This is a quirky and curious rivalry. Between 1908 and 1917 it was played in Galveston, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. It’s lain dormant for years, decades at a time after it has become one-sided, and it’s returned with a fury only to be given up promptly once again when momentum swung back to the other team. After the Aggies’ 46-0 drubbing of the Tigers in 1922, the game was kept out of College Station for 65 years. Before it was rekindled in the 2011 Cotton Bowl, the series sputtered out 16 years earlier after A&M won five consecutive games with an average margin of victory of 18+ points. In short, it’s the type of rivalry you’d expect to be hatched by a bunch of Louisianans and rural Texans back in the heyday of 20th century college football.
It doesn’t have that feel now. It’s difficult to stoke that fire of hatred for an out-of-state rival when such a powerful one lies dormant much closer to home. As someone reared far from the eastern borders of the state, it’s not the split household, shit-talking workplace, family-driven rivalry that Texas was. It was more murky and vague: maybe some distant cousins from the Houston area root for LSU? RC Slocum was riding roughshod over LSU during the ‘90s, when I first began to pay attention to Aggie football, and it never registered as some vindication or sense of satisfaction. Just nice wins.
Jimbo Fisher was the quarterbacks coach at Auburn under Tommy Bowden. Ed Orgeron was the defensive line coach at Syracuse. The Usual Suspects and Mortal Kombat were brand-new at the theaters. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors in Cleveland the day before. On September 2, 1995, Leeland McElroy ran for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 33-17 zealous demolition of the Tigers, their final visit to Kyle Field for 17 years. And virtually no one on either roster had even been born yet.
The world has changed a fair bit in the interim years since the Aggies last defeated LSU. Basically, the Internet came along and then a few other things happened, we talked about them on the Internet, then we talked about how we talk about things on the Internet, and now we’re mired in that transverse and ever-rotating candystripe pattern, trying to pull ourselves out intermittently with tangible pursuits in the real world. Like talking about college football on the Internet.
A rivalry can be good without being blasted in your face year-round. Subtlety is an underrated virtue. And the most fun part of history is writing one as colorful as you can make it to entertain future generations. If Louisiana is our crazy redneck cousin, then there is also a deep and abiding respect for a people who are just as fiercely independent in many ways as Texans are. This is a complementary and pseudo-symbiotic feud: we feed off the polarity of each other, but inside we’re a lot more alike than our homegrown rivals. It’s a reflection in a black swamp pond, illuminated by moonlight and warmed over with campfire whiskey.
But it’s still a football rivalry, and this weekend Jimbo Fisher will be coaching harder than he’s coached in a long time. He’s coached at both places, and more importantly he’s traveled the Aggie circuits, all of them, and knows the unspoken depths of the frustration that the one-sidedness has planted in recent years. He’s a championship-winning coach who has been brilliant at playing to the heart of Aggie desires so far. A season-ending victory would be the perfect cap on his first campaign, and would buy him a massive reserve of credibility moving into his second off-season of building.
Saturday night in College Station is going to be alive with anticipation, with hope for breaking this bitter cycle, and with the heady sense that we are going to see a good coach with a good team finally pull out all the stops to try to beat an even better team. And we’d all get to gloat for a little while as the bowl season begins to pan out. Just a tiny bit. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Pass it back: Laissez les bons temps rouler.