Finally, mercifully, we have made it to the last game of the 2022 season. Texas A&M has struggled mightily and will finish below .500 for the first time since 2009 and will not be bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. On paper LSU is a horrible match up for Texas A&M but games aren’t played on paper so let’s talk about why the Bayou Bengals represent such a poor matchup for the Aggies and what Jimbo Fisher and company will need to do in the trenches order to secure a win.
The struggles for this unit continued against UMass last week. With wet conditions, the Minutemen chose to load up the box and were able to pressure Conner Weigman and stifle the run for most of the game. Weigman was able to escape the pocket and break off big runs at times but that is going to be much more difficult against an LSU defense that has the speed to close distance and prevent him from escaping the pocket. Speaking of closing distance it is an absolute joy to watch Harold Perkins Jr. play the game of football. The true freshman linebacker singlehandedly took over the contest between the Tigers and the Razorbacks and leads LSU on the season with 7.5 sacks.
Let me be frank. This Texas A&M offensive line is not going to be able to stop Perkins from getting pressure on Weigman without either doubling up on him or getting rid of the ball very, very quickly. To this point, I think Jimbo Fisher and this offense are going to get back to some of that pre-snap motion we all remember fondly from Alabama, as well as getting a lot of quick game going. The Aggies will need to mix in screens and draws as well. Of course, getting Devon Achane back would also be a big boost for Texas A&M as he opens up some options both in the run game and in the passing attack. Realistically, I don’t see Texas A&M’s offensive line holding up well enough to win this game but the path to victory would include winning the field position battle and capitalizing on mistakes from LSU’s offense - for that, we head over to the defensive line.
Texas A&M’s defense did take care of business for the most part against UMass last week as is to be expected considering the opponent. This week, they face a much stiffer task in an opponent that has weapons and specializes in taking advantage of what has been the weakness for Texas A&M in 2022. All year long, Texas A&M’s defense has struggled against dual threat quarterbacks but the back-to-back beatings this unit took against Ole Miss and Florida really showed how much this unit has struggled. LSU, in Jayden Daniels, has a quarterback who seems perfectly positioned to capitalize on those struggles.
When you face a dual-threat quarterback like Daniels you have to alter your approach as a defensive lineman rushing the passer. Texas A&M’s rushers can’t allow themselves to be fully engaged with the LSU offensive linemen or Daniels is going to be able to escape the pocket and break off big gains just like we saw Jaxson Dart and Anthony Richardson do against the Aggies. It seems counterintuitive but sometimes the best option when facing a dual threat like Jayden Daniels is to not rush at all. Instead, slowly collapse the pocket around Daniels while also using a spy to make sure he is contained. This is dangerous gameplan as it does allow the quarterback time in the pocket for the receivers to get open, but if there is one flaw at all that I have seen out of Daniels’ game, it is that he sometimes pulls this ball when he has receivers open. Daniels absolutely has the ability to beat you with his arm but I think sometimes I believe in his arm more than he does himself. As for designed runs, Texas A&M has to do a better job of shedding blocks and especially of keeping contain on the edges. LSU’s gameplan should be run heavy given the struggles Texas A&M has had there, the only real hope the Aggies have is forcing turnovers so I won’t be surprised if we see a lot of ripping at the ball from Texas A&M this week knowing they have to give a flagging offense good field position in order to win. This runs the risk of broken tackles being a bigger issue than normal but that is the price this defense will have to pay.
With Louisiana sharing a border with Texas, it’s no surprise that there is a bit of a cultural exchange of food between Louisianans and Texans. This has led to several Louisiana-tinted dishes at Texas BBQ joints but one of my all-time favorites is the Smoked Duck and Sausage Jambalaya at Pinkerton’s Barbecue in Houston. Taking the smoking process of barbecue and combining it with the cajun flavorings of one of the most well-known rice dishes throughout the nation results in dynamite that can only be found at the crossroads of the Upper Gulf Coast. Pinkerton’s also has a location in San Antonio now if you are a little bit further West but this jambalaya felt like a perfect dish to highlight with LSU on the menu for Texas A&M this week. I even tossed in some smoked boudin to really drive the Lousiana theme home.