There was no surprise that LSU churned out 517 yards of offense and scored 34 points against Texas A&M on Saturday; anyone who had watched the Aggies play this year knew that the defense was terrible. It wasn't a surprise that 324 of those yards came on the ground, a physical effort that took its toll and allowed the Tigers to hold the ball for more than 40 minutes and keep the ball away from the high-powered A&M offense.
Still, even accounting for that, the degree to which the A&M offense appeared to crumble in this game was shocking. Johnny Football and Co. generated just 299 yards, the first time in more than four years that the Aggies haven't put up at least 300. The 10 points scored by A&M were the fewest since a 9-6 win against Nebraska on Nov. 20, 2010. It was only the fourth time in the last two seasons that A&M didn't break 30 points, and the only time this year that the Aggies failed to score at least 41.
Seemingly at the center of the collapse: Johnny Manziel, who went 16-of-41 for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Before this game, Manziel was shaping up as the favorite in his campaign to get back-to-back Heisman trophies; with the margin of the loss and his own role in it, Manziel's hopes are probably dashed. His rushing ability was at least somewhat contained, with 12 runs for 54 yards, though two of those were sacks that took 15 years off the total. But aside from Manziel, Ben Malena and Trey Williams managed 21 yards on six carries. The 5.1 yards per play that Texas A&M produced isn't a terrible number, per se, but it wasn't enough.
Particularly not with the way LSU was doing against the A&M defense. Zach Mettenberger wasn't spectacular, be he was solid -- 11-of-20 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. LSU was converted 11 of 17 third-down opportunities and never turned the ball over except on downs. The only real quibble you could have with their performance was the whopping 13 penalties for 111 yards, but that's not a huge issue when LSU's smallest margin following its second touchdown was 11 points. The Bayou Bengals likely bolstered their chances at an upper-tier bowl with the win, with the Cotton Bowl now firmly in the picture.
The loss costs Texas A&M quite a bit. The Sugar Bowl is probably too tall of an order for A&M now; the Aggies need to defeat Missouri next week to even be eligible, and even so it might be hard for them to get a high enough ranking for at-large status. The Capital One Bowl is the ceiling now, and even that might depend on the Aggies winning their last game.
The third loss for the Aggies was the worst of the season and, perhaps, the costliest; a team that had dreamed at the beginning of the season of the national title now faces the very real prospect of missing the BCS altogether, despite being a very good team. If the first year in the SEC was magical, the second year has been a reminder of just how difficult the conference really is.
That doesn't prove, of course, that the Aggies don't "belong here" or any of that nonsense. It does mean that the Aggies are finding out just what belonging here really means.