Mississippi State? No
Aggie fans are familiar with their status in the standings at this point. The SEC West is full of measuring sticks, and Jimbo Fisher was brought in to climb rungs of the ladder but eleven games into his first season, the Aggies are still chasing most of the division. Saturday night presents another opportunity to demonstrate the Aggies are different, to climb a rung. But this rung is different; it’s one that A&M’s been chasing since they joined the SEC - LSU.
In the recent and colorful history of the series, the Aggies played an important role in Tiger fortunes. They saved Les Miles’ job in 2015 thanks to the mad hatter’s 19-7 win in Baton Rouge. In 2016 they Aggies arguably removed Ed Orgeron’s interim tag when Coach O guided the Tigers to a 54-39 win in College Station. Two days later white smoke billowed from the LSU football building, and the LSU administration ordained Orgeron to lead the fortunes of the program.
A&M’s fortunes against LSU aren’t great. The Aggies are winless in six SEC games against the Tigers and overall haven’t won since 1995. Most consider LSU the second best team in the SEC West, a distant second, but a rung that the Aggies haven’t conquered, or gotten close to conquering.
The Aggies and Tigers have history; they met on Thanksgiving well before the Longhorns took up the time slot. The two passionate fan bases elevate each other, but Tiger fans would stop short of calling their Texas neighbors rivals. A rival requires a similar peer group, and in LSU’s eyes, the Aggies aren’t in the neighborhood.
Enter Jimbo and his unspoken directive to make A&M an SEC West contender. By definition, that means he’ll need to start dealing with LSU, a riddle Kevin Sumlin never solved. The game goes beyond the standings, the Aggies and Tigers compete for the same recruits and bragging rights are a factor.
So, like Sumlin before him, Fisher is tasked with solving the Tigers on Saturday night, he’ll at least have the benefit of a home crowd, though LSU fans do crop up en mass. The game is the last chance for Fisher to show progress inside one of the toughest divisions in college football.