No. 5 Texas A&M is scheduled to kick-off against LSU, the unranked reigning national champions, on Saturday, following the Aggies’ two unexpected bye weeks due to COVID-19 quarantine protocols. The last time the Aggies and Tigers met in College Station, the game resulted in a seven-overtime win for the maroon and white. This year, A&M is deemed a 12.5-point favorite. Here are five things to watch for as a young LSU team travels to Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 28:
1. LSU lacks experience
LSU, 3-3, is without 31 players, 14 being starters, of its National Championship roster due to early departures, graduation, transfers and opt-outs. One of the most notable absences for the Tigers includes the No. 1 overall 2020 NFL Draft pick in quarterback Joe Burrow. Junior quarterback Myles Brennan stepped up to fill that role, but suffered an injury in LSU’s loss to Missouri on Oct. 10 and hasn’t seen the field since. Brennan accumulated 1,112 passing yards in the three games he played but has been replaced by freshman quarterback TJ Finley. Finley and the Tigers’ offense survived against South Carolina and Arkansas but will likely struggle against the highly ranked Aggies this week.
2. A&M’s momentum
Prior to the postponement of its last two games, A&M had significant momentum after a four-game win streak, with its only loss this season at the hands of No. 1 Alabama. Senior quarterback Kellen Mond is at the peak of his career and recently became A&M’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 68. The Aggies hope to contend for a spot in this year’s College Football Playoffs, and a win over a mediocre LSU team this week is imperative. A&M fans hope to see a healthy and fine-tuned football team after two weeks off, as well as a revival of momentum to finish the season strong.
3. Offensive opportunities
The Tigers’ uncharacteristically weak defense will present A&M with a plethora of offensive opportunities. LSU allows an average of 32 points per game which is encouraging for an A&M offense that operates from a balanced playbook and averages 6.71 yards per play and 443.7 per game. Although the Aggies began the season with very few experienced receivers, chemistry between Mond and his receiving corps seems to have developed throughout the six games played. LSU’s defensive players have large assignments this Saturday as they attempt to contain running backs Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith, tight end Jalen Wydermeyer and wide receiver Chase Lane who, together, account for 16 of A&M’s 27 touchdowns.
4. Defensive vacancy
Senior defensive end Micheal Clemons started in A&M’s first five games of the season but left the Arkansas game with an injury and did not see the field in the team’s last game. A&M coach Jimbo Fisher later confirmed Clemons would be out for an extended period of time after undergoing ankle surgery, meaning the team would be without its leader in sacks and tackles. Clemons’ absence creates the opportunity for other defensive players such as DeMarvin Leal and Tyree Johnson to step up and fill the vacancy. The defensive line has proven to be a force to be reckoned with and is expected to continue to dominate the line of scrimmage against LSU as well.
5. Terrace Marshall Jr.
LSU’s junior wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. will be a key player to watch for in Saturday’s matchup. The veteran receiver’s elite route, running and playmaking skills have allowed him to accumulate 597 yards, ranking fifth in the SEC, and nine touchdowns this season, as he has become a dependable asset for LSU’s freshman quarterback. A&M’s pass defense has repeatedly revealed vulnerabilities with missed assignments or its inability to create interference and is arguably the Aggies’ biggest area of concern. The maroon and white need to formulate and execute a game plan that will minimize Marshall’s effectiveness and ability to be utilized downfield to ensure victory over the Tigers.