LSU needs to beat Texas A&M for a myriad of reasons.
First, LSU can salvage a respectable 8-3 campaign and get itself into a quality bowl game. Ending the season on a positive note would also be a good accomplishment for a young team. But the biggest reason extends far beyond this season.
LSU’s Les Miles could be coaching his final game at Tiger Stadium this weekend. Many reports suggested he could be fired before this game, but Miles has made it to the weekend, and the way his team finishes the season could still have an effect on his future with the program.
Here’s what you need to know about the regular-season finale:
Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC) at LSU (7-3, 4-3 SEC)
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Weather: 78 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
Line: LSU -5.5 (Caesar’s Palace)
By the numbers
21.8 – Texas A&M ranks 34th in the nation with 21.8 points allowed per game under first-year defensive coordinator and former LSU assistant John Chavis. The Aggies have improved dramatically on defense with Chavis at the helm. Texas A&M surrendered nearly a touchdown more per game last season.
216 – LSU has yielded 216 passing yards per game this season under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, which ranks 55th in the nation. That number has increased significantly from last season. LSU, which is widely regarded as “DBU” for its standout play in the secondary, allowed only 164.2 passing yards per game last year under Chavis — the third-best mark in the nation.
76.7 – LSU tailback Leonard Fournette has averaged a 76.7 rushing yards per game during LSU’s three-game skid, which is solid for some backs but mediocre by his lofty standards. LSU’s offensive line has succumbed against a few quality front sevens and has not given Fournette much room to run lately. One thing Chavis hasn’t fixed is A&M’s run defense. The Aggies rank 105th in the nation with an average of 202.5 rushing yards allowed per game.
Storylines to watch
Les Miles’ finale?
Will there be another chapter in the Miles era, or will he be coaching his final game at Tiger Stadium this weekend? That will be the biggest question throughout the game.
Miles 110-32 record over 11 seasons should speak for itself, but this season’s collapse does not have boosters and program insiders happy. If the Tigers start off slowly and go whimpering into the night, Miles could be fired by Sunday.
The return of Chavis
Miles will have to beat his former coordinator and friend in an attempt to save his job this weekend. Chavis served on Miles’ staff from 2009-14 but left abruptly after a reported contract dispute with athletic director Joe Alleva. Chavis will make his first appearance in Baton Rouge, La., since then and will certainly have his defense ready and motivated for the Tigers.
LSU will have to win Saturday’s game without its second-leading receiver, Travin Dural. The junior wideout sustained a torn hamstring last weekend against Ole Miss. However, Miles didn’t appear too concerned about replacing Dural.
“We’ll have plenty of guys,” Miles said. “We’ll fill his position very capably.”
Freshman Tyron Johnson could be the guy who steps up to replace Dural. Johnson caught five passes for 83 yards and a touchdown last weekend in Dural’s place. Sophomore John Diarse also could get in the mix.
LSU’s passing game was rather stagnant even with Dural, but it will need to find a way to replace his production on Saturday.
Fournette finishes strong?
LSU has fallen along with Fournette’s production. Fournette has run for 230 yards and two touchdowns during LSU’s collapse and hasn’t had much room to work with lately. The good news is he could conclude the season with a very strong performance against Texas A&M, which has been quite generous to opposing running backs this season.
Alabama tailback Derrick Henry greatly improved his standing in the Heisman Trophy race with his 236-yard and two-touchdown outing against the Aggies in the middle of the season. Fournette could replicate those numbers in the regular-season finale.