LSU-Texas A&M Preview
Les Miles knows that LSU might not get away with settling for field goals against a Texas A&M team coming off a 59-point performance.
After grinding out a high-stakes, 23-21 home victory over previously unbeaten South Carolina, the sixth-ranked Tigers' road doesn't get any easier with Saturday's visit to College Station.
The 11 a.m. kickoff could be the start of a long day if LSU's defense isn't sharp against freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies' prolific offense.
"I hope we can contain (Manziel)," Miles said. "The good thing is that our defense will be one of the fastest he will have seen. Hopefully we will use a style of pressure that's most effective. At times it's going to be coverage and keeping him in the pocket, and other times, hopefully we can get to him.''
The 20th-ranked Aggies have won five consecutive games since losing to current No. 3 Florida 20-17 in their season opener. In four of the victories, Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC) scored at least 48 points, and it's coming off a 59-57 shootout win at then-No. 23 Louisiana Tech.
Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 576 yards against the Bulldogs. He ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns while completing 24 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns.
Manziel has 2,356 yards of total offense, though after playing his first four games without an interception, he's thrown three in the past two weeks.
"He has only played six games, so I do not think anyone expects him to be (perfect) - he has only played six games as a freshman," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "I think he will be the first to tell you he is working to get better every game."
One thing Sumlin will certainly want to see change is his team's lack of discipline. Texas A&M was penalized 19 times for 165 yards against the Bulldogs, the highest total in both categories for an SEC team since 1999.
The Aggies certainly can't afford many self-inflicted wounds against LSU. Led by star defensive end Barkevious Mingo, the Tigers are limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 92.9 rating - fourth-lowest in the nation - while ranking behind only No. 1 Alabama in passing yards allowed (131.0 per game).
The other side of the ball has been a different story. LSU (6-1, 2-1) had four drives that reached at least the South Carolina 15 yard-line but did not produce touchdowns. Drew Alleman attempted four field goals, making three.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has completed just 46.0 percent of his passes the past two weeks against Florida and the Gamecocks, totaling two interceptions and connecting on just one of five passes in the red zone.
"We have to take care of our responsibilities (inside the 20)," Miles said. "We can't turn the ball over. We have to execute well. Our guys are more understanding that we're getting down there so often and not coming away with 7s. We are normally getting 3s. That has to change.''
Building on a strong rushing performance in which LSU overcame the loss of three starters on its offensive line could help. Freshman Jeremy Hill had 124 rushing yards against the Gamecocks, 50 of which came on a victory-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.
By beating South Carolina, LSU remained one game behind Alabama and Mississippi State in the SEC West. After playing Texas A&M, the Tigers will have a week off, giving them two weeks to prepare for a highly anticipated matchup with the Crimson Tide.
Of course, the stakes won't be quite as high for LSU if it can't slow down the Aggies, who are in their first season of SEC play after coming over from the Big 12.
"We'll look very forward to playing Texas A&M at Kyle Field,'' said Miles, whose team forced four turnovers in beating the Ryan Tannehill-led Aggies 41-24 in the 2011 Cotton Bowl. "The early morning game, I think we'll also look forward to that, get in and get it going."
This is Texas A&M's lone game in College Station during a stretch of five of six on the road.