The rivalry between Texas A&M and LSU is hitting home — literally.
When the No. 9 Aggies (8-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) meet No. 18 LSU (7-3, 3-3) in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, A&M is expected to start five defensive players from Louisiana. LSU has four defensive starters from Texas.
The two programs rekindled an old series when A&M joined the SEC last season, and the duo will meet on Thanksgiving next season. Off the field, the recruiting battles are raging, too. Combined, the two teams have only nine players, out of 44, from a state other than Louisiana and Texas.
“We’ve run across them at times,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We recognize some of the guys they have there. We wish them the very best.”
A&M has eight Louisiana natives on its two-deep. Of the five projected Louisiana starters, one is from Port Allen, linebacker Darian Claiborne. Claiborne, a true freshman, has had arguably the best season of any A&M defender. He’s forced a pair of fumbles, is second on the team in tackles and has 6.5 tackles for a loss.
That’s not to say he or any other Louisiana A&M guys were recruited by LSU. According to recruiting experts, the Tigers didn’t pursue any of them hard.
Still, it’s Louisiana boys gunning against Louisiana boys.
“Those guys play fast. All of those guys are big, fast and athletic. That’s the type of players Louisiana puts out,” LSU running back Jeremy Hill said. “Those guys are going to play well. I know they’re excited to come back home. They’re going to have an extra edge and intensity about them.”
And it’s Texas boys against Texas boys, too.
A&M starts all but one Texas player on its offense. LSU cornerback Jalen Mills, defensive end Danielle Hunter, and safeties Craig Loston and Corey Thompson are from Texas.
“It’s bragging rights when you go back home,” Mills said. “Once you’re in the game, it’s business, but after the game … you hook up when you go back home.”
Blue, Neighbors get 5th year
Running back Alfred Blue joined fullback Connor Neighbors in receiving a fifth-year of eligiblity from the NCAA.
Blue and Neighbors, both in their fourth years with the team, will each be eligible to play another season after this year, LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette said.
The duo received medical redshirts from the NCAA this year.
Blue, Hill’s backup, suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 last season.
Neighbors, the backup to starter J.C. Copeland, played in just one game his freshman season before an injury ended his rookie year.
Beckham on Biletnikoff top 10
LSU receiver and return man Odell Beckham Jr. made the semifinal cut for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to college football’s best receiver.
Beckham joins nine others as semifinalists. The three finalists will be announced Nov. 25. The Biletnikoff Award winner will be announced live during ESPN’s college football award show on Dec. 12.
“I don’t know if I’ll make it to the finals, but it’s a huge honor,” Beckham said.
The speedy New Orleans native has 2,090 all-purpose yards this season, which is just 31 yards shy from LSU’s single-season record.
He can also break former Kentucky star Randall Cobb’s SEC record for all-purpose yards in a season with 307 more in the next three games.
Talking the fake — still
Miles said he’ll be ready for the fake next time.
Alabama’s successful, game-changing fake punt in the third quarter of the Tide’s win over the Tigers on Nov. 9 is still fresh in some people’s mind.
The Tide, on fourth and 2 from the LSU 41, converted the fake when linebacker C.J. Mosely took the snap, stepped left and then handed off to Jarrick Williams, who ran the opposite direction for a 6-yard gain.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said he ran the fake only because LSU had its defense on the field for the presumed punt.
Asked about that Monday, Miles said, “If he’s telling me he wants to run fake punts against our defensive alignments, I’ll listen and be ready next time.”
On the fake, LSU end Jermauria Rasco was kicked out by a double team, tackle Anthony Johnson was double-teamed, and the LSU linebackers — Kwon Alexander and D.J. Welter — were duped. They both stepped the wrong way, thinking Mosely kept the ball.
“We didn’t attack line of scrimmage,” Miles said. “The linebackers went running away with the counter.”
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will practice this week and is fine to play against A&M, Miles said.
Mettenberger said he suffered a sprained ankle on LSU’s last offensive play at Alabama. Miles said Monday that it was more of a “contusion.”
Mettenberger practiced all three days last week, the coach said.