Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SEC [Print without images]

Thursday, January 6, 2011
Cotton Bowl: LSU (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)

By Chris Low

LSU shoots for its fourth 11-win or better season under Les Miles when it takes on Texas A&M on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

Here’s a quick preview of the AT&T Cotton Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Now that his eligibility has been restored, LSU junior running back Stevan Ridley should be raring to go. He’s been practicing with the Tigers all along and waiting to hear on his appeal. The news came earlier this week that he would be allowed to play. That’s obviously good news for the Tigers, who leaned heavily on Ridley this season. For much of the year, he was their only offense and enters this game with 1,042 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s a power runner who also has the speed to break away and get yards in chunks. The Tigers will need him to be effective on first down running the ball.

WHAT TO WATCH: LSU finished up the regular season with strong defensive numbers, but the Tigers seemed to lose a little bit of their edge in those final few games and gave up too many big plays. Can they get that edge back against Texas A&M? This will almost certainly be junior cornerback Patrick Peterson’s final game in an LSU uniform. Peterson is expected to declare for the NFL draft after winning several national awards this season. The burden will be on the Tigers’ defense similar to the way it’s been all season. They’re holding teams to an average of 17.8 points per game, which ranks ninth nationally.

WHY TO WATCH: The rumblings about LSU coach Les Miles and Michigan are heating up, even though Miles said he hasn’t been contacted by Michigan and that he doesn’t think anybody at LSU has any reason to be concerned about his possibly returning to his alma mater. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers play with all this shaking about Miles and Michigan. They ended the regular season with a disappointing loss to Arkansas. Texas A&M, meanwhile, has won six in a row. This is a renewal of a longstanding rivalry between the teams, although they last met in 1995.

PREDICTION: LSU 24, Texas A&M 20. Miles had been perfect in bowl games at LSU until last season’s loss to Penn State in the Capital One Bowl. Getting Ridley back for the bowl game was huge for the Tigers. Now, they won’t have to rely as much on their passing game, which was terribly inconsistent this season. The difference will be LSU’s team speed on defense and the Tigers’ ability to create some timely turnovers in the second half.