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January 2, 2011

The Cotton Bowl - LSU vs. Texas A&M (Part 2)

I received a number of emails and a couple of facebook comments/messages and twitter tweets/messages from both Tiger and Aggie fans.  Many of you either know or will recall that after LSU, I went to graduate school at Texas A&M where I was a graduate assistant in the history department and a tutor for the football team.  My house is also divide.  My parents met while students at LSU and one of my brothers is a graduate of LSU.  My wife of more than 20 years completed her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M.  If these two teams were not meeting in the Cotton Bowl, I would be cheering for both teams to win.

Here are some of the things that my Aggie friends are saying:
  • Texas A&M's Defensive coordinator has made brilliant adjustments throughout the season. Don't forget that A&M held a very strong rushing team - Nebraska - to two field goals. 
   This is certainly true.  Nebraska has the 9th ranked rushing offense in the country.  LSU has the 30th rushing offense in the nation.
  • From my facebook comment that "The LSU Tigers have landed in Dallas!" - Good to hear that the visiting team has arrived.  You should mention that this will be a home game for the Aggies.
I do not entirely agree with this one.  Texas/Dallas is Aggie country but Dallas is easily within driving distance of just about anywhere in Louisiana.  Dallas is closer to my hometown of Shreveport than Baton Rouge.  Plus there are a huge number of LSU fans in the Dallas metro area.  Even if it were further away, Tiger fans travel in huge numbers.  In short, I don't expect there to be a clear fan numbers advantage for the Aggies.  In my house, there will be an even number of Aggie and Tiger fans.  My wife and I often cancel each others votes also.  I feel sure she voted for me when I ran for the BESE board (Louisiana's State School Board).  I did win Bossier Parish so she was likely among those votes.
  • Mike Sherman is clearly the better head coach.  As evidence, when the Aggies most athletic QB, Jerrod Johnson, was struggling, Sherman found a solid QB (Ryan Tannehill) that allowed A&M's offense to finish will 6 wins once the move was made.
While very few Tiger fans would agree that Sherman is a better head coach than Les Miles, many Tiger fans would agree that Miles should have found a solid starting QB to replace LSU's struggling QBs.  I am an unapologetic Les Miles fan and I stand by Miles.  Sherman is good but Miles is the best.

Many of my Aggie friends simply wrote that I had better get ready to see LSU get whipped on national TV in front of the whole world.  Those fans almost unanimously said that the Aggies were more talented and most importantly more fired up for this game.  I do not believe either of those sentiments are accurate but, that kind of talk is getting me fired up for the game.

Here are some of the things that LSU fans are saying:
  • "Bob, you are right on with your analysis about LSU's defense.  I believe that LSU's defense played a bit more flat at the end of the season because of a rough SEC schedule nicking them up.  LSU should be rested and healthy for this game.  Expect to see an aggressive and hard hitting Tiger defense in the Cotton Bowl!"
The reference to my analysis is probably from my article yesterday (Part 1).  I agree with this email comment.  Losing the speed of Sam Montgomery at defensive end and the experience of starting junior safety Brandon Taylor definitely has taken its toll on a solid and deep Tiger defense.  The lose of Taylor forced freshman Ronnie Vinson  into service.  You have to think that Taylor would have been in a better position to track down the two killer long passes in the first half of the Arkansas game.
  • Bob, I am surprised that you did not list LSU's outstanding special teams as a key factor in your "Why LSU will win the Cotton Bowl" discussion.
Punt returner Patrick Peterson has run back some punts this year, most notably the run back against a fast and talented West Virginia team.  LSU's punting has been unmatched for pinning opponents inside the 10 yard line.  LSU has an outstanding field goal kicker that rarely misses and punting and field goal teams have successfully run some very memorable trick plays.  A&M's kickoff return team is very good but the punt return team has not been all that good.  LSU's special teams play may actually be the deciding factor in the Cotton bowl.  Sorry for the over site.
  • The most talented Texans in the Cotton bowl will be in purple and gold.  Terrence Toliver, Russell Shepard, Jarrett Lee, Chancey Aghayere, Mike Brockers, and Craig Loston are all talented products of Texas high schools that will be playing for the Tigers.
All of the Texas Tigers are extremely talented as are all of the Texas Aggies.  Texas high schools produce some of the best talent in the country.  LSU has successfully recruited some of the very best of Texas eager to play in the SEC West but LSU's advantage may be in not only their top Texas and Louisiana players but in great players from other states like Patrick Peterson from Florida or Kelvin Shepard from Georgia.  LSU's talent net has spread wider than just Louisiana or Texas.

A few LSU friends are concerned that the Tigers will not be fired up for this game considering that many Tiger players realize how close they came to a spot in the BCS National Championship.  I have got to believe that the Tigers are going to be fired up at playing a top Texas A&M team that should challenge for the Big 12 championship and possibly the national championship for the next few years.  LSU still has yet to play to their potential this year.  LSU quarterbacks will need a strong performance to keep that position next year with the arrival of Zach Mettenberger so this will be the time to pull out their "A" game.

All of the above is just talk.  Some of it is toned down (or not so toned down) trash talk.  The proof of these statements will all be provided this Friday.  I can't wait until the game!  

I noticed on the official Cotton Bowl website that the Aggies are winning a fan poll predicting who will win the Cotton Bowl.  You may want to visit the site and vote. The poll is in the right-hand column under "Action Poll."

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