The Next Level: How much has everything changed for LSU’s offense, Texas A&M’s defense in a year?

LSU’s offense last season in a 23-17 win over Texas A&M looked nothing like the offense you’re used to.

Don’t you remember it? How could you forget? There was very little I-formation, ground-and-pound with the running back.

The Tigers and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron aligned in the shotgun, used designed QB runs and the jet sweep. They exploited those two weaknesses in the Aggies defense.

QB Anthony Jennings, then the starter, carried the ball 14 times for 119 carries, and receiver Travin Dural ran 49 yards on four jet sweep plays to the outside.

Here’s the thing: This is a brand new A&M defense, and neither of those LSU players will participate in Saturday’s game.

Former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis is now running the Aggies unit. As for LSU, Brandon Harris, swifter but not as heavy as Jennings, is now LSU’s starter, and Dural suffered a season-ending hamstring injury against Ole Miss last week that will require surgery.

In the LSU-A&M game last season, it was a cat-and-mouse game, and the cats — the Tigers and Cameron — easily won (LSU had 491 yards of offense in that win last November).

It’ll be a cat-and-mouse game again this year. Cameron, though, is up against Chavis. They know each other. They know one another’s tendencies and habits, strengths and weaknesses.

Remember, for the past two seasons these two men sat side by side in a press box booth listening to the other call plays. They likely shared and compared game plans and mapped out strategies.

Cameron probably feels like he has an advantage. His name: Leonard Fournette.

Chavis probably feels like he has an advantage. His name: Myles Garrett.

May the best man win.

— Ross Dellenger

Four Downs

1. Focus on the field

Despite his embattled status, Les Miles has stressed his focus is on this game. He’s trying to lead by example for his Tigers, an example they should follow. Football is a physical and violent game, but there are times when stepping onto the field is like a sanctuary for its players and coaches. That will certainly be the case for LSU.

2. Band on the run

One of the factors that landed Miles in hot water is his devotion to a run-oriented offense that lacks creativity. This is not the time for the head Tiger to change his stripes. The Aggies are 13th in the SEC in run defense, and LSU still ranks No. 1. Leonard Fournette averaged 21 carries the past three games. Time to hand him the rock again and again.

3. I Spy

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris hasn’t done a great job picking up blitzes and alignments in the Tigers’ three-game losing skid. With SEC sack leader Myles Garrett staring at him, he’d better remember how. Harris needs to be aware where Garrett is at all times and do his best to check to options that run away from him.

4. Aggies run, too

Everyone thinks of the Aggies as a pass-first unit, but Texas A&M’s Tra Carson will likely go over 1,000 yards against LSU (990 yards so far) and QB Kyler Murray (335 net yards) is a threat with his legs. The Tigers’ rush defense has been shredded in these three straight losses to the tune of 233.7 ypg. If that doesn’t improve, they’ll lose again.

— Scott Rabalais