by John Marcase
Nov 25, 2022
Thankful for Jimbo... NOT being a Tiger
The sixth “Jimbo Bowl” will take place Saturday in College Station, Texas.
Give credit to the schedule makers in the SEC when they moved the annual LSU-Texas A&M game to the final game of the season back in 2014.
They knew what they were doing or, did they?
The LSU-Arkansas matchup was nice when it was played on Black Friday. While the women shopped, the men could be distracted by watching the Tigers play in CBS’ featured game Friday afternoon.
But, LSU vs. Arkansas never moved the needle. It was a failed attempt to gin up a “heated” rivalry. Even the Golden Boot given to the winner of the game isn’t that coveted.
LSU vs. the Aggies?
Now, that is a different story.
The schools’ rivalry goes back to 1899. Saturday’s game will be the 60th in the series. Once upon a time not too long ago, this was the season opener for both schools.
The student bodies are filled with young women and men from each other’s states.
Then, there is recruiting, as they often compete against each other for top prospects from each state.
All of that was true before the night of November 28, 2015.
In the days leading up to A&M visiting LSU, Les Miles’ time in Baton Rouge as head coach had appeared to run its course.
Miles lost a significant chunk of the fan base due to the loss to Alabama in the 2011 BCS Championship game, and he never regained the tenuous support he received in following Nick Saban as LSU’s coach.
When the quirky - or creepy as it turns out - Miles led LSU to the 2007 National Championship, it was with Saban’s players, his critics scoffed.
The criticism only intensified during the 2015 season.
In 2015, LSU had lost three straight entering the regular-season finale. It began with what was now an annual loss to Alabama, and it continued with dispiriting losses to Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Midweek before the A&M game, word began to leak out LSU was firing Miles and hiring former offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State, where Fisher won the 2014 National Championship after replacing Bobby Bowden as head coach. Fisher had been LSU’s offensive coordinator under Saban.
No matter whose side you believe, the facts are then-LSU president King Alexander and then-AD Joe Alleva gave Miles a reprieve sometime during the third quarter of the Tigers’ 19-7 win over the Aggies.
Miles had become a martyr, complete with being carried off the field following the win. The good vibes lasted until LSU lost the season-opener of the 2016 season to Wisconsin in Lambeau Field.
When LSU lost to Auburn to fall to 2-2, Miles was fired.
Fisher rebuffed LSU’s overtures this time around when he was all set to take the LSU job months earlier. Maybe it was seeing how inept LSU was in leadership that caused him to stay, but the Tigers eventually went with interim coach Ed Orgeron, who did lead the “Tigahs” to the 2019 National Championship before his tenure imploded spectacularly two seasons later.
While LSU went with Orgeron, a year later Texas A&M went big in luring Fisher to College Station. The AD who pulled the trigger? Scott Woodward, who returned home to Baton Rouge to replace Alleva in 2019.
In between, LSU and A&M played a memorable game to conclude the 2018 season in the first Jimbo Bowl. It went seven overtimes before A&M won, 74-72. The 146 combined points are most in NCAA Division I history. LSU is convinced it won in regulation.
But, the real action came following the game when Fisher’s nephew helped instigate a wild postgame altercation. It involved former Auburn great Dameyune Craig, former LSU great Kevin Faulk, Fisher’s nephew and LSU assistant and former Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe, who accused Cole Fisher of punching him in his pacemaker. Hence, that game is sometimes referred to as the “Pacemaker Game,” and it supercharged the rivalry.
A year later, Orgeron and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow exacted revenge to the tune of a 50-7 beating.
Jimbo Fisher is 2-3 against LSU, and the odds are he will be 2-4 after Saturday. A&M began the season ranked sixth but is 3-7 and headed to a last-place finish in the SEC West. The Aggies’ six-game losing streak that was snapped with Saturday’s win over UMass, was their longest in 50 years.
Worse, Texas A&M essentially gave Fisher a lifetime contract prior to the 2021 season that bumped his salary to $9 million annually. Why overpay for a coach who has lost at least four games in five of his seasons?
Worried that Woodward would take another crack at hiring Fisher, A&M officials panicked. Woodward eventually hired Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, who is a win away in the Jimbo Bowl from having the Tigers play Georgia in the SEC Championship game with a College Football Playoff berth on the line.
That is something A&M hasn’t come close to accomplishing under Fisher.
Enjoy the Jimbo Bowl while you can because it soon may become extinct like many other bowl games.
Contact John at info@446Sports.com