AT&T Cotton Bowl keys: LSU

Here are three keys for LSU in its AT&T Cotton Bowl matchup Friday night against Texas A&M:

1. Make the Aggies go the distance: If LSU’s defense could take away a few big plays the Tigers gave up in both the Auburn and Arkansas games, they might be playing in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game on Monday night. Keeping the Aggies from striking quickly and making them drive the football the length of the field will be critical for LSU in this game. The Tigers struggled in that department at the end of the regular season.

2. Hit some plays in the passing game: Getting leading rusher Stevan Ridley back for this game after he was initially ruled ineligible was a huge win for the Tigers. But he can’t do it by himself. LSU will need to spread out that Texas A&M defense by hitting some plays in the passing game, similar to what the Tigers did in their win against Alabama. The threesome of Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard will all have opportunities to make plays down the field and need to take advantage of them. LSU had just seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions during the regular season.

3. Play with the lead: The tricky part for the Tigers is throwing the football when they want to, not when they have to. That’s going to entail playing well early and making Texas A&M play from behind. The Tigers’ comfort zone is running the ball, controlling the clock and then loading up and coming after the other team on defense. They’re completely out of their element if Jordan Jefferson is having to throw the ball to make up deficits.