Five Keys to Victory - LSU Game

This match-up on paper is about as compelling as you'll see in the SEC without a title on the line. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop looks deeper into the numbers and provides his weekly five keys to victory for the Aggies who are currently four-point underdogs.

This match-up on paper is about as compelling as you'll see. Texas A&M's No. 3 passing offense in the nation has a distinct advantage over a struggling LSU secondary ranked No. 55 in pass defense efficiency.

On the other side, a balanced No. 32 LSU offense will look to run up points on the young and struggling No. 106 Texas A&M defense. On paper, it looks like a shoot-out with both teams scoring over 40 points. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop looks deeper into the numbers and provides his weekly five keys to victory for the Aggies who are currently four-point underdogs.

1) Blitz Up the Middle

It's no secret. This Aggie defense has been soft up-front and the unit is susceptible to the run. The unit also struggles to consistently pressure the QB. Granted, A&M will have to pick its poison against a balanced LSU attack, but a defensive coordinator has a better chance of doing both with some well-disguised and well-timed blitzes up the middle from LB's and safeties. The blitz can wash any rush attempt between the tackles, and on pass plays coming right up the middle at a hurting and less mobile Zach Mettenberger might be the best approach. Now, that exposes the defense to well-executed swing passs to RB's out of the backfield...but when you are No. 106 you have to absorb some risk for a critical reward.

2) Play Aggressive Defense - Take Chances

Somewhat related to No. 1, but this is more of an overall philosophy and mindset versus a single blitz tactic. A&M can't sit back and allow LSU to methodically move down the field and pick apart a secondary sitting back on its heals. Not much is expected of this defense which is why aggressive playcalling and taking chances to force turnovers and big plays for loss is the right play here. The A&M defense doesn't hve to stop LSU on every possession. With Johnny running the offense, A&M's defense simply needs to force a couple of 3-and-outs and a couple of turnovers. That should be enough for the surging Manziel.

3) Effective Running Game

The biggest problem for the Aggies in the eventual loss to Auburn was the inability to establish a running game. That forced many quick drives, whether it was a 3-play, 70 yard TD drive or a three-and-out. Either way, a tired defense was forced onto the field every 1-2 minutes of game clock. That led to Auburn's 21-point fourth quarter and devastating come-from-behind win at Kyle Field. The Aggies need a couple of explosive plays from Trey Williams, but they also need some physical, downhill running successes by Tra Carson to run clock against a good LSU defensive front.

If the A&M offense makes a habit of quick entrances and quick exit from the field, watch for the Tigers to wear down A&M and have a field day by the end of the 3rd qurter. Several long, sustained scoring drives will not only put points on the board for the Aggies, but will keep A&M's young defense refreshed both physiclly and mentally.

4) Value the Ball

Queue the broken record on turnovers. Yeah, it's almost become cliche' to say turnovers will decide the game, but it's true especially in this game where A&M has a big advantage based on the numbers. The Aggie defense has been much more active in creating turnovers and making plays than LSU. A&M has a total of 20 takeaways compared to only 12 for the Tigers. On the offensive side, both teams find themselves in the lower half of the NCAA stat chart with 18 turnovers for Texas A&M and 16 for LSU. Thus, both teams have a propensity to lose the ball, and in the end the team that can minimize turnovers and hold on to the ball will win. That rule works 80+% of the time. The game looks even on paper, so that means the deciding factor will be turnovers and major mistakes.

5) Patience on Offense

In the past two ball games, the A&M offense has struggled at times to make a first down and sustain drives. Against MSU and UTEP, the Aggies offense was left stranded on nine three-and-out drives. That may be acceptable for many collegiate offenses, but not the A&M offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel that must sustain drives and keep the defense off the field. Several of those three-and-outs resulted in Manziel going for some early deep throws even though A&M had reasonable down-and-distance situations. Take a couple of shots downfield once you move the chains at least once. Go for the first downs early with some higher percentage run and pass plays, and try to establish some time of possession and keep the defense rested.

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