The 75th edition of the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX at Cowboys Stadium on Friday January 7 (8:00pm ET) will feature the 17th ranked Aggies of Texas A&M (9-3) out of the Big 12 squaring off against the 10th ranked LSU Tigers (10-2) from the SEC. The Tigers dropped their last contest 31-23 to then-number 12 Arkansas on November 27 to end a three-game winning streak. Their only other loss was to then-number 5 and BCS National Championship Game participant, Auburn in October. Texas A&M comes into the game red-hot on a six-game winning streak, including a 24-17 win over in-state rival Texas on November 25 to close out the regular season. A&M defeated both Big 12 Title Game participants, Oklahoma by a score of 33-19 and Nebraska by a count of 9-6.
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Texas A&M’s offense has been spurred by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has won all six games as a starter since taking over for Jerrod Johnson after a 3-3 start to the season. He has thrown for 1,409 yards with a 65.1% completion rate and 11 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions during that span. Running back Cyrus Gray has also been an impetus for the winning streak, running for 100 yards or more in six straight games, including 223 in the win over Texas to close out the regular season. The Aggie defense, led by Butkus Award-winning linebacker Von Miller who led the Big 12 with 9.5 sacks, is ranked number 23 against the run with an average of 116.2 yards per game allowed. The Aggies also ranked 25th in the nation with an average of 20.3 points per game allowed.
The Tigers are led offensively by running back Steven Ridley who ran for 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns for an offense that averaged 28.8 points per game, 51st in the nation, and ranked 86th in total offense with 337.5 yards per game. The quarterback rotation of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson combined to average 155.4 yards per game passing, 107th in the nation in passing offense. Defensively the Tigers were outstanding with 17.8 points per game allowed, 2987.2 yards per game allowed and 165.9 passing yards per contest allowed, all ranking 11th or better in the country. Cornerback Patrick Peterson was the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back and the Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the nation’s top defensive player.
LSU’s last Cotton Bowl appearance was in 2003 when they lost 35-20 to Texas, they are 2-1-1 in the game all-time. LSU and Texas A&M will meet for the first time since 1995, when A&M won 33-17; LSU leads the series 26-20-3.
Texas A&M vs. LSU Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Texas A&M Aggies -2
@ LSU Tigers +2
Over 49 (-110)
Under 49 (-110)
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Texas A&M vs. LSU Predictions for AT&T Cotton Bowl:
Spread Prediction (Top Play) – The Tigers are a slim favorite, but their defense should allow them to pull this game out and end the Aggies’ six-game winning streak. Peterson and company are almost impossible to throw on, so Tannehill will have trouble duplicating his success against the best defense he has seen in his short tenure as a starting QB. LSU should be able to score enough points to win and cover the 2 point spread against A&M, especially if their defense is able to force a turnover or two against the relatively inexperienced Tannehill and give the offense a short field to work with.
Over/Under Prediction – Take the under in this game, LSU has struggled to score points all season, and there is no reason to expect an offensive explosion in this game against an A&M defense that has allowed just over 20 points per game against a schedule that is a tough as anyone in the country. LSU has been even stingier on defense, and with the A&M offense led by a QB who has never been exposed to the speed of an SEC defense, the success that the Aggies have had over the latter part of the season is unlikely to be repeated.