LSU vs. Texas A&M
Arlington, Texas, Cowboys Stadium
Thursday, January 6, 2011 8:00 PM ET ESPN
Laying the scene
LSU had the opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game as an at-large team, but fell short in the season finale against Arkansas to bring their regular season record to 10-2. In any other season, LSU was likely to play in the SEC Championship Game, representing the SEC West Division, but Auburn ran the table in the regular season to earn the right to play in the conference championship game. Texas A&M beat both Oklahoma and Nebraska in the regular season; both teams squared off in the Big 12 Championship Game. Unfortunately, BCS rankings kept the Aggies from participating in the championship game despite sharing the division title and ending on a bigger high than any team in the conference.
What LSU has to do to win
Shut down Cyrus Gray. Gray took over the starting job after Christine Michael suffered a broken leg in October and pulled off 100+ yard rushing performances in each of the final six games including a 223 yard performance against Texas in the regular season finale. Gray scored 10 touchdowns over the second half of the season including a four-touchdown performance against Baylor.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is another player who excelled after taking over the starting position midway through the season. He's been very consistent and has not thrown an interception in four of his six starts, but LSU has found success in rushing the passer where Texas A&M ranks 106th in sacks allowed, allowing an average of 2.92 per game. If Gray is allowed to run freely against the LSU defense, he'll not only hurt the Tigers on the ground, but will make life a whole lot easier for Tannehill in the passing game. The key to the win will be to force Tannehill to win the game through the air.
What Texas A&M has to do to win
Take advantage of the Tigers' struggles in the passing game. LSU will surely look to win the game on the ground behind Stevan Ridley, who has amassed 1,042 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground this season. Unlike the Aggies, though, they do not have a passing game that has been able to find success. The Tigers rank 107th in the nation in passing offense and anybody who has watched LSU this season can definitively label the passing game as the weak link in an otherwise great team. The Tigers feature several good receivers, but with the quarterbacks largely unable to take advantage of the skill in the receiving corps, teams have been able to focus more on the ground game. The Aggies, despite a 93rd ranked passing defense, will look to do just that until LSU is able to consistently hit those short- to mid-range passes.
Another key? Prepare for anything and everything. Les Miles has earned a reputation of making gutsy calls with great success. The Aggies know that, but it has to stick in the back of their minds as they take the field in the Cotton Bowl.
Texas A&M. The Aggies are too hot now to fall to what has been a one-dimensional offense. If LSU finds a way to be successful through the air, the outcome may be different, but even with a passing defense that has allowed an average of 240.5 yards per game, Texas A&M should find a way to come away with their first bowl win since the 2001 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl (a prestigious bowl if I've ever heard of one) against TCU. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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