The performance against Abilene Christian wasn’t perfect but a win is a win and the Aggies largely dominated the contest against their FCS opponent. Next up is a meeting with LSU in Death Valley to close out the season. In SEC play, Texas A&M has yet to find a way to claim victory in Baton Rouge. Let’s talk about what Texas A&M needs to accomplish in order to claim their first road victory at Death Valley since joining the conference.
I’ll get more into it during the defensive line portion of the blog but Texas A&M is going to have to score points on Saturday. The bad news is the offensive line struggles continued against Abilene Christian. The good news is that this LSU defensive unit is a far cry from the fearsome trench units that we are used to in Baton Rouge.
LSU’s defense ranks 103rd in the country in total defense. Their rushing defense sits at 101st in the country and their passing defense isn’t much better coming in at 87th in team passing efficiency defense. The opportunities are certainly there for Texas A&M both through the air and on the ground but I’d prefer to see the Aggies try and replicate their win from last season by utilizing a rushing attack that keeps LSU’s offense off the field as much as possible.
QB Jaylen Henderson has shown the ability to be dangerous in the rushing attack and true freshman Rueben Owens just had one of his best performances of the year averaging 5.9 yards on the ground last week against ACU. I think the duo could combine to have a fantastic day against an LSU defense that struggles against the run.
In the passing game, Moose had one of his best games of the season (in sleeves no less!) and Ainias Smith has one more chance to don his Texas A&M uniform and go out with a bang. LSU’s pass rush ranks near the bottom of the SEC with 22 sacks on the season. The leading sack-getter for the Tigers is linebacker Harold Perkins. The former five-star prospect has been dynamite as a pass rusher but he isn’t always used in that role - a bit of a blessing for Texas A&M. Still, the Aggies haven’t been able to pass protect consistently against anyone so you can expect LSU to get pressure on Henderson. If the Aggies can protect him for just long enough though, the receiver corps can find holes in the Tigers' secondary.
LSU will put up a lot of points on Saturday. Jayden Daniels is having a historic season and the Texas A&M secondary will struggle to cover a talented receiving corps anchored by Malik Nabers. Jayden Daniels is also the leading rusher for Texas A&M and that is where the defensive line will come in.
Daniels will likely throw for over 300 yards on Saturday. Getting pressure on the Heisman candidate and forcing turnovers would be nice but I don’t think it’s likely without overly compromising the pass rushing lanes. Instead, I think a more conservative pass rush approach is in order to force Daniels to use his arm exclusively.
Let me clarify that I am not saying that Daniels can’t beat Texas A&M with his arm. He can and in all likelihood will. However, allowing Daniels to use both his arm AND legs results in disaster for opponents of LSU. With this in mind, I think the Texas A&M defensive line should maintain rush lane integrity and use Edgerrin Cooper as a spy as opposed to blitzing.
Again, I expect the Tigers to score early and often against Texas A&M but when the ball is in the air, there is at least a little more variance in outcome as opposed to Daniels running it. If the Aggies can manage to stop LSU on a couple of drives by forcing incompletions, Texas A&M might have a chance to pull off the upset.
I talked earlier this year when A&M played ULM about a favorite Baton Rouge joint of mine in Elsie’s Plate & Pie. We’re going back to the Baton Rouge food scene again this week with the Aggies playing in Louisiana.
A place that has become a bit of an Arnold family tradition anytime we make our way over to Baton Rouge is Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant. For the past few Aggie road trips to Baton Rouge, we’ve made our way to this BR staple for Friday dinner ahead of gameday. Though I’m not making the trip to Red Stick this year and will instead be headed to San Marcos for the Texas State game, I did manage to get my Parrain’s fix in earlier this year on a road trip from Houston to Richmond, Virginia.
On that visit, I opted for the Atchafalaya - fresh fish filet topped with a crawfish and caper hollandaise. Dirty rice on the side of course. It was a truly delightful experience and I can’t recommend Parrain’s enough for Aggies making the trek over to Baton Rouge.
And if you’re looking for an appetizer, I recommend the chargrilled oysters. A perfect way to set the tone for what should be a fun weekend of college football.