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Did A&M finally expose LSU?

John Marcase

by John Marcase

November 28, 2022 at 11:00:00 PM

Editor: John use Nadir and Penultimate in the same story John: watch this...

The truth of the matter is LSU really wasn’t the fifth best team in the country entering Saturday night’s regular-season finale at Texas A&M.

The truth of the matter is Texas A&M really wasn’t as bad as its 4-7 record might indicate entering its final game of the season against LSU.

This had been a special season for LSU fans. Only the most optimistic Tiger fan could’ve given LSU a chance to win 10 games in Brian Kelly’s first season. Only the most partisan LSU backer would’ve overlooked the roster issues Kelly inherited and said this team is destined for the SEC Championship.

Before Saturday’s disappointing 38-23 loss to the Aggies, the Tigers were in position to snare a College Football Playoff berth with a win against a hapless A&M program and an upset of defending national champion Georgia in the SEC title game.

I would dare say the overwhelming majority of LSU fans would’ve accepted such terms after the Tigers lost their season opener, 24-23, to Florida State, and then were blown out by Tennessee, 40-13, five weeks later to fall to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC West.

But a funny thing happened. LSU wouldn’t lose. It followed the loss to the Vols with wins over Florida, No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 6 Alabama. The wins kept coming, with victories over Arkansas and UAB. In all, LSU entered the A&M game on a five-game win streak, and with wins in nine of its previous 10 games.

Then, it all collapsed in the second half at College Station, Texas.

John Emery tied the game for LSU, 17-17, The Tiger defense stiffened and forced a punt, LSU was riding the momentum and then disaster struck - Jayden Daniels fumbled on a third-and-1, and A&M’s Demani Richardson returned it 27 yards for the go-ahead score. It was the first of 21 consecutive points by the Aggies. The LSU defense, which had carried the team most of the season, finally suffered a brutal day. The Aggies converted 10 of 15 third-down attempts and rushed for 274 yards. No telling how many of those yards came due to LSU trying to dislodge the football instead of trying to tackle the ball carrier.

LSU had the misfortune of not playing its best game while A&M played its best overall game of the season.

This has been an embarrassing season for Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher and his program. His massive salary and buyout have been the storyline while A&M stumbled about. The Aggies, ranked in the preseason top 10, lost six straight in one stretch of the season. They finished 5-7 and 2-6.

Perhaps the nadir was in the team’s penultimate game with visiting Massachusetts. The crowd was sparse, to put it nicely, in 102,733-seat Kyle Field. The only highlight of the 20-3 win over UMass was the T-shirt relay in the upper deck. (Search for it on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed.)

Saturday, A&M turned it around for at least one weekend.

While Kelly has work to do in shoring up LSU’s roster, Fisher signed the nation’s top recruiting class in 2022. There is talent on his roster. It just hasn’t played to its lofty billing up to now but they did Saturday when the Tigers came calling.

The odds were A&M was going to put it all together at least once this season. LSU was its last chance to do so, and the Aggies delivered.

The odds were that LSU was due for a letdown, and it happened at the worst time.

Few would expect LSU to beat Georgia, which has now won 27 regular-season games in a row, and 30 of its last 31 games. Even fewer are expecting it now.

Maybe that is a good thing for Kelly’s team. They’ve exceeded expectations all season, and why stop now, even if there isn’t as much at stake for the Tigers now as there was at this time last week.

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