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January 5, 2011

The Cotton Bowl - LSU vs. Texas A&M (Part 5)

With the Cotton Bowl just two days away things are getting exciting for Tiger and Aggie fans everywhere.  I am sure the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan area is starting to swell with excited people clad in purple and gold and maroon and white.  This close to the game feels like a good time to start comparing the relative strengths of players at key positions. Here are my thoughts on the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterbacks.  Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill appear to be more successful versions of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.  I say "appear to be" because I strongly believe that playing in the SEC and particularly in the SEC West this year is much more difficult than playing just about anywhere else in the country. Even with such stout and quick defenses LSU's quarterback play has been extremely spotty and that is being kind.  While the Aggies Jerrod Johnson is a much better runner and probably a better all around athlete than Tannehill, Tannehill has proven to be a better decision maker in the pocket and a more efficient passer.  I have read several reports, Mike Sherman midway through the season realized that Jerrod Johnson had not returned to full form  so Sherman opted for a less athletically gifted, but more level headed, Tannehill.  There are reports today in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Jordan Jefferson has made great strides since the end of the season but until we see that show up on the field, Texas A&M has proven producing talent at the quarterback position:  Advantage Aggies.

Running Backs.  Both teams have a 1000 + yard rushers.  A&M's Cyrus Gray rushed for 1033 yards and LSU's Stevan Ridley rushed for 1042 yards.  Gray split time with a strong running back named Christine Michael most of the year who broke his leg and is not expected to play in the Cotton bowl.  While Ridley had a lion's share of the carries for the Tigers this year, five other players got quality carries.  Richard Murphy, Micheal Ford, Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware, and Russell Shepard could easily start at running back and may prove to make a key rushing play in the Cotton Bowl.  The Aggies are one injury away from not having a prepared starting running back.  Advantage Tigers.

Wide receivers.  Jeff Fuller, Ryan Swope, and Uzoma Nwachukwu are all talented receivers.  Cyrus Gray also catches the ball really well out of the backfield.  The Aggies lost a solid wide receiver when they moved Tannehill from receiver to quarterback.  Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randle, and Russell Shepard are the three best under-performing wide receivers in the nation.  The Tigers also have a load of talented receivers waiting in the wings.  The receivers have had a few drops and maybe could have made a few more tough catches but if the LSU receivers can get some solid quarterback play, the Tiger offense could dominate any team.  Because of a lack of solid quarterback play: Slight Advantage Aggies.  Though I did not include tight ends in the receiving discussion, DeAngelo Peterson could easily tip this game back to advantage Tigers.  This receiving category is hard to call.

Offensive Line.  Both Texas A&M and LSU have solid offensive lines which has led to few sacks and strong rushing from both teams.  Much of the story of Texas A&M's success can be attributed to a very young line maturing and learning to work together.  LSU began the year with an inexperienced but tight-nit group that by all reports were set to live up to high expectations and on the first play of the season offensive guard Will Blackwell broke his leg.  The Tigers still proved to be a much improved offensive line.  Many Tigers still wonder what might have been had Will Blackwell been blocking Auburn's Nick Fairley instead of back up center T-Bob Hebert.  Blackwell is more than 20 pounds heavier than Hebert and Hebert was pushed around all day by Fairley.  To contain today's SEC defensive linemen you have to weigh at least 300lbs and and have good strength and agility.  Blackwell's return to 100% for the Cotton Bowl is why I have to give the lean here to  the Tigers.

I expect the Cotton Bowl to most like be won by which ever team is able to running most effectively.  In my opinion that team will be LSU.  But this game could go either way.

I was sorry to learn that my prediction from this mornings article about Rich Rod being fired came true.  ESPN is reporting that Michigan has not contacted Les Miles.  Michigan would be lucky to get Miles but I feel certain that Les Miles realizes that he is home in Baton Rouge and he has very many truly special years left at LSU.  I have never faltered in my support for Coach Miles and I hope he remains loyal to the Bayou Bengals.  Stay away Michigan, Miles is enroute to becoming LSU's best coach ever, the SEC's best coach ever and the Nation's best coach ever.  It is a tall order but, his best shot at achieving these goals is at LSU.

On a final note - I am watching the Under Armour game on ESPN and can't wait to see Jarvis Landry in purple and gold next year.


Anonymous said...

I will be very surprised if Jefferson does not play very well in the Cotton Bowl..And our LSU defense will be very ready to play hard and smart ..I am looking forward to seeing a great effort by our fighting tigers.

Gold Star Tickets said...

I think cotton bowls best for playing to win the game. It is very comfortable to play with cotton bowl rather than cork bowls.

I am also looking forward to seeing a great effort by our fighting tigers.

Wish you all the best........

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