The fate of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure at Texas A&M was never going to be decided based on what happened in year one. He faced a brutal schedule, with a roster that he did not recruit or develop, with players learning a new scheme under a coach they did not commit to. All the normal rationalizations apply. Not to mention that when you sign a 10-year, fully guaranteed $75 million contract, the massive buyout makes you basically fire-proof for at least four years, if not five or six (or seven or eight).
All of that said, it doesn’t mean that Fisher’s first year has been meaningless. There are still moments you can point to and see progress, reasons for optimism that the arrow is pointing upward. Those have also been accompanied by reminders that this team still has work to do. I’ve written a couple of times about tests this Texas A&M Aggies team has faced this year as they strived to prove they are different than past Aggie teams. First it was the early season game against the Clemson Tigers. I said that A&M needed to at least play a competitive game, and they most definitely did that and more, nearly pulling off an upset of a team that again looks poised to go to the College Football Playoff.
The next big test came a month ago in Starkville, and did not go as smoothly. It’s a place that has given A&M nightmares in recent seasons, and that trend continued in 2018 with a 28-13 loss against a seemingly hapless Mississippi St. Bulldogs squad. A&M would stumble again a week later, blowing a fourth quarter lead to Auburn, before seemingly righting the ship with solid wins over Ole Miss and a surprisingly good UAB team.
And now comes LSU, playing on a Saturday in College Station for the fist time since 2012. It’s a top 10 team coming to your home field, and a win like that is always something to shoot for. But for A&M, the rewards go far beyond just another tally in the win column.
End the losing streak
The biggest reason Aggie fans will give you for wanting to beat the Tigers is that, well, most of us probably don’t remember the last time we did it. LSU has won all six matchups since A&M joined the SEC, most of which haven’t been especially competitive. LSU also beat A&M soundly in the Cotton Bowl following the 2010 season. Considering this was seen as A&M’s most natural rival when they first joined the conference, it is high time for bragging rights to reside in Aggieland for a season.
Climb the SEC standings
A&M currently sits alone in third place in the SEC West standings, trailing only Alabama (7-0) and LSU (5-2). A win on Saturday gives the Aggies the same conference record as LSU (5-3) and the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning it would be A&M’s highest finish in the SEC West standings ever (even the vaunted 2012 squad finished third).
A winning conference record
Speaking of finishing 5-3, that would also represent A&M’s first winning conference record since Johnny Manziel’s freshman campaign in 2012.
A more attractive bowl game
A win over LSU means A&M finishes with the same conference record as Florida, Kentucky and LSU, with head-to-head wins over two out of three. While a New Year’s Six Bowl is likely not in the cards, A&M can still play it’s way into the Citrus Bowl, which has it’s choice of SEC teams before the conference assigns schools to the Music City, Outback, TaxSlayer, Belk, Liberty and Texas bowls.
Reclaiming Kyle Field
One of the biggest complaints of the Kevin Sumlin era was how easy it seemed it was for opponents to leave Kyle Field with a victory. From 2012-2017, Power 5 teams went 16-10 at the Hate Barn. When the Aggies defeated Ole Miss 9 days ago, it had been 1,134 days since A&M last defeated an SEC West opponent at home. Ugh.
A win on Saturday definitively changes that perception.
6-1 at Kyle Field, including two wins over three ranked teams (Kentucky, UAB, LSU) and a narrow loss to #2 Clemson? That’s what home field advantage looks like.
LSU is good. Objectively, probably better than A&M this year. But the Aggies have lost to their fair share of seemingly inferior teams in recent years. It’s time for that shoe to be on the other foot. LSU isn’t a must-win, because no game in Fisher’s first year is. But it would be a big hurdle for this team to clear, and a big notch in coach’s belt as he looks to convince fans, recruits and current players that he is taking this team to new heights.
What’s the biggest reason you want a win on Saturday?
This poll is closed
To finally (FINALLY!) beat the Swamp Kitties
Finish second in the West
A winning SEC record
Better bowl game
Reclaiming Kyle Field
Other (comment below)