The Texas A&M Aggies aren’t going to win the SEC West or SEC championships this year, but they can win everything else, including the big enchilada: the national title.
By Matt Zemek
It’s not a ridiculous notion: If the Aggies win out, and Alabama wins out, and Clemson or Notre Dame lose a second game (keeping in mind they’re headed for a likely rematch in the ACC Championship Game), the Aggies should be in the playoff, probably for a Rose Bowl semifinal against Ohio State. Alabama winning out would clear Florida from the equation. Clemson or Notre Dame losing a second game would enable the Aggies to jump them. That’s the simple formula for Jimbo Fisher to get back to the playoff for the first time since 2014 at Florida State. He made the Rose Bowl that season as well, when FSU faced Oregon in Pasadena.
The Aggies are living on the other side of the tracks this year. Last year, they were trying to ruin LSU’s dream season. Now it’s A&M which is trying to keep its dream alive, and LSU trying to spoil the party. Let’s look at the Aggies’ keys:
1 – Short and sweet
A&M won’t mind a horizontal game on Saturday. Kellen Mond is in his element as a quarterback when he can make short throws and doesn’t have to stretch the field. A&M is a tougher, more powerful team than LSU, so when one team is physically superior, it can afford to play the game in shorter, smaller segments. LSU will need huge plays to win. A&M can win with a slower and steadier style. Ball-control offense and a high-percentage passing game play to Mond’s strengths and this team’s overall advantages against LSU. A&M is in position to wear down the Tigers.
Obviously, if a deep ball is wide open, take it, but A&M doesn’t have to take chances to win. That’s LSU’s plan, not the Aggies’ modus operandi.
2 – Apply fire to Finley
LSU quarterback T.J. Finley has his moments of quality, but that’s the point: They’re just moments of excellence, as opposed to sustained demonstrations of brilliance. If opposing defenses can force Finley to slowly work the ball down the field, chances are he will eventually make a mistake, much as a tiring pitcher will eventually throw a meatball a power hitter can punish for a seventh-inning home run. Not getting beaten over the top and keeping LSU’s receivers penned into smaller, more compressed areas gives A&M’s defense a good chance of succeeding. The safeties need to box in the action and make sure no LSU receivers get behind them.
3 – Throw on first down
LSU is probably going to focus on taking away the run game with Isaiah Spiller, so Jimbo Fisher should start the game throwing on first down as a curveball. Force LSU to defend the pass, then establish Spiller against a lighter tackle box with fewer bodies. That could set up the Aggies’ offense for a big night.