Quarterback Joe Burrow and LSU are a lethal combination. No one has stopped Burrow, and no one has beaten the top-ranked Tigers this season.
Texas A&M is not going to stop Burrow either. If 11 other teams couldn’t, a group that includes Auburn, Alabama and Florida, then neither are the Aggies.
But that doesn’t mean A&M can’t win Saturday at Tiger Stadium. Auburn and Florida both came close, and their efforts prove the Aggies have a chance. A&M can do the things that Auburn and Florida did, maybe even better.
Auburn and Florida weren’t intimidated by playing at Tiger Stadium. Neither will the Aggies after playing four top 10 teams, including road games at Georgia and Clemson, which also fondly calls its stadium Death Valley.
Auburn and Florida were much alive in LSU’s Death Valley, scoring enough points to be in position to win. That wasn’t even that shocking. LSU has allowed seven of its 11 opponents to score at least 20 points. So A&M is going to score points, but when and how many will determine its chances.
LSU’s first two-score lead against Auburn came early in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard touchdown run by Burrow for a 23-13 advantage. Auburn fought back, scoring a touchdown with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left to make the final 23-20.
Florida played even better than Auburn.
LSU didn’t get a two-score lead on the Gators until 5:43 left in the game when Ja’Marr Chase caught a 54-yard touchdown pass to make the final 42-28. Chase’s long TD catch ended 21 unanswered LSU points after Florida scored on the opening possession of the second half for a 28-21 lead.
All of Florida’s touchdown drives took at least 10 plays, eating up lots of clock. Auburn also had a 14-play, field-goal drive, but time of possession means nothing to LSU because its offense is so potent. All but one of LSU’s touchdown drives against Florida took less than 2:10. LSU had the ball for only 21:41.
Saturday’s game is not going to be determined by how long A&M possesses the ball but how many times it scores. It’s also not necessarily going to help A&M being balanced offensively. Scoring, ultimately, matters most, and A&M’s offense should go into the game confident, because teams have moved the ball on LSU with some consistency.
That’s not to say time of possession can’t help A&M. Part of the problem with trying to defend LSU happens when opposing offenses score too quickly on the Tigers. Aggie fans saw glimpses of that phenomenon during the Kevin Sumlin era.
The trick for A&M is to mix points with clock control, and it all starts with possession No. 1. The Aggies can’t start chasing LSU. Florida and Auburn kept the game close by using their ground games. In fact, every Southeastern Conference team has rushed for at least 100 yards against LSU. Auburn had 33 carries for 130 yards and Florida had 40 for 146. Those are nice numbers, but only if they’re turned into points.
If you can run, you should be able to throw. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix didn’t fare particularly well, completing just 15 of 35 passes for 157 yards. Florida’s Kyle Trask was much better at 23 of 39 for 310 yards with two touchdowns.
Auburn averages 427.2 yards per game to rank 55th in the country. Florida ranks 60th at 416.5. A&M is between at 419.6 (57th).
A&M has the more experienced quarterback in Kellen Mond, who beat LSU last year. Mond hasn’t had a turnover in 18 quarters. Ball security would be a big plus. Auburn and Florida combined for only three turnovers, but LSU had only one. A&M can’t give the nation’s second-highest scoring team extra possessions.
Florida was 16 yards away from a tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when Trask threw an interception. Four plays later, LSU scored for a two-TD lead. That was the game’s only turnover.
LSU has been good at not beating itself this season, which makes the task harder for A&M. The Aggies, who are 0-4 against ranked teams this season, will have to pounce on any Tiger mistakes Saturday or suffer the same fate as LSU’s previous 11 opponents.