Texas A&M football: Final thoughts (and a prediction) vs. LSU
It’s the final game of the 2021 regular season and Texas A&M travels to Baton Rouge for a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Historically, that’s been a nightmare. The Aggies are 10-26-1 all-time vs. LSU at Tiger Stadium. In recent years, Texas A&M has struggled to even be competitive against the Tigers in Death Valley. They’ve lost the past 4 meetings at Tiger Stadium and haven’t won there since 1994.
But this year doesn’t fit into that old scenario. This year is different. This year the Aggies continue to trend upward while the Tigers have completely lost their will and their way as well as their head coach.
A loss on Saturday would mark the end of the Ed Orgeron era at LSU, an era that saw the Tigers reach great heights. An era that included a meteoric rise to perhaps the greatest college football team of all-time in 2019, only to see the bottom drop out just as quickly. LSU is 10-11 since winning it all just 2 short years ago.
Can the Aggies help LSU pack Orgeron’s bags for good on Saturday? Yes, they can, but it all comes down to how well they can run the football. And that’s the unknown. That’s what’s giving the oddsmakers reason to make the No. 14 Aggies (8-3) just a 6-point favorite over the 5-6 Tigers, and further holding down the over/under point total to a very low 45.5.
Which LSU defense will we see on Saturday; the one that held Alabama to 6 total yards rushing, or the one that gave up 330 to Kentucky?
The Aggies are averaging 173 rushing yards per game this season. They’ve gone over the 200-yard mark on 5 occasions, including a 285-yard game in the victory over Alabama and 237 in a loss to Ole Miss.
Junior Isaiah Spiller is 3rd in the SEC in rushing and needs just 16 yards on Saturday to reach 1,000 for the season. He’s also 34 yards away from becoming the 7th Aggie all-time to rush for 3,000 yards in a career.
Sophomore Devon Achane has been a scoring machine as of late with multiple touchdowns in the last 2 games. He has 4 multiple touchdown games this season and 6 in his career. He leads the SEC and ranks 3rd nationally (minimum 100 rushing attempts) with a 7.3-yard average per carry this season.
Those two will be the difference-makers Saturday.
Already in 3 games this season, Spiller and Achane reached the 100-yard mark in the same game. It’s been since 1990 that the Aggies had 4 games in which 2 backs each ran for 100 yards.
One thing we can be fairly sure of is that neither quarterback will win the game. Neither has shown the ability to put the team on his shoulders and carry it.
As up-and-down as LSU’s Max Johnson has been, he is still statistically slightly better than Texas A&M’s Zach Calzada. Johnson does have 4 300-yard passing games this season, granted only 1 of those was against SEC competition – 325 vs. Auburn – but Calzada has yet to throw for 300 yards. But he hasn’t needed to for the most part because of the Aggies’ lethal rushing game.
Jimbo Fisher has been smart enough to rely on the run game and not force Calzada to go out and win games. Orgeron has put more pressure on Johnson’s shoulders, asking him to carry the bulk of the offense. It’s a big reason the Tigers are below .500 this season.
Johnson is 11th in the SEC with a 60.6 completion percentage. Calzada is 12th at 56.0. Johnson is 10th in the conference with 6 interceptions. Calzada is 14th with 9. Johnson is 9th in the league with a 143.55 QB rating. Calzada is 12th at 121.3.
Both are sophomores. Both are still learning their craft at this level. Both were 2nd-stringers coming into the season. Both were thrust into the limelight because of injuries to the starting quarterback. Not much was expected of either coming into the season and in that regard neither have disappointed.
Prediction: Texas A&M 24, LSU 10