LSU TIGERS (6-1)
at TEXAS A&M AGGIES (5-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Line: LSU -3.5, Total: 52.5
No. 18 Texas A&M looks for a signature win to the season when it hosts No. 6 LSU on Saturday afternoon.
These schools have met 50 times (LSU leads series 27-20-3 SU), but just once since 1995, a 41-24 Tigers win in the Cotton Bowl. LSU is suffering through a current four-game ATS skid, but was able to outlast South Carolina 23-21 last week, holding the Gamecocks to just 34 rushing yards. The Aggies barely beat sizable underdogs in the past two weeks by two and three points, respectively, to Ole Miss (+12.5 'dog) and Louisiana Tech (+9.5 'dog), but freshman QB Johnny Manziel destroyed the Bulldogs for 576 total yards of offense and 6 TD in the wild 59-57 victory.
Which team will come out victorious in this SEC matchup? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger has yet to throw a touchdown pass in any of his three SEC games, completing just 49% of his passes for 475 yards (6.2 YPA), 0 TD and 2 INT in conference play. But if his team rushes the football like it did last week against South Carolina (258 yards, 2 TD on 4.9 YPC), Mettenberger won't be needed to attempt a lot of passes. Jeremy Hill was the star against the Gamecocks with 124 rushing yards and both touchdowns, but Kenny Hilliard (415 rush yds, 6 TD), Michael Ford (279 rush yds, 2 TD) and Spencer Ware (240 rush yds) have all proven capable of eating up yards on the ground this season. On the defensive side of the ball, LSU ranks second in the nation in yards allowed (220 YPG) and eight in scoring defense (14.0 PPG). The pass defense has been outstanding (130 YPG, 2nd in FBS), but that has a lot to do with a top-notch pass rush averaging 2.9 sacks per game. DL Sam Montgomery had two sacks in last week's win over South Carolina.
Manziel has been much better than expected in Kevin Sumlin's high-octane passing attack. He ranks second in the country in total yards (393 per game) and usually makes sound decisions, completing 67.4% of his passes for 14 TD and just 3 INT this year, with all three coming in the past two games. Manziel is a dual threat with 676 rushing yards (7.4 YPC) and 10 touchdowns already, but he knows his team can't continue to give the ball up like it has done eight times in the past two weeks. LSU's defense has forced at least two turnovers in five straight games, totaling 16 for the season, so ball protection will be even more vital for A&M on Saturday. As for the Aggies defense, it was lit up by Louisiana Tech last week for 57 points and 615 total yards, including 450 yards and 5 TD through the air. But like LSU, Texas A&M also knows how to pressure the quarterback, racking up 3.2 sacks per game this season (T-11th in FBS).