LSU junior safety JaCoby Stevens knows the only thing standing in the way of the Tigers’ perfect 12-0 regular season is LSU. As one of the defensive leaders, it's Stevens' job to make sure the team is mentally prepared for any tactic an opponent can hurl their way.
On Saturday, when the No. 1 Tigers host Texas A&M, there's an expectation the game will include a chippy edge that never existed before last year's 74-72 loss. That's because before last year, the Aggies hadn't beaten the Tigers since A&M made the switch to the SEC in 2012.
Stevens said while it's all good and fun for the fans to come in as rowdy and loud as can be, the players must focus on the task at hand.
"Everybody knows what happened last year and it's going to be a very emotional game, especially for our fans," Stevens said. "As players we have to keep our emotions in check because we're actually out there. We're going to play with high energy but we can't let that emotion take over and do things that aren't smart."
Stevens said the hardest part of losing last season was that it was the last game of the regular season. A team with 10-win aspirations, fell one win shy, finishing the regular season at 9-3 before eventually notching win No. 10 over UCF in the Fiesta Bowl a month later.
"It sat there for a while and sunk in," Stevens said of the loss. "We felt like we ended the season on a bad note and it was one of those moments in the offseason when we needed that extra push, that's one of the games we refer back too."
Saturday is not only the final time to see LSU play in Death Valley in 2019, but it will be the last time fans will get to see 15 seniors take the field, setting up for an emotional start to the game.
Among those seniors hoping to end their careers in Tiger Stadium on a good note are quarterback Joe Burrow, tight end Thaddeus Moss, center Lloyd Cushenberry, right guard Damien Lewis, cornerback Kristian Fulton and long snapper Blake Ferguson.
For Burrow, who has broken just about every school record for a quarterback there is, he doesn't know what his emotions will be like when he walks on the field for the final time.
"I hope not, but I said that in high school, too, and I got super-emotional," Burrow said. "And this one, this place means so much to me. Everyone has been so great. I never could have dreamed that this was going to happen, the reception from the people in Louisiana to an Ohio kid who transferred here. It's been such a great two years and I hope I can show some appreciation to the fans on Saturday."
On the field, Burrow and the offense will have their work cut out for them as the Aggie defense is coming off some impressive games, holding No. 4 Georgia to 19 points and their last three opponents to 39 total points.
Texas A&M is allowing 321 yards per game in 2019, ranking in the top-25 nationally in third down conversion percentage and scoring defense as well.
"They have some good players up front, [Justin Madubuike] is a really, really good player," Burrow said. "He's got twitch, he's strong and their defensive coordinator does a great job of mixing up the looks for me. They have a really good blitz package on third down and they'll go to it on second-and-long as well. I'm going to have to be keyed in to reading my keys pre-snap and get these blitzes picked up. They do a really good job, that coaching staff, they're good coaches."
Scoring on offense hasn't been an issue all season for LSU as the Tigers are ranked No. 2 in the country in both scoring offense (48.5) and total offense (561.2).
Burrow needs 261 yards and four touchdowns against Texas A&M to break the SEC record for passing yardage and passing touchdowns in a single season. The stat that will be imprinted in LSU minds forever will be the first SEC team in history to have a 4,000 yard passer, a 1,000 yard rusher and two 1,000 yard receivers in the same season.
While the records and awards Burrow will undoubtedly receive for his performance this year, the senior admitted it will be a hard time having to leave this place he's called home for the last two years.
"This place is super-special," Burrow said. "I went up to our trainer and I said, 'You guys find me a sixth year? You know, I'm coming back.' Unfortunately, I was not able to find that sixth year, so this will be the last one."