LSU’s hopes of playing in the Sugar Bowl were dashed last week, as the Tigers and their beloved interim head coach Ed Orgeron lost a heart-breaker to Florida. An undermanned Gator team walked right into Tiger Stadium, and took advantage of sloppy play by the LSU offense.
Derrius Guice coughed up a critical fumble in the 1st half inside the 5 yard line; and on the very next play, Florida QB Austin Appleby threw up a deep touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland for an unbelievable 98-yard score.
LSU had a chance to tie the game at 10, but the special teams unit had a mental laps and botched the snap.
Add a muffed kick return by Donte Jackson to the comedy of errors, and suddenly LSU had shot itself in the foot too many times — and found themselves and everybody else asking; What the hell just happened?
Here is what we do actually know: the air of uncertainty. LSU is looking at finishing unranked after starting the season in the Top 10.
The two biggest question marks facing the team going in to next season are head coach and quarterback.
Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron walks off the field following the Alabama Crimson Tide 10-0 win over the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Turnover seems to be the key word for the Tigers currently. The current staff is in for changes for sure, and we know that LSU is primed to lose at least 10 starters to the NFL in 2017.
Before the game is even played this week, A&M has scored a big victory over LSU by flipping 4 star WR recruit Jhamon Ausbon.
Tiger fans know all too well about losing big recruits thanks to uncertainty at the head coaching position and the future of the program, which happened already with QB Felipe Franks.
Texas A&M 8-3 (4-3) is in survival mode after they lost starting QB Trevor Knight to a season ending shoulder injury.
Junior QB Jake Hubenak filled in admirably in a loss to Ole Miss and last week against UTSA, going 19/32 for 248 yards with 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions.
Nov 12, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Jake Hubenak (10) looks for an open receiver during the first quarter against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Some reports suggest Hubenak is also dealing with an injury to his throwing shoulder and it is rumored that red shirt Senior Conner McQueen and Freshman Nick Starkel could both see action if Hubenak is unable to go.
Lets not kid ourselves: UTSA is not LSU and none of the Aggie QB’s are Trevor Knight. If Knight were playing this game, the chips would be stacked heavily against the Tigers.
Unlike last week, I am not so high on this team beating a backup QB like I was with Austin Appleby taking the snaps for Florida. Quarterback aside, the Aggies are a much healthier team than Florida was and LSU got taken to the proverbial “woodshed” by a depleted Gator roster.
Texas A&M star defender, Myles Garrett has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, but looks to play. A projected top 5 pick in next year’s NFL draft, Garrett will pose problems for the Tiger offense. Even in a ‘down season’, Garrett has registered 14 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks.
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The Aggie defense ranks 81st in the country overall, 75th against the rush and 88th against the pass. This unit is a far cry from the juggernaut that LSU faced in the 3rd ranked Gator defense last week.
The Tiger defense will have it’s hands full with talented Aggie receivers Josh Reynolds, Christian Kirk, and Ricky Seals-Jones. Kirk is especially dangerous in the kick return game.
LSU will be without star linebacker Kendell Beckwith and will need to rely on their talented defensive line to pressure Hubenak.
Leonard Fournette will try to give it a go, but he is still dealing with his own ankle injury that will most likely require surgery in the offseason. Guice will be the primary back in Fournette cannot play.
The Aggies are looking to complete their first double digit win season (assuming a win over LSU and bowl victory) since Kevin Sumlin’s first year as head coach, when they went 11-2 in 2012. That was also the last time Texas A&M was over .500 in SEC play.
LSU is looking to win its 6th straight game against the Aggies and are almost a touchdown favorite heading in to Thursday’s Thanksgiving Night match-up.
Nov 27, 2014; College Station, TX, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) rushes during the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
FINAL ANALYSIS AND PREDICTION
Both coaches in this contest have much to prove. It is well known that Ed Orgeron is coaching for his job. It is also well known that he may have already lost his opportunity.
Kevin Sumlin is in a similar situation. His seat has been warming up, but an early winning streak cooled it off. After 3 conference losses, it is hot once again, as he is coaching for his future with the Aggies. If his squad suffers another losing conference record, Sumlin might find himself in the unemployment line come 2017.
When it is all said and done, I think that the quarterback play will decide the outcome of this game. Etling is by no means a gunslinger, but he is efficient and generally protects the football.
Meanwhile, Hubenak is still unproven and if the injury report it true, the LSU defense should feast on the inexperienced signal callers from College Station.
LSU will improve to 7-4, and will wait to see which Bowl Game invite they receive; in what in all likelihood will be Orgeron’s final game as LSU interim head coach as well as Leonard Fournette’s final game in the Purple and Gold.