LSU boosts bowl options

Joseph Bertrand
December 11, 2014
Smart911 reaches year mark
December 16, 2014
Joseph Bertrand
December 11, 2014
Smart911 reaches year mark
December 16, 2014

Les Miles has an idea.

We’d bet one never expected those five words to serve as the lead in any story written in our pages.

But the longtime LSU football coach’s mind got churning on Thursday evening after his Tigers topped Texas A&M 23-17 in the close-out game of the season for both teams.

Miles said the rivalry between LSU and the Aggies is growing and quickly becoming one of the best a conference filled with heated matchups.

The coach said the game has become so big that it needs its own trophy, adding that he’d speak to the powers that be to make sure that his idea comes to fruition in the future.

Whether that does or doesn’t happen remains to be seen, but the Tigers probably did deserve some hardware for how well they played on Thanksgiving night.

LSU played arguably its most complete game of the season against the Aggies, outgaining their rivals by more than 260 yards in the win.

The score was closer than the action dictated because of a few special teams mistakes that took points off the board for the Tigers. But all-in-all, it ends as the 15th-straight eight-win season for LSU.

“I want to congratulate the Texas A&M Aggies – they played a great game,” Miles said after the win. “But (I think) our football team is coming…. We rushed for 384 yards and had just under 500 yards of total offense, and had the ball 41 minutes to their 18. If we do that, generally we’re going to win.”

As Miles mentioned, the usually frustrating LSU offense was surprisingly dominant on Thanksgiving night.

The Tigers gutted the interior of Texas A&M’s defense, running the football 57 times for 384 yards – an average of 6.7 yards per carry.

LSU’s offense was more spread out against the Aggies, and the Tigers used a combination of formations and play designs to hurt Texas A&M.

On the interior, true freshman halfback Leonard Fournette was a force, rushing 19 times for 146 yards with a touchdown – a jaw-dropping 22-yard scamper that ended in Fournette decleating an Aggies’ defender en route to the end zone.

On the edges, LSU hurt Texas A&M with a series of well-designed runs and jet sweeps, getting both sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings and sophomore receiver Travin Dural in space.

Jennings finished the game with a career-high 119 rushing yards on 14 carries. Dural busted four jet sweeps for 49 yards.

Senior halfback Terrence Magee also tested the edges on a series of tosses, rushing 17 times for 74 yards.

“It did,” Fournette said when asked if the team’s formation variances contributed to the success. “People kept following the jet sweep and we came right underneath it up the middle.”

Miles credited much-maligned offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for the team’s success against the Aggies.

In the passing game, Jennings was far from dominant, but was more serviceable than in recent weeks, completing 12-of-21 passes for 107 yards with a touchdown and an early interception.

“We had some different wrinkles on offense,” Miles said. “And I thought that certainly helped things.”

Defensively, the LSU defense was dominant, limiting the Aggies to 144 passing yards and 228 total yards in the game.

But Texas A&M’s opportunities were limited, as LSU controlled time of possession by a two-to-one margin on the road to victory.

That the Aggies made the game as close as they did is proof of what Miles talked about throughout his press conference – this is a special kind of rivalry. One that LSU has won the past four times it has been played, but one that also should have its own trophy, according to the coach.

“I think it’s a tremendous rivalry,” Miles said. “We need a trophy. Someone needs to come up with a trophy. Because there is so much petroleum on both ends. I think like a big, not a barrel, but maybe a wrench

– like something that would be for the roughnecks. There’s a chance for a trophy out there. It’s a hell of an idea.”


The LSU and Texas A&M game had no significance to the SEC Western Division race.

But it did have bowl game implications for the teams, and with the win, the Tigers are likely to play their final game of the season in one of the SEC’s more prestigious non-BCS bowl games.

The SEC has eight bowl game affiliations with games that are not in the College Football Playoff rotation (Outback, Belk, Independence, Liberty, Birmingham, Music City, Taxslayer and Texas) and those eight bowls are likely to be among LSU’s potential destinations.

Multiple bowl projection experts tout that the Outback Bowl is probably the least likely of the bunch for LSU because that’s the bowl the Tigers reached last year

– an ugly 21-14 win against Iowa. Bowl representatives like to mix and match participants from year-to-year, so an LSU/Outback marriage again seems unlikely, as the bowl is more likely to select someone else this go-round.

Projections also tout that the Belk Bowl is likely out of question, because the Charlotte-based bowl is far more likely to be attracted to South Carolina, Florida or Tennessee – teams who will likely bring a bigger gate to the game than LSU.

The Birmingham and Independence bowls have the last picks of the group and are also not expected to be a player for LSU because of the team’s 8-4 record.

The Texas Bowl is also considered unlikely because that bowl seems to be aiming to pair longtime rivals Texas against Texas A&M.

That leaves the Liberty, Music City and Taxslayer bowls as the most likely destinations for LSU – in no particular order.

The Taxslayer Bowl and Liberty Bowl are the most prestigious of the group. The Taxslayer Bowl (formerly the Gator Bowl) will be played on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville. The Liberty Bowl is set for Dec. 29 in Memphis.

The Music City Bowl is also in Tennessee – it is played on Dec. 30 in Nashville.