No. 17 Texas A&M Aggies (9-3, 8-4 ATS) vs. No. 11 LSU Tigers (10-2, 5-6 ATS), Cotton Bowl, Friday, January 7th, 8:00PM Eastern Cowboys Stadium Arlington, T.X.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Texas A&M +1/Louisiana State -1
Over/Under Total: 48
The no. 17 Texas A&M Aggies were among the hottest teams in the nation during the 2nd half of the season. The Aggies not only won 6 straight games, but they also knocked off two top ten ranked teams during that stretch. The Aggies just narrowly missed out on a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship, but still have a chance to reach the 10 wins mark for the first time in over a decade. The Aggies will meet the no. 11 LSU Tigers at the magnificent Cowboys Stadium in the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl has historically fielded teams from both the Big 12 and SEC in highly ranked match-ups. Outside of the BCS Bowl pairings, this year’s Cotton Bowl just may be the most intriguing postseason match-up on the horizon.
Texas A&M’s year turned when Coach Mike Sherman turned to star WR Ryan Tannehill to lead the offense at the quarterback position. Tannehill, a former high school standout originally recruited to play quarterback, took over the quarterback position following a recent 3 game losing streak. However, Tannehill responded by throwing for a school record 449 yards in his first start behind center. Since that point, the Aggies have been a very effective offense and the Aggies have been undefeated with Tannehill behind center. In just 6 games, Tannehill threw for 1,947 yards with 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Wide receivers Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope have combined for 1,700 receiving yards this season. Fuller has especially been on of the offenses’ top playmakers catching 12 touchdown passes and racking up just less than 1,000 receiving yards.
Outside of the Aggies new found faith in the passing game, running back Cyrus Gray has really been the guy responsible for the Aggies hot streak. Gray has eclipsed the century mark in rushing in each of the Aggies 6 wins to close out the season while averaging a healthy 140 yards per game during that stretch. Not only has Gray ran the ball very well, but the offense has had great support from their defense during the 2nd half of the season which has kept the Aggies in good field position. The Texas A&M offense will go against possibly the best defense out of the SEC this season in LSU when the two collide in the Cotton Bowl. Therefore, it will be critical that the Aggies continue to win the field position battle and keep the Tigers dismal offense on the long side of the field.
Despite a struggling offense, Coach Les Miles found ways for his LSU Tigers to win football game this year. LSU ranked a miserable 92nd in total offense this season averaging just 332 yards per game. However with the help of one of the best defenses in the nation and a strong running game, the Tigers managed to post a stellar 10-2 record. Still despite their stellar record, LSU never really got a ton of respect this season from the media. The reason could have possibly stemmed from 5 victories that were settled by a touchdown or less and the Tigers struggling with some “average” opponents. Still when the smoke cleared on the 2010 season, the Tigers were one of the best teams from the most prestigious conference in football.
When the Tigers take the field at Cowboys Stadium, expect to see a lot of running back Stevan Ridley. Ridley racked up 1042 rushing yards this season with 14 touchdowns on the ground. The Tigers had all types of problems out of quarterback Jordan Jefferson who threw just 4 touchdown passes along with 9 interceptions. Due to those inconsistencies, the Tigers kept the football on the ground and made Ridley the workhorse on offense. When the Tigers face the Aggies inside Cowboys Stadium, Coach Miles may try to attack the Aggies secondary which game up over 240 yards per game this season.
Wide receivers Rueban Randle and Terrence Toliver are big time players even though their statistics will not reflect it due to the offenses’ passing troubles. However, the Tigers may still attempt to throw the ball down field in attempt to make some big plays in the passing game especially early in the contest. The question will be how Jefferson handles throwing the football down field? If Jefferson continues to struggle, expect the Tigers to resort back to their running attack. Coach Miles has a ton of faith in his defense and will keep the ball on the ground if the Tigers are not able to get Jefferson in any kind of rhythm. If that happens, this game could turn out to be more of a defensive game than most might predict.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Under 48 .