A chance to pad his already stellar Heisman resume, Johnny Manziel leads the No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies against the No. 18 LSU Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium.
The 8-2 Aggies are likely out of the running for the SEC championship game, but can change the conference landscape with a win on Saturday and another at Missouri next week. Alabama and Missouri lead the SEC East and West divisions, respectively, and the two should meet in the title game unless Manziel and the Aggies have anything to say about it.
Three losses this season is the worst mark for the Tigers since 2009, when they finished 9-4 and second in the SEC West standings, but they could play a spoiler role on Manziel’s run for a second straight Heisman Trophy.
Manziel is tops in the SEC in passing yardage (3,313) and touchdowns (31), is only passer in the conference to average 300-plus passing yards per game, and his work in the losses to Alabama and Auburn could be reason enough for voters to give him the award.
Alas, the A&M defense and its struggles against ranked opponents this year could sour Manziel’s chances. The Aggies let up an average of 47 points and 591.5 total offensive yards, including 306.5 rushing yards to the Crimson Tide and the Tigers.
LSU will look to slow Manziel and the nation’s fifth highest scoring offense with their powerful running game, spearheaded by sophomore running back Jeremy Hill. In five games this season Hill has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yardage, and he’s second in the SEC with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Tigers defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and defensive end Jermauria Rasco, along with cornerback Jalen Mills have each tallied 3.0 sacks this season, and will also play a huge role in any attempts to shutdown Manziel.
However LSU has proven to be vulnerable in the red zone, ranking 11 th in the SEC with opponents scoring on 87.5 percent of their trips.
They’ll also have to takedown Aggies running back Ben Malena, and top receivers Mike Evans and Malcome Kennedy. As Manziel’s top target, the sophomore Evans exploded this season for 1,263 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns off 57 interceptions. Malena has come on as a solid complement to Manziel, gaining 476 yards and nine touchdowns as well.
As for the LSU offense, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and receiver Odell Beckham will try to pick up where Hill leaves off. Enjoying his best season in Baton Rouge, Mettenberger’s completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,733 yards and 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions, though five of the picks have come in the Tigers last three games.
Beckham could give Aggies defensive backs Howard Matthews and Deshazor Everett headaches all afternoon. The junior’s tallied five 100-plus yard games this year, including a 204-yard, two touchdown outburst against Furman last month, and leads the SEC with 20.6 yards per catch.
Matthews and Everett have accounted for five of A&M’s 15 interceptions this year.
Betting Odds: LSU favored by 5.5 points
Over/Under: 72 points
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Where To Watch Online: CBS Sports online here
Prediction: Texas A&M 40, LSU 33