Week 8 – LSU at Texas A&M
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Posted Oct 18, 2012

Week 8 Fearless Prediction & Game Analysis– LSU at Texas A&M

LSU (6-1) at Texas A&M (5-1) Oct. 20, 12:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal: It seems like such a natural matchup with the potential to become a major SEC rivalry. College Station and Baton Rouge are about 350 miles and six hours apart, making it easy for the two programs to play each other on a regular basis up until 1995. The last meeting came in the 2011 Cotton Bowl – a 41-24 LSU win – and now this could grow into something bigger and more meaningful. Texas A&M, LSU is one of the league's biggest threats to poach on the Houston area recruiting turf, and for the Tigers, the Aggies represent a dangerous threat to add to the other landmines that need to be dealt with on a weekly basis.

Both teams are still in the thick of the SEC and national title chases with battles still ahead with Alabama and Mississippi State to deal with, and both are trying to find their footing after a few shaky and rough times over the last few weeks. LSU has had a hard time finding its offense, while the Aggie defense went bye-bye last week in a wild win over Louisiana Tech. For one, a win might set the tone for an interesting second half of the season, while the loser will have to be perfect the rest of the way to have any dreams of being the SEC West champion.

LSU was able to bounceback from a war in Gainesville – losing 14-6 – to get by South Carolina last week in another tough, physical battle. To add to one of the toughest stretches anyone has to deal with this season, the Tigers have to stay intense for the A&M offense this week before getting two weeks to prepare for the home dates against Alabama and Mississippi State. The defense has been stellar and the running game strong, but there are flaws in the passing game and the battered and bruised offensive line hasn't been consistent.

A&M has won five straight since its loss to Florida to open up the season, but it has the polar opposite problem of LSU. The Aggie offense has been unstoppable, leading the SEC in scoring, yards and rushing, but the defense has been ripped up at times. This would be the big, giant win the Kevin Sumlin era needs, and this could be a tone-setter for a wild back half of the slate. Unlike LSU, the Aggies have to deal with Mississippi State and Alabama on the road, and while games against Auburn, Sam Houston State and Missouri shouldn't be a problem, getting a win now could be vital with the next home date on November 17th.

Why LSU Might Win: Florida 20, Texas A&M 17. The Tigers should be able to use the Gators' playbook from the September 8th game. Even with the problems and bruises on the offensive line, the Tigers were able to wear down and pound away on South Carolina last week finishing with 258 rushing yards and two scores while controlling the clock for almost 37 minutes. Florida survived the flash and dash of the Aggies early on to stiffen up defensively and pound out hard drives while keeping the ball for 35 minutes. The LSU defensive front has to be its usual physical self, while the power running game has to be established from the start.

A&M's offense is more than Johnny Manziel, but he's the spark who makes everything else go. When he's able to get on the move and become a baller, the offense is almost impossible to stop, but when he's held in check like he was in the second half against the Gators, the offense doesn't go anywhere. It's no coincidence that the lone Aggie loss came on Manziel's lowest rushing output of the season, lowest passing game, and it was the only time so far he didn't throw for a score. The LSU linebackers should keep him from taking off.

Why Texas A&M Might Win: Ryan Epperson. The Texas A&M senior punter hasn't been needed too often over the last few weeks, but he has been phenomenal when called upon averaging 45.2 yards per kick putting nine of his 21 boots inside the 20. LSU doesn't have a quick strike offense and it's not built to go on long drive after long drive, so it's imperative that the nation's best punting game buries the attack deep on a regular basis. Florida and its great defense were able to get by the Tigers partly because Kyle Christy averaged 49 yards kick putting four at the 20 or better. Epperson can do the same thing.

Texas A&M doesn't have the defensive front to hold up on a consistent basis if the LSU running game gets into a lather, but it has the same type of pass rush that South Carolina owns. The Tigers did a decent job of keeping Zach Mettenberger upright, but the Gamecocks got enough pressure on him to force an awful 12-of-25 day. LSU doesn't have a passing game, needing to mount comebacks be grinding games out on the ground and hoping for the big defensive play. The O line might be great, but it has had a problem in pass protection time and again. As long as the Aggies can force third and longs, they'll be able to bring the heat.

What To Watch Out For: The LSU backfield was already crowded with talented veterans, but there were rumblings that Jeremy Hill was eventually going to show he's the most talented in the bunch. The 6-2, 235-pound redshirt freshman got a little bit of garbage time against Idaho running for 61 yards and two scores, but that's been about it. And then … boom. With 17 carries for a back-breaking 124 yards and two scores against South Carolina, Hill was the breakout star of last week. He's hardly alone, with Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware also in the rotation, and A&M has to show it can hold up.

What Will Happen: Can LSU contain Johnny Football? Manziel has been magical over the last several weeks on the way to being the SEC's leader in total offense, but he's about to be bottled up by the LSU defensive front. Can the Aggies hold up in a grinding game, or will LSU be spent a bit after getting beaten up over the last two weeks? The power of the Tigers will overcome the flash of the Aggies, but it's going to take a slow drip to get past the occasional explosion.

CFN Prediction: LSU 27 … Texas A&M 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) LSU -3 O/U: 52.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Seven Psychopaths, 1 – Here Comes the Boom): 4.5