SHREVEPORT, LA (AP) – Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech were supposed to meet to open the season, when neither team was ranked in the Top 25.
On Saturday in Shreveport, La., when the Aggies and Bulldogs play their game that was postponed on Aug. 30 because of Hurricane Isaac, both teams are ranked and ready to move up.
For No. 22 A&M (4-1), freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has become a breakout star who leads one of the nation’s top offenses. No. 23 Louisiana Tech (5-0), meanwhile, has earned a national ranking for the first time since 1999 thanks to its best start since 1975.
The Bulldogs are looking for their first win over the Aggies after losing all 10 games in the series.
“I see a better team,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said when asked to compare Louisiana Tech from the first time they were scheduled to play until now. “They are not going to be intimidated by us one bit and they shouldn’t be … they’ve played in big football games and this is a chance for them to make a statement on national TV so we are going to get their best shot.”
Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes has worked to keep his team, which has a nation-best 12-game regular-season winning streak, from looking ahead to the Aggies. Now that it’s here, he thinks the Bulldogs are ready for the challenge.
“Our guys have some confidence and we know what is ahead of us Saturday and I do not think any of us are afraid of Texas A&M,” Dykes said. “We understand we are going to have to play well, but that is in our hands.”
It’s likely to be a shootout with these teams combining to average more than 1,000 yards of offense a game.
Louisiana Tech knows the experience Manziel has gained in A&M’s five games, including three against Southeastern Conference opponents, will make him — and the rest of the team — much more difficult to deal with.
“The negative is we are not catching them early,” Dykes said. “They are playing well and executing well. They are settled in their quarterback position. They are just a football team that has a lot of confidence right now.”
Louisiana Tech’s top task will be trying to contain Manziel. The dual-threat quarterback is averaging 356 yards of total offense.
“It is difficult to let a quarterback just stand back there all day,” Dykes said. “They have good receivers and we have to pick our poison and mix it up a little bit and show them different looks and try to get him confused and maybe a little bit uncomfortable.”
He’s coming off a rough outing against Mississippi where he had three of A&M’s season-high six turnovers. But the Aggies like the way he shook off his struggles.
“We had six, so it was an overall problem,” Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. “We have to be more careful with the football and take care of it.”
Manziel will face a defense which is allowing 531 yards a game — second most in the country. But the Bulldogs have remained undefeated thanks to a prolific offense that takes care of the ball and a defense that forces turnovers.
Louisiana Tech has lost the ball just four times this season and has 15 takeaways for the second-best turnover margin in the country behind top-ranked Alabama.
Louisiana Tech is third in scoring at more than 53 points per game, and the Aggies know better than to underestimate a team with designs on being this year’s BCS-buster.
“They’re very explosive,” Texas A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. “We’re going to have to come out ready to play. You can’t just look at this team and say: `Oh, it’s Louisiana Tech,’ and expect it to be a cakewalk. We’re going to have to fight all four quarters and have to be very prepared to win this game.”
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