A Season Ago…
The ball-hawking Tyrann Mathieu was a Heisman finalist in 2011, can he put on a repeat performance?
If you’re even vaguely aware of college football, you know this story. LSU pounded their way through the regular season, obliterating most of the opponents on their opponents on the way to an undefeated record. But in the BCS Championship Game, Alabama proved to be the better team and completely dismantled the LSU offense.
Everyone knows that story, so let’s talk about two games that the Aggies are probably going to study closely leading up to this season’s game at Kyle Field.
First, the Oregon game. People forget that this game was 16-13 at the half. It turned ugly when Oregon fumbled on two of their first three drives of the second half, those fumbles led directly to LSU touchdowns, and at that point the game was over. In fact, three of LSU’s first four touchdowns of the game were the direct result of turnovers. All three of those resulted in LSU getting the ball in Oregon territory.
The other game, the one they’ll watch even more closely is West Virginia. Dana Holgerson’s offense tore apart the Tigers that night, posting over 530 yards of total offense. The problem though, again, was turnovers. West Virginia battled through some early turnovers, and were able to close this game to within six in the third quarter at 27-21, but a Morris Claiborne kickoff return on the next play sealed the game for the Tigers.
Last year, LSU lived on the big play, and had a seemingly supernatural way of conjuring up big moments. But what they really lived on was turnovers. Only Oklahoma State forced opponents into more turnovers last season than LSU.
Names to Remember…
No quarterback in the country is going to be under as much pressure at the transfer Mettenberger. With four starters back on the offensive line, and a powerful backfield, all Mettenberger is going to really have to do is manage the game. However, if he can do more than that, if he can become even a middle-of-the-road SEC quarterback, LSU might go from difficult to beat, to nigh impossible.
No quarterback in the country has as much on their shoulders as Zach Mettenberger.
Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo
If Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews are going to make a statement about their potential NFL draft status, this would be a good game to do it in. LSU’s outside pass rushers are two of the best in the college game. With the talent at defensive tackle that LSU has, Joeckel and Matthews are going to be called on to control these guys one-on-one. As far as position battles go, this might be the one I’m looking forward to most this season.
Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu
Here’s how talented LSU’s defense is. Tyrann Mathieu might be the guy to target if you’re looking for a weak spot in the pass coverage. That’s right, a Heisman trophy finalist might be the weak link. It’s certainly not Eric Reid, who figures to be one of the top picks in the NFL draft next season and is as good as you’ll find at safety. He’s great in coverage and he’s physical in the box. He reminds me a bit of Roy Williams from Oklahoma back in the early 2000’s with his ability to impact plays all over the field.
How Texas A&M can win this game…
This game will probably be one of the wilder atmospheres in college football in 2012. It’s been almost 20 years since the Aggies last welcomed the Tigers to Kyle Field, and Aggie fans are ready to reignite the rivalry flames of old. But the question is how can A&M win this game, and despite the odds against them, the answer is fairly simple.
Don’t turn the ball over. There probably isn’t anyone in the country that’s going to line up with the top ranked Tigers and pound the football at them, so it’s good for A&M that they don’t try to do that anyway. Oregon and West Virginia both had success with their spread attacks last year moving the ball, but the problem was that they couldn’t hang on to the football, literally. West Virginia’s first turnover was a straight strip by Mathieu and their second was on a pass that should have been caught. A&M will bring a very different offensive approach than Oregon, but it should be fairly similar to West Virginia’s.
The key for A&M’s offense against LSU won’t be attacking the perimeter, it will be spreading out the defense and getting short quick plays up the field. The ball can’t be in the air to long or LSU’s extremely athletic secondary will have time to react. They also aren’t going to catch LSU’s fast linebacker corps around the edge very often. The Aggies will have to be patient with their gameplan, and be willing to take the game 4 yards at a time if they have any chance.
On the defensive side, the Aggies are going to have to force Zach Mettenberger to win the game. That means probably committing more players than they’d like to to stopping the run. This game will be the ultimate test for A&M’s defensive line, and one in which the odds are stacked mightily against them.
One factor working in A&M’s favor is that the Aggies will be coming off of a bye week while LSU is coming off of a game against South Carolina. That extra week of preparation is going to be huge. And of course the ultimate x-factor in this game is Kyle Field. You never know what can happen at home in front of a crazy crowd, and that’s exactly what the Aggies are going to have in late October.
Is it a tall task? No question. LSU is the nation’s top ranked team for a reason. But it’s not an absolutely impossible one.