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Stat Simulation Game 12: Texas A&M vs LSU

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Analyzing how the LSU Tigers (7-4, 3-4) stack up against the Fightin’ Texas Aggies (7-4, 3-4) in this week's Stat Simulation...

It's that time of year again, everyone!  Bonfire, Turkey, Aggies vs Longhorns Tigers; it just can't get any bettter! Both of these teams are in the Top-25 again barely bowl eligible and attempting to stay ahead of Arkansas in the standings.  The Aggies are excited to have a game back on Turkey Day and the LSU fans, well, aren't.

The LSU Tigers sport a strong defense that ranks Top-15 in the nation. In fact, they are #12 in Total Defense, #6 in Passing Defense, and #2 in Pass Efficiency Defense.  They have cultivated this strong air resistance despite ranking 103rd in sacks per game (1.6 per game) - leading one to correctly conclude that their defensive backs carry the load by shutting down opposing wide receivers.  The Tiger offense is nothing special, but should remind Aggies of Missouri and Arkansas, that is, a heavy run attack.  LSU likes to control the Time of Possession, doesn't give up many turnovers, and is atrocious at passing (thanks to a choice between starting a sophomore or true freshman at quarterback, sound familiar?).

The Aggies still boast the conference's #4 offense, but are well below the expectations that were set by the 2012 and 2013 seasons.  This is just another game where all of A&M's strengths (passing, scoring, etc.) are matched evenly with LSU's ability to defend them.  Likewise, the Aggies porous defense plays into the strength of LSU's offense - running the ball.  I see this game being very similar to Mizzou in that the Aggies could start off strong, match body blows with LSU in the 2nd quarter, exasperate the 12th Man in the 3rd quarter, and be decided by who "wants it more" in the 4th quarter.  Hopefully, we worked a little on running Tra Carson in obvious 3rd/4th and short situations near the goalline during the bye week practices.

Before you skip to the analysis, please let me first explain the scope, drawbacks, and purpose of this chart. Once you're familiar with this information, you can happily skip ahead in the future. But I insist that you READ THIS NOW before you proceed.

Key to the chart below:

Blue Metric = Top 25 in the Nation

Red Metric = Bottom 25 in the nation
Advantage = One team is more than 20 spots ahead of the other team’s inverse metric in the national ranking; i.e. Texas A&M was ranked 68th in Rush Defense versus SMU’s 98th ranked Rushing Offense; therefore, due to A&M being 30 spots ahead of SMU in that metric's national ranking, they get the "advantage".

2014 Aggies_vs_LSU StatSim

Disclaimer 1: The prediction formula is an algorithm that I created which takes into account yardage offense and defense, how a team has performed relative to its direct competition, injuries, red zone scoring, home/away/neutral, turnover margin, average points scored and allowed, and a multitude of other factors that are all represented on the above "Foundation of Facts". I have been tweaking the formula for 4 years, but nonetheless I have not found a way to accurately predict the outcome of each game because (as my quote above implies) there are simply TOO many variables to account for and too much uncertainty in each game. However, it is fun to include the objective, stat-based, and numbers-only prediction for a conversation piece. (Besides, if my formula was really that accurate I would horde it to myself and be a multi-millionaire like alternate-Biff in the movie Back to the Future 2)

Disclaimer 2: I take no responsibility if you attempt to use this prediction for betting; unless you win - in which case I demand a 10% gratuity. But seriously, if you have a gambling problem and use this to bet, and lose... do not hold me responsible and seek help to beat your addiction.

NOTABLES

  • LSU's defense allows 4.6 yards per rush; if the Aggies can FINALLY start running the ball (don't hold your breath) we will do significant damage in this game.
  • The Aggies 3rd down offense and defense have dropped significantly this year.  On offense, the Aggies in the past 2 seasons averaged 55% and 50% respectively while in 2014 it's down to 42% (57th).  On defense in 2012 & 2013 they allowed 32% and 40% while in 2014 the Aggies are allowing 42% (86th).
  • The Aggies have 11 takeaways in 11 games. Pathetic. (118th)
  • The good news is A&M's PR and KR stats are pretty good (so are LSU's).  LSU's punt return defense is 101st (allowing 10.7 per punt) - playing into the Aggies favor.  Their punter is averaging 45 yards per punt... therefore is he, literally, "Outkicking the coverage"?
  • Based of the quarter-by-quarter scoring history; LSU and A&M should trade a few leads in the 1st quarter, though A&M could be up 14-10 or so (hopefully).  The Aggies score the most and get scored on the most in the 2nd quarter.  And in the 3rd quarter, the Farmers just lay down and give up tons of points.  They then try to rally in the 4th and come from behind to win the game (or fend off a late comeback from the opponent).
  • LSU starts a little slow, but then makes seemingly excellent halftime adjustments, and their defense shuts down the opponents in the 3rd and 4th quarters.  If you look at the score differential from 1st to 4th quarter for the Tigers it gets progressively better per quarter as the game goes on (14, 22, 47, 52).
  • Both teams have played opponents with a cumulative record of 75-45; however, the Aggies have the slimmest of margins in the conference only cumulative record, having played teams with a sum 42-35 rather than LSU's 41-38 - probably a negligible difference.
  • Trey Williams has the best rushing average of all the running backs playing in this game, and also the 2nd fewest carries.  If I was Jake Spavital, I would override the RB coach or change whatever rotational system we are using, and basically run the crap out of Trey Williams (with Tra Carson in for situational downs and to rest Trey) for the first half.  I'd also run the ball on every first down - you know, to change things up and keep the Tigers guessing.
  • LSUs quarterbacks are pretty bad.
  • LSU only gains about 4.3 yards per rush (65th) but runs the ball more plays than any other team in the conference - 48 times per game on average. (Can you say stack the box?)  A&M on the other hand, gives up 4.9 (yes) yards per rush (100th).
  • Two of LSUs receivers average over 21 yards per catch (wow).  One of those receivers has 35 receptions on the year, while LSU's next 3 receiving leaders total 43 receptions.  A&M has 4 receivers with 40 or more receptions each.

GUT FEELING

Another Missouri-type game but the Aggies pull it out this time.  The Farmers fight early and come out to a 21-13 halftime lead.  However, in the 3rd quarter, the LSU running game and defense take over for 15 minutes and rally the Tigers to a 26-21 lead (failed 2-point conversion).  Kyle Allen drives the field once in the 4th Quarter and Tra Carson picks up a 3rd and Goal carry for the winning Touchdown; 29-26 Aggies (KA to Cam Clear for a 2 pt conversion).

The Tigers make one last attempt, but in true Les Miles style, Anthony Jennings forgets whether he's supposed to kneel the ball or spike it on 3rd and 11 from the 30 yardline; he winds up running around in the back field and kneeling the ball at the 35.  They attempt the 52 yard field goal with 0:03 (whoop!) seconds left, but Sumlin calls timeout to freeze K Colby Delhoussaye - he makes the first attempt which doesn't count, and then hits the crossbar on the 2nd attempt - no good.

29-26 Aggies; Mark Snyder is released on Friday afternoon.

LOOK AHEAD

We are not scared to play t.u. in the Texas Bowl we just don't want to subject ourselves to their idiocy and ex-girlfriend batshit craziness. Essentially, there is nothing to gain for A&M to play Texas in a bowl: 1) we are already dominating in-state recruiting, 2) we have already played on of the toughest schedules in the country, and 3) a win against anyone in a bowl will put us in the Top-25 again most likely.  Why risk recruiting dominance and an end-of-year ranking to a team / fanbase who is still in denial of their own pathetic college football outlook for the next 10 years (or as long as they are in the Big 12) and can't muster the humility or honesty to remember how events played out to get them into the situation in which they find themselves (and, no, it's not a good place to be).

I look forward to playing Charlie Strong's OLD team Louisville in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.