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Fun With Numbers: Texas A&M at LSU

The upset may not be as unlikely as you might think.

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NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Howdy and welcome back to Fun With Numbers. There’s been a tough of stuff happening since we last looked at advanced stats for the 2023 Texas A&M Football squad, and I wish we had time to dive into it all. Unfortunately you guys know, it’s Thanksgiving week and I have less time to devote to writing than I’d like. So let’s not waste any time and dive right into this week’s matchup.

What Do We Know?

The Aggies travel to Baton Rouge to face an 8-3 LSU squad that has only lost games to Top 25 teams this season. The Tigers will not be repeating their SEC Championship appearance in Brian Kelly’s second year, but it’s still been a good season at Death Valley, the Tigers are undefeated at home and playing really well offensively. The Aggies will play their second game with an Interim HC Elijah Robinson, and are road dogs this week. Vegas favors the Tigers by 11.5 while the SP+ and FEI predict it to be more of a one score game, predicting margins of victory of 3 and 6.7 respectively. Let’s take a closer look.

Aggie Offense vs Tiger Defense

I mentioned earlier that the Tigers have had a great offensive season, but the same cannot be said for Matt House’s side of the ball. They’ve been one of the worst units in the SEC, with conference opponents averaging 33 points/game. It’s not just that they struggle up front against the run, or just that the secondary is hardly even there at times, or that they’re one of the worst teams in the country in Passing Down situations… it’s that they are ALL of those things, and have been all season.

The Aggie offense has looked better in recent weeks after transfer QB Jaylen Henderson took over for Max, part of that is his athleticism/ability to run the ball and part of that is how simplified this scheme has become so that a guy who hadn’t taken first team snaps for most of the season could run it effectively. He’ll probably need to make quick decisions and run fairly often, with an OL that is still lost for large portions of the game and an LSU defense that really doesn’t do much, but it can bring some pressure and generate some havoc.

Aggie Defense vs Tiger Offense

On the flip side, the Tigers are being held together by a Heisman worthy performance from Jayden Daniels. He’s putting up video game level numbers, and paired with Malik Nabers, he’s going to stress the hell out of Durkin’s defense. Daniels does a great job of taking care of the ball, he’s only thrown 4 INTs all season, but he’s been sacked 20 times and can run himself into problems sometimes.

Daniels rushing ability can potentially be contained by an elite Aggie Front 7, but this secondary has had such a hard time preventing chunk plays all season long. And if Daniels is able to move out of the pocket and extend plays, I genuinely don’t know how the Aggie corners will be able to hold up against the speed these LSU WRs have.

What’s the Verdict?

Even rolling with a 3rd string QB, an interim coach, and facing a prolific offense on the road as two score under dogs… is it crazy to think the Aggies have a decent chance here? I don’t think so. The offense should be able to move the ball against this defense, and Jaylen’s “run first and run often” mentality might come in handy against a squad that gave up 155 rushing yards and 4 TDs to Jalen Milroe on the ground a few weeks ago at Alabama. If they can close out drives, it feels like we could see the Aggies score 30 points for the 5th week in a row. The question then becomes, how much can this defense hold the Tigers to? You don’t have to shut them down, Alabama gave up 450 yards and 28 points to this squad, and still won comfortably. On the other hand, that Alabama defense has been much better against the deep ball this season than the Aggies have.

My Prediction: I do weirdly feel like the Aggies have a chance to surprise the Tigers again, this time on their own turf. Having the game at 11 am certainly helps with that. Elite defenses like Florida State and Alabama (similarly ranked to the Aggies in the DSP+ and DFEI) have managed to contain the Tigers enough for their offenses to outscore them. At the end of the day though, it just seems like a tall order for the Aggies, who have still not won a true road game since 2021.

Aggies lose 37-31, finish 7-5, and you get to choose whether you’re more interested in the bowl matchup or the new Aggie coach.

Final Notes

Thanks for keeping up this season, hopefully we’ll be back for a bowl game and maybe even talk new coaching hires. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, and BTHO LSU.

  • Bcftoys.com for Brian Fremeau’s FEI data and other fun projects from him.
  • ESPN.com is the home for all of Bill Connelly’s SP+ info (as well as the FPI rankings). You’ll need to subscribe to ESPN+ for most of his stuff these days.
  • CollegeFootballData.com is a great site for data and charts that you can download and play with on your own time, in case Fun With Numbers isn’t filling that statistical void in your life. Most of my data comes from here.
  • SEC Stat Cat is another great site. Solid blend of statistics and football concepts.

Questions? Comments? Criticisms? You know where to leave ‘em.