that LSU be somewhat willing to abandon the run if it isn’t working and throw on early downs. LSU’s rush offense has been wildly inconsistent and TJ Finley is not an advanced enough processor at this level (yet) to bail you out of unfavorable, obvious passing situations against a quality defense. A&M’s run defense is strong, so if it holds early, be willing to throw a lot on standard downs (I mean, do this anyway) to ease things for Finley, stay efficient, and give yourself a chance as a unit.

Stat Leader Predictions for LSU:

Passing: Finley, 26/41, 274 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Davis-Price, 23 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD.

Receiving: Marshall, 6 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD.

For A&M

Off schedule.

On the flipside, Texas A&M’s number one priority has to be to force LSU into obvious passing situations and force TJ Finley off of his primary read. If they can force Finley through progressions in obvious passing situations (also where protections tend to empty out by necessity), it’ll be a long night for the LSU offense and a very easy one for Jimbo’s program. LSU’s offensive line is a disaster area and TJ Finley does not have the high level processing and spatial awareness yet to overcome their porosity. That’s your big key right there, the variable deciding between frustrating, close game for the favored Aggies and easy street.

Rubs and spices.

Texas A&M needs to do a better job utilizing rubbed concepts, bunched sets, and switched releases than Arkansas did. Either you force LSU to know and execute coverage reads, which they don’t, or, if LSU is as limited to straight man to man as it seems, execute unfavorable coverage scenarios. It’s pretty easy, Jimbo. Bo Pelini’s call sheet is a post-it note.

Stat Leader Predictions for A&M:

Passing: Mond, 25/31, 378 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT

Rushing: Spiller, 22 carries, 162 yards, 2 TD.

Receiving: Smith, 5 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD.