NCAA Football

LSU is looking to avoid falling to a tough Texas A&M campaign

LSU is looking to avoid falling to a tough Texas A&M campaign

On paper, No. 6 LSU’s game against Texas A&M should be an easy win.

But Tigers coach Brian Kelly knows the Aggies can’t be underestimated despite their struggles this season.

“This is as talented a team as any football team we’re going to see all year,” Kelly said. “They’re young in some areas, but that doesn’t take away from the talent they have on the field … against LSU, their rival, they’re going to play the best they can against us. … They don’t have the wins they wanted, but all they need (now) is one, and that’s to beat LSU.”

The talent that had people expecting Texas A&M to contend for the SEC West title this season didn’t pan out. The Aggies (4-7, 1-6 SEC) will miss a bowl game for the first time since going 4-8 in 2008.

The Tigers (9-2, 6-1, No. 5 CFP), winners of five straight, have already secured a spot in the SEC title game against top-ranked Georgia, but must take care of business against lowly Texas A&M to have any a chance participation in the college football playoffs. The Aggies snapped a six-game skid last week with a sloppy win over UMass and hope to build on that win Saturday as they close out what has been a disappointing season.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is trying to keep his emotions at bay this week and is urging his team to do whatever they can to end the season on a positive note.

“I think it’s huge for the future of what we have here, which we think is extremely bright,” he said. “It would be great for those seniors and a great message for those young players coming in this offseason.”

Texas A&M offensive lineman Layden Robinson took Fisher’s message to heart and expects the Aggies to play well in their final game.

“The mindset is to finish – finish strong,” he said. “I feel like this team is going to have a great game on Saturday. … We’re playing a great LSU team, but they’re also going to get the best of us.”

The win would give LSU its first 10-win year since going 15-0 in the 2019 national championship season. But Kelly has bigger goals than just reaching double-digit wins.

“I don’t think they give you any advice or anything, but 10 wins is definitely a benchmark when people look back on seasons,” he said. “You know, I think it goes a long way toward building your postseason opportunities.”

THE RISING CAIN

LSU running back Noah Cain, a Penn State commit Kelly lured back to his home state, had one of the tightest and best games of his first season with the Tigers last weekend and could be counted on again this week.

His 13 carries against UAB were a season-high, and his 76 yards rushing was highlighted by three short touchdowns. He now leads LSU running backs in rushing TDs with seven.

LSU gets lost in the passing game. Armony Goodwin is out for the season. Josh Williams was ruled out last week with a knee injury and his availability for the Aggies remains to be seen. So if LSU has to rely on Cain, Kelly is okay with that.

“He is not bright. I don’t think he’s going to be a guy that a lot of people are going to miss, but should he?’ Kelly said. “He plays with low pads. He is physical. He is intelligent. He catches the ball coming out of the backfield. He is reliable in pass protection and is hard to bring down. I mean, I just mentioned four or five things that are really nice to have.’

COMING BACK?

Texas A&M’s offense was without its top two players in Saturday’s 20-3 win over UMass, with leading rusher Devon Achain and leading receiver Evan Stewart out with injuries.

Fisher said this week he was “very optimistic” the pair could return against the Tigers.

Achain missed two games with a foot injury and Stewart was out last week after taking a hit to the head two weeks ago against Auburn.

Achane has 887 rushing yards and his 98.6 yards per game average ranks third in the SEC. Stewart ranks fifth in the SEC with 67.4 yards per game, and his 607 yards are tied for first among conference freshmen.

HOT HOUSE

LSU’s defense has thrived under first-year coordinator Matt House.

House joined LSU after spending three years as the Kansas City Chiefs’ linebackers coach, a stretch that included two Chiefs Super Bowl appearances and one title. This week, he was named a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant coach in college football.

LSU’s defense ranks fourth in the SEC with averages of 338.5 yards and 20 points allowed per game and has turned the ball over 16 times this season, which ranks sixth in the league.

His performance led to questions this week about his potential head coaching bid elsewhere.

“If Matt House gets an opportunity, if he thinks it’s going to be better, I’ll help him in any way I can,” Kelly said. “It’s part of this profession.”

“I don’t know that Matt House came here to be the defensive coordinator (just) for a year,” Kelly continued, noting that he thinks House and his family “love it here.

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AP sports writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.

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AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Subscribe to the AP Football Newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2





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