CFN Cotton Analysis - LSU 41, Texas A&M 24
LSU RB Stevan Ridley
LSU RB Stevan Ridley
Posted Jan 8, 2011

The CFN writers give their thoughts on LSU's win over Texas A&M in the Cotton

CFN Bowl Analysis ... Cotton 

LSU 41 ... Texas A&M 24

By Pete Fiutak

While the overall numbers might not have been that sensational this year, the pop the LSU offense showed in the Cotton Bowl shouldn't be a shocker. It's not that the Tiger offense couldn't hang up 400 yards; it's that it didn't do it on a regular basis.

LSU rolled for 433 yards against Alabama and 434 against Tennessee, and the offensive line and running game were strong all season long. But the X factor turned out to be Jordan Jefferson, who kept the mistakes to a minimum and finally utilized his NFL receivers, particularly Terrence Toliver, and LSU came up with yet another bowl win.

And Texas A&M lost another bowl game.

Next year, can the bowl types throw the Aggies a bone and stick them in the New Orleans against some Sun Belt team or the Little Caesars against a MAC squad? After the loss to LSU, Texas A&M has gone 1-9 in its last ten bowl games. The one win? TCU. The nine losses? BCS conference teams. To take it back even further, since 1989, A&M is a pathetic 3-13 in the extra games going 1-13 against BCS schools and with one of the wins coming to BYU.

The problem becomes when teams tend to lose bowl games like the Aggies do, it spoils an otherwise good season. Beating a bad Texas team was nice, and getting past Oklahoma and Nebraska was great, but now, the team goes back to Square One going into the offseason with many of the same problems and issues it had before when it comes to playing the top teams. Of course the Aggies had a good year, but a loss like this keeps it from being a great one.

LSU had a great year.

The win will raise more questions about why Jefferson couldn't play this well on a regular basis, and there will always be those who can't grasp that Les Miles really is a damn strong football coach, but 11-2 from the SEC West turned out to be the year the program needed after going 16-9 over the previous two seasons.

As it turns out, LSU is just fine under Miles. Inconsistent doesn't matter if it brings 11 wins.

- This completes the turnaround for the LSU offensive line. After struggling so much last year, it closed out the year with another great performance. It helps the cause when Stevan Ridley is able to pound and weave through holes and Spencer Ware is able to tear off yards in chunks.

- What's the one thing that Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill couldn't do? Throw interceptions. What did he do? He threw three.

- Why did A&M keep throwing so much? Cyrus Gray was doing a good job and Tannehill moved well when he got in outside the pocket.

By Richard Cirminiello

Where was this LSU offense all season?

The Tigers picked a good time to wake up, having their way with a speedy Texas A&M defense that had played so well throughout the second half of the season. Sure, it hurt to lose LB Michael Hodges early on to an injury, but he may not have made much of a difference on a night when LSU looked determined to own the line of scrimmage and make life easier for the skill players. For much of the year, the Tigers labored with the ball, struggling to establish any consistency. In Arlington, though, they played with more focus and physicality than at any point in 2010. They ran the ball with conviction behind Stevan Ridley and Spencer Ware, and got a rare positive effort from QB Jordan Jefferson. He was efficient through the air, throwing three touchdown passes to Terrence Toliver, and ran for 67 yards and another score. If this happened to be an audition for Les Miles, easily ending the Aggies' six-game winning streak certainly didn't hurt his chances of landing an offer from Michigan.

- LSU's Patrick Peterson is likely leaving for the NFL, but the secondary will be just fine going forward. All-star Morris Claiborne is only a sophomore and true freshman Tyrann Mathieu is an emerging superstar. Mathieu is just a stone-cold playmaker, always making his presence felt on defense and special teams.

- As an outside linebacker, Texas A&M's Von Miller is going to have a lot of years of success on Sundays. Even though he was saddled with a nagging ankle injury for much of the year, it couldn't keep him from blowing past opposing tackles and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting quarterbacks.

- Whether or not Stevan Ridley returns to Baton Rouge for his final season, LSU may have found a new weapon in the running game. Ware, a rookie who had just 14 carries in the regular season, turned his 10 touches into 103 yards. A former high school quarterback, he'll be even better once he learns the finer points of the position.

By Matt Zemek

So, as everyone predicted, the LSU Tigers – who had thrown just seven touchdown passes during the 2010 regular season – tossed three six-point strikes on Friday night in the Cotton Bowl. Just as the entire college football cognoscenti suspected, Jordan Jefferson hit stacks of big plays in the passing game without committing a big mistake. Just as pigskin pundits across the United States kept saying, LSU's juggernaut was going to easily outclass and thoroughly embarrass Texas A&M's defense.

Yes, the Cotton Bowl threw many experts a curveball. The sense here was that LSU would win, but in an ugly defensive battle. Instead, the Tigers found their inner Baryshnikov and put on an elegant and balletic display of synchronized offensive football. Passes hit receivers in stride. Gorgeous touchdown plays were forged with brilliant athletic brushstrokes. Les Miles, a coach who has perfected the art of winning in the ugliest and most unsightly ways over the years, presided over a ballclub that suddenly won with precision, polish and power. Just imagine what LSU football could be like if its offense played anywhere close to this on a consistent basis.

There's really little more to be said, other than the fact that the Bayou Bengals' blowout of the A&M Aggies is made even more impressive by LSU's no-show in the first several minutes of play. With A&M leading 10-0 after barely breaking a sweat, it appeared that the Tigers were on the road to ruin, but their abrupt about-face – a reversal so beautifully orchestrated it made Yo-Yo Ma weep – only added to the luster of this SEC-sustaining success story.

Had LSU lost to a Big 12 challenger, America's Toughest Conference would have lost a substantial amount of credibility. Instead, the SEC's elite teams (LSU and Alabama up, Arkansas down) have won a majority of their bowl games with Auburn still to come against Oregon. No, this game doesn't seal (or disprove) various arguments about the SEC, but it definitely pushed the reputation needle in one direction rather than the other. Texas A&M played some feisty and flinty defense in November, but LSU made the Aggies look like a high school team on Friday… or if you prefer an image from Big 12 history, try the Nebraska Cornhuskers' defense against Colorado in November of 2001. A&M overran gaps and misread plays as frequently (and as severely) as Nebraska did against Bobby Purify and Bobby Pesavento on that afternoon in Boulder more than nine years ago. When an LSU offense can embarrass an opposing defense in such a manner, one knows that something remarkable has happened.

Then again, maybe it was simply the fact that Big 12 defenses were horrible this season against elite non-conference opposition. The only three Big 12 teams to win bowl games this season were Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. OU played a Connecticut team with one legitimately good skill player, running back Jordan Todman. Oklahoma State played an Arizona club with a lot of potential but precious little mental toughness. Texas Tech gave up 38 points to a Northwestern team that was without its starting quarterback. All in all, not one Big 12 team made a ringing statement in the 2010-2011 bowl extravaganza. That's a momentous but entirely accurate account of the college football cosmos at this moment.

--A few other points about the Cotton Bowl are worth mentioning: First, as a CFN reader from Miami noted, this game was put up against the FCS National Championship Game. Why? Why was this necessary? Why did the FCS have to compete against a non-championship bowl game featuring brand-name schools? Relevant decision makers in the college football industry should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to happen.

--While the FCS title game never should have been put up against the Cotton Bowl in head-to-head TV timeslot competition, it has to be said that the Cotton Bowl – by virtue of being played on a Friday night and not a Monday night (HINT, HINT, Orange Bowl, COUGH, HACK, WHEEZE!) – drew a massive crowd and proved to be a raging commercial smash at the box office. The Orange Bowl in particular, but all the other non-championship BCS bowls as well, should very strongly consider playing on the Saturday nearest to New Year's Day, even if that Saturday might be Dec. 30 or 31. This huge Cotton Bowl turnout on a Friday affirms the notion that with New Year's Day no longer having all the big bowls the way it used to in the 1980s and early '90s, it is financial suicide for bowls to be scheduled on weeknights unless Big Ten and SEC teams are part of the equation. Heck, the Fiesta Bowl was played on a Saturday, and it couldn't sell out just because the matchup was so awful. At any rate, however, the Orange Bowl really needs to consider a Saturday, Dec. 31 kickoff in 2011, or perhaps a Friday, Jan. 6 kickoff as a second option. A Tuesday, Jan. 3 kickoff or a Wednesday, Jan. 4 kickoff? Pure torture for Orange Bowl coffers, barring a matchup sent by the gods.

-- Please, college football. Make the Cotton Bowl a BCS bowl and punish the Fiesta Bowl for its unsavory lobbying practices. Just get this deal done before the 2014 regular season, when the BCS rotation expires.

By: Barrett Sallee

If the Cotton Bowl was Les Miles' last game as the head coach of the LSU Tigers, he sure went out with a bang. It took a while to get going this season, but the last three games have been pretty solid for the maligned SEC offense, which set a nice tone for 2011with a resounding win over Texas A&M.

Jordan Jefferson wasn't just serviceable against Texas A&M, he was actually good. The junior quarterback had thrown four touchdown passes all season, and nearly matched that with his 148-yard, three touchdown performance against the Aggies. He was so effective that backup Jarrett Lee, who had split time at quarterback with Jefferson most of the season, didn't see the field for any meaningful snaps. With former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger transferring in from junior college this semester, it was important for Jefferson to make a statement to keep his job, and he did that Friday night.

LSU running back Stevan Ridley may have been the workhorse, but freshman Spencer Ware was the star. Ware carried the ball 10 times for 103 yards, and showed some electric moves in the process. He had been virtually non-existent all year carrying the ball only 14 times, but came up big in the Cotton Bowl. Whether it's Les Miles or somebody else coaching in Baton Rouge next year, there's no lack of talent on the LSU roster, and Ware's out-of-the blue performance proved that.

If I'm Michigan, I pursue Miles and if I'm Miles, I go to Michigan. What else can Miles accomplish at LSU? He's won a national championship, an SEC championship and posted 10 or more wins in four of his six seasons in Red Stick. Despite all of that, he's one 8-4 season away from being fired. He let his alma mater go in 2007, but I don't see it happening again in 2011.