A&M: 3rd in passer rating defense in the SEC (rating of 125), 3rd in pass rush grade (Pro Football Focus)
LSU: 1st in passer rating in the SEC (rating of 196), 2nd in pass blocking grade (Pro Football Focus)
1. Texas A&M’s pass defense depends on the effectiveness of the blitzes that have become a significant part of defensive coordinator DJ Durkin’s scheme. They’re sending an extra rusher on over 50% of all drop back passes and when it works negative plays come in bunches because these extra rushers complement one of the country’s most talented defensive lines.
When it doesn’t, the best quarterbacks on A&M’s schedule have gotten to the back end of the defense in a hurry. The Aggies have faced three passers ranked in the top 20 nationally and they combined for nearly 1,100 yards, a 67% completion rate, and ten scores.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels He is ranked first nationally in passer rating and is the current favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
2. LSU’s spread offense uses a lot of RPOs because they’ve probably got the best decision maker in college football at quarterback Jayden Daniels. They throw a lot off of play action (especially short routes near the line of scrimmage) and Daniels’ ability to keep his eyes upfield translates into a lot of long ball opportunities. Not only that, Daniels’ elusiveness means that it’s almost impossible to get him on the ground when things start to break down and staying in your rush lanes is no guarantee of slowing him down.
3. A&M End Shemar Turner (31 pressures) has a high win rate (over 10%, one of the best figures in the SEC) because he can play with bend even though he’s over 300 pounds. He’s a much better rusher working from the offense’s right side against right tackles (who generally lack the foot speed of most guys on the left side). Turner also has a motor and doesn’t stop coming even after contact. A&M has also given them more space via wider alignments. Sending numbers helps backer Edgerrin Cooper (23 pressures) and end Fadil Diggs find advantageous matchups versus backs or fouls up protections.
4. LSU’s Will Campbell is an upper echelon pass blocker who can keep rushers at bay with his length and mirror them with his footwork. However, he has gotten more handsy this season and has four penalties. The middle of the line has improved at staying in front of people and it helps that rushers tend to be more cognizant of staying in their lanes when facing Daniels.
5. A&M’s secondary has been up and down and really depends on quarterbacks being planted or having off days because the blitzes put them in so much man coverage. Corner Tyreek Chappell has recovery speed and is physical. Deuce Harmon you have settled in at the opposite corner and are equally aggressive. Everyone in the secondary has to be able to keep people in front of them and that includes Daniels when he breaks the line of scrimmage.
6. LSU’s Malik Nabers (80 receptions, 18 yards per reception, 12 scores) is fast on deep routes, can break off shorter ones to gain yards after the catch, and adjusts to the ball in the air. Outside receiver Brian Thomas has more touchdowns and a higher average per reception than Nabers because he’ll track downfield throws better than the defenders he is facing.
7. A&M can either get people in the box and blitz or play two high and try to prevent big plays. Only Alabama has really slowed down Daniels at all and the Tide’s pass rush was a factor (but they were able to play two high looks behind it). A&M has shown it can do both versus outmanned teams but not against the better quarterbacks on their schedule. It will be interesting to see which way they play the Tigers and if how quickly they can shift gears if their initial strategy doesn’t succeed.