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Texas A&M vs. LSU: Reviving a Rivarly

Two schools that have battled over recruits from East Texas and Louisiana for years will meet on Saturday in a game that could become one of the marquee match-ups in the new-look SEC West.

The last time these teams faced off was in the 2011 Cotton Bowl
The last time these teams faced off was in the 2011 Cotton Bowl
Chris Graythen

Despite not meeting on the field often, Texas A&M and LSU have battled on the recruiting trail for years. Each school’s recruiting classes consists primarily of home-grown talent, but every year, a handful of recruits are cherry-picked from the other’s back yard.

Looking at the current rosters, LSU has a dozen players from the Lone Star State. Most notable are one time Aggie commit S Craig Loston and true freshmen starting CB Jalen Mills. The Aggies also lost a legacy commitment to the Tigers last year when safety Corey Thompson switched the week before signing day. Conversely, there are ten "Louisianimals" suiting up for the Maroon and White, including center Patrick Lewis, middle linebacker Jonathon Stewart, defensive end Julien Obioha, and defensive back Deshazor Everett.

Becoming division foes should only intensify the battle over prized recruits. This year the Ags and Bayou Bengals are the two finalists for the best player in Texas for 2013, ATH Ricky Seals-Jones from Sealy, TX. Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin isn’t showing any signs of backing down either. He has received four verbal commitments in his 2013 class from the Pelican State, all on the defensive side of the ball.

The recruiting competition, along with the lack of an existing conference rival for either school, will be enough to turn this into a game marked on each fan bases’ calendar every year. To add to the excitement, rumors have been circulating that the SEC wants to give this game more national attention by replacing LSU’s existing game with Arkansas on Thanksgiving weekend. We know the Aggies are free that week after University of Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds took his ball and went home, refusing to play the Ags once they left the Big 12.

LSU is coming off a hard fought, emotional win over the then-number three team in the country, the South Carolina Gamecocks last week. Also, reports are that the Tigers are opting to stay in Houston Friday night, requiring a wake-up call around 5 AM to get ready and make the 90 mile trip north.

The Aggies come into this top 20 matchup with a 5-1 record after narrowly escaping in Oxford and Shreveport the past two weeks. Johnny Football Manziel has played himself into the Heisman race after already breaking the SEC record for total offense twice this year.

On the season, he is averaging 280 yards per game while throwing 14 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Impressive as that is, especially for a redshirt freshman, JFF also leads the SEC in rushing yardage with 676. He is also tied with South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore for the SEC lead with 10 rushing touchdowns.

All eyes will be on how much success Manziel can have against a fast and very physical LSU defense led by defensive end Mike Montgomery. After being shut out in the second half against a very good Florida defense, there is worry that the blue print was laid on how to stop Johnny Football.

However, it was only his first collegiate start, so there should be optimism for how well he has progressed, especially as a passer, and how much more the playbook will be open for him. The most intriguing matchup may be between two future NFL offensive lineman, Luke Joeckel and Jake Mathews, and two future NFL defensive ends, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. The Aggies will need to have some success early throwing the football to help open the run up as the game goes on. It is absolutely crucial that they protect the football and drastically cut down on the 19 penalties that plagued them last week.

LSU, on the other hand, has struggled this year offensively. That is until freshman Jeremy Hill burst onto the scene last week with 17 carries for 124 yards and 2 scores against the Gamecocks. Junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger has struggled to find a rhythm and has only thrown 6 touchdowns with 4 interceptions. The key for the Aggie defense will be stopping all four of the Tigers’ talented running backs. Texas A&M's defense must win the line of scrimmage on first and second down, forcing Mettenberger to throw the ball.

Rivalry games are what make college football great. These programs have the rabid fan bases, the history, and the talent to eventually become one of the premier rivalries in the western division of the Southeastern Conference. Let’s get it started.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.