Aggies eager to renew old rivalry with LSU
Saturday's Texas A&M game against LSU certainly has the feel of a big rivalry game.
NFL Pro Bowler Von Miller, who was an All-America at A&M, tweeted that he will be there. So did former running back Cyrus Gray, who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Those are the kinds of things that used to happen when the Aggies played Texas every year. And while no one is saying the A&M-LSU game is Texas-like, it certainly could develop into a game that's Texas lite.
It's already a big game as Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 in the SEC West) has won five-consecutive games and ranked 20th nationally. LSU (6-1, 2-1) is coming off a huge win over South Carolina and is back in the national championship picture with a No. 6 ranking.
That just adds to a high-stakes game for two teams that have met 50 times, including a home-and-home series that lasted from 1986-1995.
"I know our fans are excited about playing LSU," said Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. "It's a ballgame that hasn't happened in a while and used to happen often. With the move into the SEC and not playing Texas anymore, because of the proximity of the two schools, it's just a natural big game. I know our fans have been looking forward to this ever since the schedule was set up. I don't know that you can ever replace a rivalry, but it certainly becomes a big game with our fan base."
It's a rivalry with some history to it too, even though the Tigers haven't come to College Station in 17 years.
The last time LSU came College Station with a top-10 ranking was 1989 and that year the Aggies beat LSU 28-16. The last time the two teams met with the Cotton Bowl in 2011 with LSU winning 41-24.
While LSU already has natural rivals in the SEC including top-ranked Alabama, LSU head coach Les Miles is well aware of the history between the two schools.
"I recognize the history between the two schools and it's really been brought to me by our fan base," Miles said. "We looked back at the last number of times we've played and what the overall record is (LSU leads 27-20-3) and kind of became familiar with that rivalry. The fan base brought it to light to me, even the last time we played. I think our team understands that this is a very quality team and looks forward to participating and competing well."
Rivalry or no rivalry, it's a big game for the Aggies. A win gets them bowl eligible and further legitimizes them in the SEC. The Aggies have conference wins over Mississippi and Arkansas but missed out on a chance at a statement win when they were edged by Florida 20-17 in the season opener.
That loss to a Florida team that's now ranked third nationally doesn't seem like a bad loss anymore. It was also the first football game for A&M redshirt quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Now he's played six games and continues to garner national attention. While Manziel still isn't allowed to talk to the media because of a policy Sumlin has regarding first-year players, his numbers speak for him.
He ranks second in the country in total offense and is still learning as he goes. A win over LSU will only enhance Manziel's breakout season.
"He has made strides," Sumlin said of Manziel, who was the Walter Camp offensive player of the week following Saturday's 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech. "He's getting better every week. We've given him a little more offense every week, what he can handle. Last week he was able to really go through his progressions a little better and get the ball down the field vertically as much as he's done all year. Because of that, I think it's going to open up things for him and really open up our offense."