BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Another season filled with memorable scrambles, long touchdown throws and gaudy statistics has Johnny Manziel in contention for a second straight Heisman Trophy.
It could come down to how well Manziel plays in two tough road games at the end of the regular season, starting this Saturday with Texas A&M’s visit to LSU’s Tiger Stadium.
“Performances by our complete team and by him to close out the season are going to have a lot to say about awards for all kinds of folks and where we’re going to be in the bowl conversation,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlim surmised this week.
The final two weeks will say a lot about how good the Aggies (8-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) really are. After visiting LSU (7-3, 3-3), which is 5-0 in Death Valley, Manziel and Co. travel to SEC East-leading Missouri.
No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 18 LSU are already out of the SEC championship picture, but retain goals of double-digit victories and significant bowl bids — the hallmarks of elite programs.
Sumlin, who has never coached at Tiger Stadium, recalled seeing LSU coach Les Miles on television after big home victories, saying that Death Valley is the place where opponents’ “dreams come to die.”
“We’re trying to keep our dreams alive,” Sumlin said.
The Tigers are trying to help Miles become the first LSU coach to have four straight 10-win seasons, which can be accomplished with victories over A&M this week, Arkansas next week, and a bowl opponent after that.
“If we get 10 wins it will be a successful season,” running back Jeremy Hill said. “We’re still motivated. … I’m sure if we win these next two games there will be a bowl that we can get pretty excited for.”
Here are five things to watch for when Texas A&M plays at LSU:
NO COMPARISON: While the matchup features two of the top three quarterbacks in the SEC, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger scoffs at the notion that he’d try to measure himself against Manziel. “Yeah, I’m going to compare myself to a guy who’s 6-foot and runs a 4.3 (40-yard dash),” the 6-5 Mettenberger said sarcastically. “I mean, he does a lot of things I could never dream of doing and I think I can do some things he couldn’t do.” Mettenberger is the SEC’s third-leading passer with 2,733 yards and 20 TDs. Manziel ranks first with 3,313 yards and 31 TDs. He also has rushed for 611 yards and eight TDs.
ROAD SWEET ROAD: The Aggies take a 10-game road winning streak into Saturday’s game. It is the second-longest in school history and the longest since they won 11 in a row in 1939-40. The Aggies haven’t lost on the road since a four-overtime, 53-50 defeat at Kansas State on Nov. 12, 2011. Sumlin hasn’t lost on the road in 15 games, having won his last five road games as Houston’s coach before taking over at A&M. “It’s all about preparation,” offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi said. “Knowing that where we go, it’s going to be loud, so stay focused on the task at hand and win the day. It’s more fun to quiet the crowd. That’s the challenge.”
BILETNIKOFF CANDIDATES: The Aggies and Tigers each field a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the top college receiver in the nation. For A&M, it’s Mike Evans, who leads the league with 1,263 yards and 12 TDs. For LSU, it’s Odell Beckham Jr., who has 1,051 yards and eight TDs.
WHAT A START: Texas A&M has made a habit of starting fast under Sumlin. The Aggies have scored at least nine points in the first quarter of nine straight games and have scored first in 22 of 23 games. They’ve also scored on their first offensive series in 18 of 23 games, with 17 touchdowns.
SHOOTOUT?: LSU ranks a respectable fourth in total defense, allowing 353.7 yards per game, while Texas A&M ranks last, yielding 454.4. But LSU’s inexperienced defense has struggled against some of the SEC’s most explosive offenses, giving up 525 yards to Mississippi and 494 to Georgia. So the potential for a high-scoring game exists.
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