Aggies welcome LSU for their bowl game, Tigers try not to look ahead to Georgia

Published 11:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2022

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — It’s easy for it to get lost in the shuffle, but LSU might want to check the fine print on that possible path to the College Football Playoff.

Pulling an upset of No. 1-ranked Georgia in next week’s Southeastern Conference championship game gets most of the ink.

But the wording in the deal — lesser known fact — is that the Tigers (9-2, 6-1 SEC) must “win out,” which means also beating Texas A&M in tonight’s regular-season finale.

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A loss to the Aggies wouldn’t deep-six the trip to Atlanta as LSU has already clinched that. But it can’t afford a loss if it wants to keep alive the hopes of reaching the CFP in Brian Kelly’s first year as head coach.

On paper it may look like a foregone conclusion. The game matches perhaps the SEC’s two most surprising teams — at opposite ends of the spectrum.

LSU was picked to finish fifth in the SEC West and looked the part after opening the season with a sloppy 24-23 loss to Florida State. But the Tigers have won five straight since losing to Tennessee 40-13 in early October.

Texas A&M, on the other hand, began the season with high hopes, ranked No. 6 in the nation. It didn’t take.

The Aggies needed a lackluster win over lowly Massachusetts last week to break a six-game losing streak heading into what will be their last game of the season.

So on paper it’s a 4-7 record, 1-6 in the SEC.

That’s not what Kelly sees.

“This is arguably as talented a football team as we’ll see all year,” Kelly said. “They’re young in some areas, but it doesn’t take away from the talent.”

It will be Kelly’s first game against Texas A&M, but from his days at Notre Dame he’s no stranger to embattled Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher.

The two squared off twice while Fisher was at Florida State, with the Seminoles winning both (18-14 in 2011 and 31-27 in 2014).

“Jimbo is obviously an outstanding football coach,” Kelly said. “The calling card has always been outstanding offense and the ability to play aggressive defense. They’ve always been a great game and look forward to another one.”

Two of the Aggies’ losses have been by less than a touchdown, including a 24-20 loss to Alabama. But not much has gone right for the team.

“You can see that at times it’s really scary,” Kelly said about how well A&M plays. “Then sometimes, you know, there’s a loss of maybe of some focus. But when they put it all together, it’s not a team you want to mess around with. It’s a very talented team.”

“I want to see fire and juice,” said Fisher, who spent seven years (2000-2006) at LSU as offensive coordinator and was often rumored to be on LSU’s wish list as head coach.

“You’ve got to come out there ready to play.”

That’s what Kelly says concerns him — that the Aggies will put all the talent together in their final game of the season.

“This will be their game,” Kelly said. “The last one they’ll play, against their rival, they’ll play their absolute best against us.”