LSU tries to avoid disappointment against struggling Texas A&M


On paper, No. 6 LSU’s game against Texas A&M should be an easy win.

But Tigers coach Brian Kelly knows better than to underestimate the Aggies despite their struggles this season.

“This is arguably as talented as a football team, as we’ll see throughout the year,” said Kelly. “They’re young in some ways, but that doesn’t diminish the talent they have on the field… against LSU, their rival, they’ll give their best against us. … They don’t have the wins they wanted, but all they need (now) is one, and that is to beat LSU.

The talent people expected Texas A&M to challenge for the SEC West title this season has not materialized. The Aggies (4-7, 1-6 SEC) fail to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since going 4-8 in 2008.

The Tigers (9-2, 6-1, No. 5 CFP), five-time winners in a row, have already secured a spot in the SEC title game against top-ranked Georgia, but must settle matters against lowly Texas A&M for some chance to make the College Football Playoff. The Aggies broke a six-game skid last week with a sloppy win over UMass and hope to build on that win on Saturday as they wrap up this disappointing season.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is trying to keep emotions at bay this week and begging his team to do everything they can to end the season on a positive note.

“I think it’s huge for the future of what we have here, which we think is extremely good,” he said. “It would be great for those seniors and a great message for those young players going into this off-season.”

Texas A&M offensive linemen Layden Robinson has taken Fisher’s message to heart and expects the Aggies to play well in their Finals.

“The mindset is to finish – finish strong,” he said. “I have a feeling this team will play a great game on Saturday… We are playing against a great LSU team, but they will also get the best out of us.”

A win would give LSU its first 10-win year since winning 15-0 in the national championship season in 2019. But Kelly has his sights set on bigger goals than just hitting the double digits.

“I don’t think they give you a ticker-tape parade or anything, but 10 wins is definitely a benchmark when people look back on seasons,” he said. “You know, I think it does a lot to solidify your chances in the post-season”

LSU running back Noah Cain, a Penn State transfer lured back to his home state by Kelly, had one of its busiest and best games of his first season with the Tigers last weekend and could be trusted again this week.

His 13 carries against UAB were a season-high and his 76-yard rushing was highlighted by three short touchdown runs. He now leads LSU running backs in TDs in a rush with seven.

LSU is in the running back position. Armoni Goodwin is out for the season. Josh Williams was unable to play last week due to a knee injury and whether he is ready for the Aggies remains to be seen. So if LSU has to rely on Cain, that’s fine with Kelly.

“He’s not flashy. I don’t think he’s going to be a guy that many people will miss, but does he really have to? said Kelly. “He plays with low pads. He’s physical. He’s smart. He catches the ball coming out of the backfield He’s reliable in pass protection and he’s hard to put down I mean I think I’ve mentioned four or five things that are pretty good to have.

The Texas A&M offense lacked its best two players in Saturday’s 20-3 victory over UMass with leading rusher Devon Achane and top receiver Evan Stewart out with injuries.

Fisher said this week he is “very optimistic” that the pair can return against the Tigers.

Achane has missed two games with a foot injury and Stewart sat out last week after a blow to the head two weeks ago against Auburn.

Achane has 887 yards rushing and his 98.6 yards a game average ranks third in the SEC. Stewart ranks fifth in the SEC with 67.4 yards receiving a game and his 607 yards receiving are first among freshmen in the conference.

LSU’s defense is thriving under Freshman Coordinator Matt House.

House joined LSU after three years as a linebackers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs—a stint that included two Chiefs’ Super Bowl appearances and one title. This week, he was named a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, given to college football’s best assistant coach.

The LSU defense ranks fourth in the SEC in averages of 338.5 yards and 20 points allowed per game and has taken the ball away from opponents 16 times this season, ranking sixth in the league.

His performance this week sparked questions about his potential candidacy for head coaching positions elsewhere.

“If Matt House gets an opportunity that he thinks will benefit him, I will help him in any way I can,” said Kelly. “That is part of this profession.”

“I don’t know if Matt House came here to be the defensive coordinator (just) for a year,” Kelly continued, pointing out that he thinks House and his family are “having a good time here.

AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.

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