Texas A&M at LSU

Published on Thursday, 11/21/13, at 5:23 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Although it has no bearing on the SEC West race, Saturday’s showdown between Texas A&M and LSU in Baton Rouge has implications galore for these two proud programs.

For starters, this is a recruiting game. Kevin Sumlin is starting to make inroads in Louisiana and Les Miles has always loved to work the I-10 corridor into East Texas. Also, the Aggies would love to avenge a 24-19 home loss to the Tigers last season.

On that afternoon in College Station, Texas A&M (8-2 straight up, 5-5 against the spread) raced out to a 12-0 lead but it could’ve been more. The Aggies had to settle for two field goals, missed an extra point and had a touchdown called back on one of the drives that ended in a field goal.

Then in the second quarter, Sumlin’s squad committed a pair of turnovers that led to LSU touchdowns. The Tigers eventually took the cash as 3.5-point road favorites, while the 43 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 51.5-point total.

LSU (7-3 SU, 4-5-1 ATS) has only lost four games or more twice during Miles’s nine-year tenure, but another defeat would mean a four-loss campaign. So obviously, this is a pride game for the Tigers.

In terms of the Heisman race, this is a monster game for Texas A&M sophomore QB Johnny Manziel. With Oregon’s Marcus Mariota falling out of contention and FSU’s Jameis Winston failing to produce big numbers recently, Manziel can clearly steal some votes if he can orchestrate special performances – and victories – in two tough road games in Baton Rouge and Columbia (Missouri) next week.

Both teams have had two weeks to prep for this spot. Texas A&M won its home finale over Mississippi St. by a 51-41 count, but it failed to cover as a 19.5-point favorite. LSU is looking to bounce back from a 38-17 loss at Alabama.

Manziel has thrown for 3,313 yards with a 31/11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Last year’s Heisman winner has rushed for 600 yards and eight TDs. But we should note that Manziel’s scrambling was stymied last year by LSU’s defense that also intercepted him three times.

Manziel’s favorite target is WR Mike Evans, who is on his way to earning first-team All-American honors. Evans has 57 catches for 1,263 yards and 12 TDs.

LSU’s Jeremy Hill has run for 964 yards and 13 TDs despite missing the season opener due to a suspension. Hill had 18 carries for 127 yards and one TD as a freshman at Kyle Field last year.

Zach Mettenberger has a 20/7 TD-INT ratio but hasn’t been as effective over the last 5-6 weeks. Nevertheless, we can expect big aerial numbers thanks to the presence of the SEC’s best 1-2 punch of wideouts.

Odell Beckham Jr. has 51 receptions for 1,051 yards and eight TDs, while Jarvis Landry has caught 63 balls for 972 yards and eight scores.

The ‘over’ is 8-2 overall for the Aggies this season, 2-0 in their road assignments. The ‘over’ is also 8-2 overall for LSU, 4-1 in its home games.

As of late Wednesday morning, most spots had LSU favored by four or 4.5 with a total of 71.

I like the ‘over’ in this game. The average combined score in Texas A&M games is 80.1 points per game.

LSU’s games have only played to an average combined score of 61.4, but let’s dig a little deeper than that. When the Tigers faced a team similar to Texas A&M, the result is what we saw in Athens in Week 5.

In other words, Georgia is a mirror image of Texas A&M. Both schools have soft defenses and dynamic offenses led by outstanding QBs. When LSU faced Georgia, the Bulldogs won a 44-41 decision for 85 combined points.

On Saturday at Tiger Stadium, both offenses will have clear advantages over the opposing defenses. This will result in points galore and a winner for gamblers that take the ‘over.’

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