Texas A&M has not played since Nov. 7, but the Aggies are right on the cusp of earning a College Football Playoff berth. Texas A&M was ranked fifth in the first CFP rankings, and they are sitting there with a great win over Florida on the resume.
If a top four team falters the Aggies are waiting in the wings to take one of those spots. To do that, however, Texas A&M must win out. LSU this weekend and Auburn next weekend are the two toughest games left on the schedule.
LSU is looking to salvage its season. The 3-3 Tigers still have to play Alabama and Florida, so dropping a game to Texas A&M will making having a winning record incredibly difficult.
The Irish Breakdown team has broken down the matchups and is ready to make predictions.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Texas A&M 41, LSU 17
This game is going to ultimately come down to whether or not Texas A&M can shake off the rust of not having played a game in three weeks. The last time Texas A&M took the field it absolutely blasted South Carolina (48-3), but it hasn't played since Nov. 7.
If the Aggies shake off the rust they will roll, but if they are sloppy and allow LSU to stay in the game into the second half this could be a nail-biter. LSU still has talent, but its mostly inexperienced, and inexperienced players often lack confidence. Let this group get into the fourth quarter thinking they can win and see what happens.
Ultimately, I don't see it getting to that point. Quarterback Kellen Mond seemed poised for a disappointing season, but he woke up in the win over Florida, and despite a bit of a drop against Mississippi State, he's been strong in the last four games.
Mond must play well, but the key for me is running back Isaiah Spiller. When he is on his game and the ground game is rolling it takes a lot of pressure off Mond, and it makes Texas A&M dangerous. If he gets rolling against LSU's porous defense this game could get ugly.
LSU quarterback TJ Finley struggled in his first two games, but he played well in the win over Arkansas, passing for 271 yards and a pair of scores. Protecting Finley will be key for the Tigers, but if they can and he continues to mature you could see LSU move the ball and stay in this game for awhile.
The problem, however, is that LSU's run game has been poor this season and Mike Elko's Aggie defense is one of the nation's best against the run. if Texas A&M shuts down the LSU run game, which I expect it to do, it puts success squarely on the shoulders of a true freshman, and that likely won't bode well for the defending champs.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Texas A&M 31, LSU 14
The Aggies are looking pretty solid for a back door berth into the CFP if they keep taking care of their business. With LSU coming to town they should be able to do just that. There are a lot of names on the Tigers that no one has heard of because the majority of the team that set about every offensive record last year is in the NFL. True freshman quarterback TJ Finley is getting better each game, but he and his Tiger offense are no match for the Aggies defense.
On the other side of the ball, A&M signal caller Kellen Mond is having a disappointing season compared to preseason expectations, but he is doing enough to take this team to a win over LSU on Saturday night. Look for this one to be over by halftime, especially if A&M wants to be taken seriously in the next round of rankings.
BRIAN SMITH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, LSU 20
A banged up and limited LSU squad will invade College Station with nothing to lose, and the Tigers will probably play better than many expect, at least through halftime.
With quarterback TJ Finley and a host of young running backs, wide receivers and freshman tight end Arik Gilbert, the Tigers will score some points. The problem will be staying away from turnovers against one of the best defenses in the SEC and also finishing drives with touchdowns. LSU will likely struggle to do either. Finley will throw for 300 yards, but the Aggies defense will limit the Tigers to less than 70 rushing yards.
On offense, Texas A&M will be far more balanced than LSU. Isaiah Spiller will once again surpass the 100 yard mark on the ground and score three rushing touchdowns. Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond will also utilize his legs to the tune of 50 rushing yards.
Perhaps more importantly, Mond will keep several passing plays alive with his feet, and that will allow him to make important third down conversions. Speaking of third downs, the Aggies are converting over 60% of their third downs this year, and LSU allows over 40% conversions on third downs. That will be the difference as the Aggies pull away late and secure the victory.
NATHAN ATKINS, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, LSU 27
LSU freshman quarterback TJ Finley will need to have another big week to knock off the Aggies. That means no turnovers and making the most of his opportunities, which will be few.
Texas A&M leads the SEC in time of possession and third-down conversions. But the Aggies have not played for the last three weeks after games at Alabama, and Ole Miss were postponed.
They might be a little rusty, but as the #5 team in the country, the Aggies have a shot at making the College Football Playoff. Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will have his team ready to make a statement in primetime.
RYAN PALMERI, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 42, LSU 10
As good as Texas A&M has looked this year, I still don't totally trust them. LSU is having a historic collapse after losing the majority of their championship team.
This game shouldn't be close as A&M is making a playoff push late in the season. While I'm leaning towards an A&M blowout, I wouldn't be shocked to see a tight game late in the third quarter until A&M pulls away late.
JP SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 45, LSU 23
In a year full of great quarterbacks, Texas A&M signal-caller Kellen Mond is having a fantastic-yet-underrated season. He also has several big time weapons at his disposal in the passing game. That’s the sort of thing that has historically given LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini fits.
His defenses are designed to limit part of what the offense does, but doesn’t fair well against more dynamic offenses that can adjust on the fly. As a result, I think the Tigers are in for a long day. It’s going to be a track meet that they just can’t keep pace in.
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