ARLINGTON, Texas - LSU will be after its fourth 11-win season under head coach Les Miles tonight when the 11th-ranked Tigers face Texas A&M in the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl here at Cowboys Stadium.
Kickoff between the Tigers and the Aggies is set for 7:29 p.m. and the game will be broadcast to a national audience on FOX with Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston on the call. The game can be also heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network as well as in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net with Jim Hawthorne, Doug Moreau and Jordy Hultberg calling the action.
LSU brings a 10-2 overall mark into the contest, while the Aggies are 9-3. Tonight's meeting is the first between the teams since 1995 and the 50th overall between the schools. LSU leads the overall series 26-20-3, but the Aggies have won five straight and six of the last seven games between the teams. LSU's last win over Texas A&M came in Tiger Stadium in 1990 by a 17-8 count.
LSU is making its school-record 11th straight bowl appearance with six of those coming under Miles. The Tigers are 4-1 in bowl games under Miles, which includes a pair of victories in BCS bowl. Miles ranks second in school history in bowl appearances (6) and bowl victories (4), trailing on Charles McClendon, who led the Tigers to 13 bowl games and seven bowl wins during his 18 seasons in Baton Rouge.
Tonight marks the end of a week that has seen the Tigers enjoy great hospitality from the Cotton Bowl in a city that has rolled out the red carpet for LSU.
"This has been a great week and a tremendous experience for our team and the fans," Miles said. "The Cotton Bowl has gone out of their way to provide a great bowl week for the players and families. We are grateful for the wonderful hospitality that we've been shown this week by the Cotton Bowl and the city of Dallas.
"Now it's time to go out and do what we came here for and that's to play well against a very good Texas A&M team"
Tonight's game marks the culmination of a month's worth of preparation for the Tigers, one that has seen LSU practice five times in Cowboys Stadium.
"We've had really good preparation," Miles said. "I like our game plan and I think the players are ready to go out and execute our plan. The focus this week has been really good. I think our players are focused and ready to go out and lay it on the line for victory in the Cotton Bowl."
If the Tigers are going to have success tonight, they will have to do it with balance on offense and with a defense that must be ready to stop a high-powered Aggie offense. The Aggies go in to tonight's game having won six straight, which includes victories over Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas.
"This Texas A&M team is very good in all phases of the game," Miles said. "On offense, they can throw it and run it and on defense they are very physical and do a good job of getting to the ball. We are going to have to be sound in all three phases of the game to have success."
Offensively, the Tigers will likely look to running back Stevan Ridley to set the tone early as the junior leads the team and ranks fourth in the conference in rushing yards with 1,042 and 14 touchdowns. Ridley and the rest of the Tiger runners should get a boost from the offensive line as Alex Hurst (ankle) and Will Blackwell (ankle) are both back at full strength after missing time late in the year due to injuries. Hurst will start at right tackle, while Blackwell and T-Bob Hebert will split time at right guard.
Quarterback Jordan Jefferson will make his third consecutive start in a bowl game tonight against the Aggies. Jefferson, who also started bowl games against Georgia Tech and Penn State, has thrown for 1,253 yards and four scores this year. He's also added 383 yards and six rushing TDs for the Tigers.
Jefferson and the Tiger offense will face an A&M squad that is allowing just 20.3 points and 357.5 yards per game.
When the Aggies have the ball, they will face a Tiger defense that ranks in the top 10 in the nation in three categories - scoring (17.8), total defense (301.7) and pass defense (165.8).
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, a first team All-SEC pick, leads the Tigers with 108 tackles, while second-team All-America Drake Nevis is first on the team in both tackles for losses (13.0) and sacks (6.0). LSU's all-everything cornerback Patrick Peterson has 36 tackles, four interceptions and six pass breakups to his credit as he's the leader of the LSU secondary.
The Tiger defense will have to find a way to slow Texsas A&M running back Cyrus Gray, who has rushed for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns. Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who started the year at wide receiver, has flourished since changing positions midway through the year. Tannehill has thrown for 1,434 yards and 11 scores in leading the Aggies to a 5-0 mark as the starting quarterback.
No LSU game would be complete without some type of special teams highlight. Kicker Josh Jasper, a first team All-America, leads the nation with 26 field goals and he's also successfully executed three fakes - one field goal and two punts - this year.
Peterson, who also doubles as LSU's return specialist, has returned two punts for touchdowns and ranks among the national leaders with 16.1 yards a return. Peterson set the LSU single-season record for kickoff returns yards with 851 and a 29.3 average.
"We excited to finally get the game here and play," Miles said. "It seems like it's been forever since we last played a game. I know that our team is ready to go out and finish this season with a strong performance."