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Manziel faces LSU defense that starts fast

Brett Davis/US Presswire

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel ranks second nationally with 392.7 yards of total offense per game this season.

In a matchup of ranked teams Saturday afternoon, the No. 18 Texas A&M Aggies host the No. 6 LSU Tigers in College Station, Texas (Noon ET: ESPN, WatchESPN, & ESPN3D). The Tigers arrive on the heels of a 23-21 win over then No. 3 South Carolina, their second of five straight games against teams currently in the Top 20 of the BCS standings.

Texas A&M comes in with some momentum of its own having won five straight games following a season-opening loss to Florida. In its two-point win over Louisiana Tech last weekend, Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel racked up an SEC-record 576 yards of total offense. It topped the previous record of 557 yards he put up earlier this season against Arkansas.

On the year, Manziel leads all FBS freshman in total offense per game (392.7) and a lot of it has to do with his legs. Manziel has gained 475 of his SEC-high 676 rush yards on scrambles this season, 90 more yards scrambling than noted runners Collin Klein, Denard Robinson, and Braxton Miller combined.

FBS Total Offense Leaders
Freshmen This Season

Overall, Manziel leads the SEC in yards per rush (10.3), touchdowns (seven), and 20-yard rushes (nine) on scramble attempts this season. Against LSU, however, Manziel and the Aggies will be facing a stout defense that doesn’t take long to get things rolling.

Seven games in, the Tigers have allowed just one touchdown, 10 points, and an FBS-low 191 yards in the first quarter (27.3 YPG). South Carolina managed just 23 yards in the first quarter last week and it didn’t get much better from there, particularly for Marcus Lattimore. The LSU defense held Lattimore to 35 yards on 13 carries, the fewest yards he’s gained in a single game since the 2010 Peach Bowl against Florida State.

The Tigers also got their own running game on track against South Carolina, rushing for 258 yards as a team after a 42-yard performance against Florida a week earlier. Another performance like that bodes well for LSU as it has won 16-straight games in which it has rushed for 200 yards or more.

LSU Passing Through 1st 7 Games

On Saturday, the numbers say Texas A&M can afford to focus on stopping that Tigers ground game due to the inconsistent play by quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Mettenberger has more passing yards through seven games than the duo of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson had last season, but he’s completed a lower percentage of passes and has half as many touchdowns.

The root of Mettenberger’s recent struggles has been throwing the ball downfield. He has completed just 14.3 percent of his pass attempts thrown 15 yards or more downfield against SEC opponents this season after completing 78.6 percent of such throws in non-conference play. Against those SEC foes, he has an interception and has yet to throw a touchdown on such passes.

Should those struggles continue and the Aggies pull the upset, it would continue a remarkable start for Kevin Sumlin. He’s the first head coach to start 5-1 or better in his first six games at Texas A&M since Dana Bible in 1917 (8-0). That’s something Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, Jackie Sherrill and R.C. Slocum all failed to accomplish in their debuts in College Station.