LSU football: What’s at stake for the Tigers against Texas A&M?
LSU already has won the SEC West.
It’s going to Atlanta on Dec. 3 to play Georgia for the SEC championship.
Nothing that happens in the regular-season finale at Texas A&M on Saturday is going to change that.
But the Tigers still have a whole lot at stake against the Aggies, who are the inverse of them.
LSU is arguably the biggest surprise team in college football this season, and A&M is arguably the most disappointing team in college football.
But this is the SEC, and everyone has talented players — and the Aggies have more talent than most, despite their underachievement.
It was barely a week ago when the Tigers went to Arkansas and very nearly were upset by the Razorbacks. So they know the visit to College Station can be dangerous — and damaging despite their guaranteed trip to Atlanta.
LSU, which easily handled UAB 41-10 on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, is No. 6 in the CFP rankings.
If it beats No. 1 Georgia, it will have a chance to get into the CFP. Of course, other outcomes and the evaluation by the CFP committee will also be significant factors in the Tigers’ fate.
But none of that will matter if LSU loses to Texas A&M.
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First and foremost, the Tigers have to beat the Aggies to keep alive their highest aspirations.
But there’s more at stake than just getting out of there with a win so they don’t mess up their Playoff hopes.
They will have to play their best game of the season in order to beat Georgia — much better than they played in beating Ole Miss, even better than they played in beating Alabama.
LSU’s game against A&M is an opportunity to hone its game to the point that it will be primed to potentially beat Georgia.
Head coach Brian Kelly seemed to have this on his mind Saturday when he played many starters longer than was necessary to secure victory, trying to keep the team’s edge.
Certainly, next week’s game provides an even better opportunity to keep sharpening.
It’s an opportunity for the offensive line to continue its season-long growth, to spar with the Aggies’ really talented defensive front as preparation for going toe to toe with the Bulldogs’ elite defensive front.
It’s an opportunity for Jayden Daniels to continue the momentum from his performance against UAB (297 passing yards, 111 rushing yards) as he became the first LSU quarterback to throw for 290-plus yards and rush for 100-plus yards in the same game.
Daniels will have to be smart, efficient and dynamic against Georgia.
It’s an opportunity for Kayshon Boutte to keep trying to regain some semblance of the late 2020/early 2021 version of himself.
It’s an opportunity to sort out the running back position, as Josh Williams and Armoni Goodwin were held out Saturday, John Emery Jr. fumbled twice and Noah Cain became an important factor.
It’s an opportunity for the defense to continue its evolution so it can contain Stetson Bennett IV and the Georgia offense enough for Daniels to have a chance to be a difference-maker.
It’s an opportunity for the special teams to put their recurring disasters into the review mirror and emerge as a positive factor in a championship push.
It’s an opportunity for Kelly and his staff to identify the areas that need sharpening most critically for the Georgia game, and to use the game against the Aggies to do the sharpening.
No. 5 Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina on Saturday night did LSU a world of good. Surely, the Tigers will be No. 5 when the CFP rankings are updated on Tuesday night.
With No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan playing next Saturday, LSU should have an opportunity to pass the loser and enter the CFP if the Tigers win the last 2 — though nothing is guaranteed when subjective decisions are made.
And all the CFP speculation becomes moot if 2 weeks from now, LSU can’t pull off the most improbable winning performance in a season filled with them.
But none of that matters unless the Tigers beat the Aggies.
That’s what’s at stake for LSU.