Despite uncertain future, LSU finale with Texas A&M holds intrigue

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Max Johnson
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

Normally when the curtain drops on a football season at LSU, there may some sadness and a time of reflection on the part of the LSU fans. This time, that is not nearly as prevalent.

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

However, the final game holds significance.

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

LSU leads the all time series 34-22-3, taking eight of the past 10 duals. The Aggies survived the 74-72 thriller in seven overtimes in 2018. The last meeting in Baton Rouge was a LSU 50-7 rout.

The visitors are currently a 6.5 point favorite, for what it’s worth.

This will be the swan song for many who will run through the goal posts onto Tiger Stadium floor this Saturday. Orgeron bids farewell to his dream job. Many of is assistants will look for other jobs. Some players will advance for a chance at the NFL. Others will be auditioning for the new coaching staff. Still a few others will seek greener pastures via the transfer portal. The roster will look much different in 2022.

Now let’s talk about the football matchup.

The LSU offense will have to keep the Texas A&M defense honest and not solely rely on the pass. The Tigers must have success on first and second down against a fierce defense. Third and long for LSU on a regular basis would be a nightmare. The o-line will be physically challenged by the Aggies defensive front, and the lack of a running game will make handling their assignments much more challenging.

There’s a reason A&M gives up just 15 points per game. The challenge for the Tigers to score is significant but while LSU’s total offense numbers are just 12th in the conference, the Aggies are not much better at 11th.

The Tigers have nothing to lose. The coaches could unveil another gadget play or two, similar to the Alabama contest.

The recipe for success defensively is early contact. Get a helmet on the runner before he gets a head of steam. The quarterback situation for the Aggies is shaky so they will try to pound the rock. LSU’s defensive line and linebackers will have to wade through the traffic and make tackles. The secondary cannot be counted upon to lead the team in stops Saturday.

Getting the Aggies behind the chains will be very important in order for LSU to have success. If they do so, points will come at a premium Saturday night.

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

LSU is successful 80% of the time but fall to 76.4% at home. A&M are 79.4% in red zone, but improve to 88.8% on the road.

The Tigers have been the better passing team although both are inconsistent. LSU has the fifth best passing attack in the SEC. The Aggies are slotted at 12th.

Both LSU and A&M get to the QB, racking up 32 and 33 sacks respectively. However, the Tigers have surrendered 32 sacks to just 15 by A&M.

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

Tyrion Davis-Price is LSU’s top rusher, 81 yards shy of 1,000 yards this season. Jack Bech is LSU’s best active receiver with 42 grabs fo 478 yards and three touchdowns.

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

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

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Spiller is the 28th ranked runner in the country with 984 yards (5.86 yard average) and six scores. He is projected as high as a late first round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The 5-9, 185-pound Achane is a sprinter who has collected 861 yards on the ground with a healthy 7.3 yard average and nine touchdowns.

A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer (6-5, 255) is projected to be a late first to early second round pick. He causes mismatches. Wydermyer has grabbed 36 passes for 491 yards and four touchdowns this year.

Another Aggies weapon is Ainias Smith (5-10, 190), a junior who possesses quick twitch reflexes. He is expected another who pushed to break into the first round. Smith leads the team with 41 catches for 472 yards and six touchdowns.

Up front, the Aggies are led by multi-skilled Kenyon Green (6-4, 325, Jr.), who has lined up everywhere along the offensive line except center. He has 34 starts. The 2020 All-American has not allowed a sack. Jimbo Fisher calls him a “throwback player.” Green is projected to go in mid-first round of the ’22 draft.

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

Defensive end DeMarvin Leal (6-4-290, Jr.) is rated as one of the top three at his position in college football. A 1st round projection, he has 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.) has tallied eight sacks and 8.5 TFL.

Will linebacker Aaron Hansford (6-3, 240, Sr.) always around the ball with 81 stops and a pair of sacks. Defensive tackle Jayden Peevey (6-6, 295, Sr.) with seven TFL.

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

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

There is a heavy Louisiana flavor on the Aggie 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 ’93.
-WR coach Dameyune Craig held the same role at LSU in 2016.
-RB coach Tommie Robinson held the same spot with the Tigers (2017-’19) prior to Kevin Faulk’s arrival. Robinson was also recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach at LSU.
-Offensive Line coach Josh Henson was TE/recruiting coordinator at LSU 2005-’08.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Texas A&M is the only team to have beaten Alabama this season. LSU made it close in Tuscaloosa. There is bowl eligibility on the line for LSU, but moving forward, for some, there’s a lot more at stake.

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Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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