Texas A&M Aggies at LSU: a Rivalry Renewed

Texas A&M LSU

On November 24th, 2018, the rivalry between LSU and Texas A&M returned from a hiatus over 20 years old. It is not as though they had not faced each other since the 1995 season opener in College Station. The Aggies and Tigers were paired against each other in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the 2010 season. They had met annually on the gridiron starting in 2012 after the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference. So how was it that a rivalry was not ongoing?

Lopsided Aggies LSU Rivalry

This series history dates back to 1899. Since that first game, LSU and Texas A&M have played against each other at least twice per decade except for the 1930s and 2000s. The Aggies traveled to Baton Rouge every season from 1960 through 1975. The teams alternated between Baton Rouge and College Station for showdowns in September every year starting in 1986 and ending in 1995. LSU holds the advantage in the series, 33-21-3.

The rivalry had been laying dormant since the middle of the Clinton administration due to lack of competitivity. Starting with LSU’s romp in the Cotton Bowl, the Fighting Tigers had won all seven matches before last season’s. The margin of victory averaged 14.7 points. In five of those wins, LSU had won by double digits. In the first season in the SEC, Texas A&M defeated the other five members of the SEC West but could not beat LSU until seven years later. Even Johnny Football, for all of his accomplishments, reacted to LSU in the same way that Superman does in the presence of Kryptonite in his two matchups.

Re-emergence of competitiveness and hostility

However, a true rivalry re-emerged over the course of that evening in late November 2018. It began as two teams merely jockeying for bowl positions in the regular-season finale.  It morphed into a grudge match that was not settled until after midnight. It tied a record for most extra periods played. It broke the record for most points scored in an FBS game. It prodded the NCAA to tinker with rules related to overtime. Texas A&M’s first win in the series in more than two decades helped to revive the rivalry.

Additionally, post-game fracases in 2018 have heated up the animosity in the Aggies LSU rivalry. Dameyune Craig, a former assistant at LSU and an assistant at Texas A&M, began taunting LSU’s coaches on the field after the game. Apparently, he still held a grudge against Ed Orgeron for firing him during the 2016 season. LSU’s offensive analyst Steve Kragthorpe chastised Craig for trash-talking. Then, the Aggies’ head coach Jimbo Fisher’s nephew, Cole, punched Kragthorpe in the chest. Director of player personnel and former LSU football star Kevin Faulk came to Kragthorpe’s defense by scuffling with Cole Fisher. Enough players and coaches intervened to prevent a full-scale brawl.

The Aggies’ prospects for victory

Texas A&M has produced mediocre results. All four of their losses occurred to ranked opponents though two of those were by single digits. They have no victories over any opponent that can finish the regular season with a winning record. In short, the Aggies have beaten the teams that they should have and lost to those favored to beat the Aggies.

Texas A&M’s defense appears overmatched heading into this game. Against nine Power Five opponents, the Aggies have allowed an average of 361.5 total offensive yards. In those games, they surrendered 21 touchdowns. Those four ranked opponents piled up an average of 207.5 passing yards and 142 rushing yards per game in addition to 13 offensive touchdowns.

Texas A&M has not shown that its offense can keep pace with LSU’s. The Aggies have cracked the 40-point ceiling just once against a Power Five foe. Against only three Power Five teams have they scored 30 or more points. They have scored five or more touchdowns in four games but only once have they accomplished that against an SEC opponent.

For any chance of upsetting LSU, the Aggies must not sabotage their own efforts. Protecting the ball while winning the turnover margin stands out as an obvious necessity. However, Texas A&M has given away the ball at least once in 10 of their 11 games. In their four losses, the Aggies lost the turnover margin at the rate of -1 in three of those while finishing even with Alabama. Also, defensive penalties such as the 12 for 74 yards versus Auburn and the 11 for 91 yards versus Alabama would be lethal in Tiger Stadium.

LSU’s accomplishments and mindset

LSU’s high-powered offense has been cruising. The Tigers have compiled more than 300 passing yards in every game with the exception of 293 versus Florida. Mississippi State is the only opponent to have limited the Tigers to fewer than 100 rushing yards. In terms of total offensive yards, they have exceeded 400 yards in every game and 500 yards in nine games. They have scored more than 40 points in nine games. They are averaging 3.45 rushing touchdowns and 2.36 passing touchdowns per game. All of these have made Joe Burrow the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

The subtle references and reactions among LSU’s coaches indicate a desire to settle a score with Texas A&M. Some have made snide remarks about Texas A&M’s printing the score of last season’s win over LSU on the Aggies’ rings for winning the Gator Bowl. Others seemed amused about commemorative cups created for that victory and sold at Kyle Field. No one should doubt that LSU’s coaches will remind their players about the post-game verbal and physical exchanges on the field.

This matchup is brimming with bitterness. Texas A&M could salvage a disappointing season with an upset. LSU can bolster its case for the top seed in the College Football Playoffs with a dominating victory. Either way, the Aggies LSU rivalry will continue to build.

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