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No. 14 LSU's battle with Texas A&M is QB Jayden Daniels' last chance to impress Heisman voters

Wed, Nov 22, 2023

No. 14 LSU's battle with Texas A&M is QB Jayden Daniels' last chance to impress Heisman voters

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels' Heisman Trophy candidacy could come down to his final regular-season start against Texas A&M.

One more big game, particularly against an Aggies defense that ranks eighth nationally, could be enough to win over voters in advance of conference title games featuring other candidates next week.

So while No. 14 LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) won't be defending its SEC West title this season, the Tigers will want to rally around Daniels when Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3) invades Death Valley on Saturday.

LSU coach Brian Kelly set that tone this week.

Other news No. 14 LSU-Texas A&M clash pits the nation's top offense against a top-10 defense Jaylen Henderson leads Texas A&M to victory in Elijah Robinson's first game as interim coach. Coleman shines as No. 13 Texas A&M dominates paint, beats Oral Roberts 74-66

"If you want to look at numbers, Daniels' numbers are starting to pull away from everybody," Kelly said as he rounded up to make his point. "He's nearly 1,000 yards in total offense ahead of the next candidate. If we want to look at numbers, this race is starting to distance itself."

Entering this week, Daniels' 4,591 total yards put him 901 yards ahead of Washington quarterback Michael Penix and 924 ahead of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.

Daniels accounted for eight touchdowns and 509 total yards against Georgia State last week. He now leads the nation in total offense with 417.4 yards per game and is just the second player in SEC history to throw for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season (Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel did it first in 2012).

Daniels also leads the country in TDs passing (36), TDs accounted for (46) and yards rushing by a QB (1,014).

In the process, Daniels has done things no one has ever seen, such as when he passed for more than 350 yards and rushing for more than 200 in the same game against Florida on Nov. 11.

Now he will conclude his final college regular season against a defense that has been allowing 286.5 yards per game and which features players like Bednarik Award semifinalist Edgerrin Cooper, who happens to be from Covington, Louisiana.

Cooper, a linebacker, has 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the six SEC games he has played. His 16 tackles for loss in all games leads the SEC and is tied for 10th nationally.

"That's the strength of their defense is the versatility, the depth that they play on the defensive line and they're aggressive," Kelly said. "You certainly have to do a really good job in protections. ... You've got to be able to find a way to mitigate some of the potential negative plays."


The Aggies have won their lone game since the firing of coach Jimbo Fisher. That was against Abilene Christian with defensive line coach Elijah Robinson serving as head coach.

Kelly said the Tigers must guard against being distracted by Fisher's firing or taking the Aggies lightly because of it.

"You can spend the day thinking about, 'Well, A&M is without a head coach. What's their mindset? How are they going about this?' " Kelly said. "I've been in this long enough to know whatever side of that they come out on really doesn't matter."


Texas A&M offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino coached from the field for the first time this season last week after working from the booth before Fisher's departure.

Robinson said he made the decision to make his transition to head coach from an assistant easier, and that Petrino will finish out the season on the field, where he can communicate more directly with quarterback Jaylen Henderson.

"I wanted to get coach down on the field to help and so he could control everything he needed to from adjustments and so the communication just wasn't over the headsets," Robinson said.


LSU is the only team in the nation with two semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the nation's most outstanding receiver.

Malik Nabers leads the nation with 1,424 yards receiving this season, and Brian Thomas leads the nation in TDs receiving with 14.

Their 2,445 yards and 26 TDs are the most among any wide receiver combination in the NCAA's top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision.


Texas A&M receiver Moose Muhammad III had by far his best game of the season last week, leading the team with four receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.

"When the plays were called, he was there, and Jaylen did a good job of finding him," Robinson said. "It all clicked on this last Saturday, so I'm happy for Moose and the success he had."

Muhammad had 610 yards receiving last season but had struggled to get going this season and had just 159 yards receiving until last week.


AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed from College Station, Texas.


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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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