By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Brian Kelly's focused LSU are already long into preparations for their final game of the regular season, even meeting for a team brunch on Thanksgiving ahead of their road trip to College Station.
With a chance to finish an improbable campaign at 10-2, Kelly's Tigers face Texas A&M in potentially one of the more anticlimactic entries in this wild recent series.
Last year, LSU beat a highly favored A&M on a last second walk-off touchdown pass from current Aggie Max Johnson to Jaray Jenkins, ending the Orgeron era in style;
In 2020, LSU were ground into submission as Jimbo Fisher's Aggies dug out a 20-7 victory from the dirge of a brutal game, half of their points arriving in the first quarter;
2019 saw Joe Burrow and Co paste A&M to the floor of Tigers Stadium 55-7, all starters rested after the first half.
Of course, 2019 itself was actually a revenge game following LSU's 2018 7 overtime loss to A&M, a result which made some believe this whole series was starting to feel like an actual rivalry.
Is this a rivalry, with the last four games split at 2-2 apiece?
No....LSU vs A&M isn't a rivalry yet, not just because of the fact LSU won their prior 9 meetings vs A&M....the Aggies are in some kind of way right now....
As LSU's first year Head Coach Brian Kelly rides his Tigers into Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, Jimbo Fisher's in year five stuck amidst a mutinous squad and his own delusions of grandeur....still without an appearance in the conference title game while facing an increasingly dire on-field future.
Listlessly death-marching their way through a toxic, hellish campaign, A&M arrive in late November with the wheels falling off, the mask ripping down, and the real face of Jimbo Fisher's A&M can be seen by all:
This is a team of jaded stars, NIL Instagram entrepreneurs, and betrayed players who feel Jimbo "sold them a bill of goods", all led by a dictator control freak who sets the toxic tone his squad now embody.
Ranked #6 among preseason polls, as Phil Steele, Josh Pate, Paul Finebaum and other respected analysts believed A&M would challenge Alabama in the West, it is both stunning and hilarious how A&M now find themselves completely out of bowl contention.
Could there be any better scenario for LSU?
Or is Saturday setting up to be the worst kind of mindfuck in the LSU-A&M series?
Could Saturday become the kind of trap game no one can forecast, the one that batters your sense of reality with its wickedness in the face of reason...the brand of macabre theater only angry, young like-minded college football players continuously supply?
For that to happen, there would need to be desire from Jimbo Fisher's 2022 Aggies, a raging fight combined with smart, timely coaching in order to pull off an upset against Brian Kelly's #5 ranked LSU Tigers.
Instead, what we've seen is a dumpster on fire that's been kicked over....igniting a gasoline-soaked floor, and now, the house is on fire....with the occupants inside desperately climbing the walls to escape this suffocating doom.
A&M's sideline will be replete with many top rated individual players, including a list of Aggies who LSU pursued vigorously on the recruiting trail.
There are current Aggies who were suspended by Jimbo Fisher and won't even be taking part in the game, yet they'll all be witnessing the Kelly Effect in live, first person proximity.
The effect could be jarring & transformative for many of these players, former Tiger commits or strong leans such as Ponchatoula safety Jacoby Mathews, #1 Rated 2022 tight end Jake Johnson (Max's brother), corners Denver Harris & Jardin Gilbert or defensive linemen Walter Nolen, Shemar Stewart and Enai White among the hefty list.
Much of Fisher's historic 2022 A&M recruiting class is littered with young men who nearly picked LSU, only falling for the Aggies' literal sales pitch.
That fact alone means this game isn't just another notch on the Brian Kelly win/loss record, nor is it the ecstatic madness of finishing the regular season with double digit wins....at College Station, LSU football are there to take care of business...however, in taking care of their business, this game could also turn into a recruiting trip for key staffers like JR Belton, Sherman Wilson, Corey Phillips, Bobby Barham and Destiny Wilson.
This weekend, LSU are about to embark on another business trip, hopefully their first of many in the next few months....winter breeding the age where champions are defined.
If October was for pretenders and November is for contenders, then December and January must be for???
On Saturday, we should see LSU attack A&M with a balanced offensive setup, testing Aggie DBs early through the air, wearing down their front with battering ram runs from Noah Cain, all setting up easy routes over the middle for Boutte, Bech and Nabers or the home run deep shots QB Jayden Daniels has so rarely taken.
Establishing a strong rushing dominance in the trenches also affords the dual threat quarterback space to take off.
In this game, the Tigers' defense will be fine, the Aggies won't stand a chance against our pass rush. I can't see any notable threat from the Aggies unless they finally unleash tight end Jake Johnson...I don't feel any sense of palpable worry over Matt House's defense....what I do want to see is Mike Denbrock's offense crank it up in the passing game.
In order to defeat Kirby Smart's Georgia, LSU must exploit their few deficiencies.
Believe it or not, the Bulldogs' worst defensive output resides within their secondary.
While full of big plays, they're also susceptible in coverage, with their incredible front seven making up for a lot of errors at the backend.
Against the Aggies, just like the UAB game, this is the moment where LSU can generate production, rhythm, chemistry, and confidence among their receiving corps.
Tiger receivers Kayshon Boutte, Malik Nabers, and Jack Bech all carrying just a single touchdown each through 11 games is an absolute crime.
At College Station, Daniels and his receivers have another strong opportunity in front of them, a chance to really make up for some lost time through the air, specifically taking red zone shots to get Kayshon Boutte going.
When thinking of a final score or A&M's chances, I'm looking at this team's ability to mentally pull together, almost against their Head Coach, and try to pull off the upset by way of a few early indications of life.
I'm looking for signs of any pulse or pride....but it's hard to find within a squad who are actively questioning whether they'll be wearing the same jersey, playing at the same school or sleeping in the same state in a few months' time....
1 TD 117 YARDS
2.5 SACKS, 3 TFLs
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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