Looking forward to Thanksgiving night’s LSU Tigers vs Texas A&M Aggies matchup at Kyle Field, we visited with Cameron Roberson, reporter at Death Valley Voice, the LSU fan site on the Fansided network. Cameron answered questions about LSU’s expectations, the quarterback battle in Baton Rouge, the next emerging NFL prospects and gives his predictions. Thanks Cameron and enjoy the preview Aggie fans!
Here’s the reciprocating Q&A McDonald had with Death Valley Voice.
Gig ‘Em Gazette (GEG): LSU started the season with another non-conference win against a big-time opponent in Wisconsin. Since then it’s been topsy-turvy. The Tigers will not reach the 10-win plateau this year. Does this meet expectations for LSU?
Death Valley Voice (DVV): It probably doesn’t meet the expectations for most fans, but many in the media pegged LSU anywhere from 7-5 to 9-3 and that’s right where the Tigers will finish. Most knew that the offense was going to have massive growing pains (just look at what last year’s offense is doing in the NFL right now with Mettenberger, Landry, Beckham Jr., Hill, and Blue) but I don’t think we expected this much turmoil at the QB position. It’s been an abject disaster with no real growth the past 8 weeks.
GEG: Your fans seem to want Brandon Harris at quarterback while the coaching staff seems pleased with Anthony Jennings. Who will we see Thanksgiving night, or will we see both? Can you describe the Tiger Nation’s thoughts on the QB battle?
DVV: Miles had said in weeks prior that Harris would get game reps, but he hasn’t seen the field in weeks. At this point, its safe to assume Anthony Jennings will carry the load again. It appears that the coaching staff still does not trust Harris enough to run the offense. It’s been said that Jennings is an excellent preparer—spending more time in the film room than Harris and just giving more in practice. Harris has more ability, but until he can show the coaches he can run the show, he’ll find himself on the bench. I think, though, if Jennings struggles mightily we might finally see Harris, but that’s a slim chance given how poorly Jennings has played recently.
LSU fans are rightfully steamed about the quarterback situation. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been an abject disaster. There has been little growth, and the presumed favorite for the future (Harris) has seen little playing time since a disastrous start at Auburn early in the season. The coaching staff should bear the blame for how the quarterbacks have or haven’t advanced. There’s no excuse for not getting Harris more work in light of Jennings awful play. If they’ve not prepared Harris to the point at which he can play, they’ve failed at getting him ready. It’s painfully obvious that even with Harris presumed unpreparedness, he will be the LSU starter in the future. Keeping reps from him at this point is only hampering quarterback development further and could have negative consequences in 2015.
GEG: LSU has one of the toughest defenses to score against while Texas A&M can put up a lot of points. What’s going to give and how can the Tigers slow down this fast-break offense similar to Mississippi State’s?
DVV: Against Mississippi State, I don’t think LSU was quite ready for their type of spread offense. The Tigers had a young defensive line with little depth going up against a spread team that specializes in running the ball right up the middle. Dak Prescott’s size and RB Robinson ran right through LSU.
A&M poses a different threat, one that LSU is much better equipped for. LSU has the best secondary in the conference and maybe the country. John Chavis shut down Johnny Manziel both times the Aggies faced the Tigers, so much so that the LSU games were easily Manziel’s worst of his career. Without Manziel, LSU’s defensive line lead by speedy DE Danielle Hunter will try to tee-off on A&M’s less agile QB this year. I think the matchup heavily favors LSU in that they’re so adept at defending the pass and getting to the quarterback. Chavis’ past success against A&M also tilts the matchup in LSU’s favor.
GEG: LSU loses talent to the NFL every year it seems, especially the last two seasons. Who are three players on the Tiger roster that Aggie fans should see as the next big thing out of Baton Rouge?
DVV: This should, hopefully, be a lighter year for LSU early entrants. DE Danielle Hunter has really turned the corner this year and will most likely enter the draft. He’s not quite Barkevious Mingo (now with the Browns), but is in the same mold. Safety Jalen Mills may turn pro, but not necessarily because of improvement but because of possibly impending legal issues, plus youngsters pushing him for time. He won’t be a high draft pick, but he could be an NFL starter. He won’t be an early entrant, but LSU’s highest NFL pick this coming season will be LT La’El Collins. LSU scored a major coup when he elected to come back for his senior season, anchoring an offensive line that has turned into a major strength. Collins looks like a top-5 pick and will anchor an NFL line next season.
GEG: Texas A&M replaces Arkansas as the Thanksgiving weekend game for LSU, and it’s on Thanksgiving night. Are LSU fans excited about a Thanksgiving night game? Do they consider this a rival game?
DVV: I think this is going to grow into a rivalry that the Arkansas game only dreamed of for LSU fans. While Arkansas ruined their fair share of LSU seasons and was far more competitive than it should have been, LSU fans never truly could drum up hate for the Razorbacks. It was a rivalry for them for sure, but LSU never quite took it seriously (that goes for the team as well, see last week’s pitiful effort). LSU and A&M have a good amount of history, having been a regular game off and on throughout the years and I think the teams could forge a fantastic hate-fest. With Texas scared to play A&M ever again in anything, I think it could be a big game for Aggie fans as well. I’m excited for this being the new season anchor at the end of the year, LSU needs a yearly rivalry game that really gets the blood boiling.
As far as it being on Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure every LSU fan hates it, fanning that rivalry fire even more. Most look at it as a failure of our athletic director and a concession solely to A&M so they could keep a Thanksgiving game. I think, though, it works as games in College Station will allow A&M to continue their Thanksgiving day tradition, while LSU will get to play Baton Rouge games at night on Saturday, keeping LSU’s tradition of home games at night on Saturday intact. That was never an option for the Arkansas game, as CBS routinely slotted into the Friday afternoon game. While no LSU fan will like playing on Thanksgiving, I’m sure no Aggie fan wants to face LSU at night on a Saturday, so I think this is a win for both sides.
GEG: What are the top three keys for LSU to win this game?
DVV: 1. Continue to play stellar pass defense and limit big plays in the passing game. 2. Get the running game going early to shorten the game and wear down the defense. 3. Don’t let big plays happen which could turn the game into a scoring fest. If this one starts to get high-scoring, the odds tilt decisively in A&M’s favor.
GEG: Final score prediction?
DVV: Unfortunately for A&M, I think this one plays into all of LSU’s strengths. Last week, Missouri gashed the defense for over 300 yards rushing and they don’t have anything close to the stable of running backs LSU has. LSU is going to run, run, run, and run some more. I also think LSU’s defense is particularly suited to slowing Kevin Sumlin’s offense, as it has the past two years. As long as LSU does not come out with the same lack of fire an intensity they had at Arkansas, this could be a fairly easily win for LSU. I’ll take the visitors 27-17.
Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports