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With Nothing To Lose, Texas A&M Hopes To Spoil LSU's Playoff Chances

Texas A&M can ruin LSU's College Football Playoff chances with a win in the season finale.

COLLEGE STATION -- Edgerrin Cooper needed three words to describe not just Saturday's weather, but also the state of Texas A&M Aggies football during a six-game losing streak.

"It's been miserable," the junior linebacker said Saturday.

Copper isn't alone with his assessment of the Aggies' current status despite picking up a 20-3 victory over Massachusetts to end the six-game skid last week. Offensive lineman Layden Robinson was a bit more jovial with his description of the program entering Week 13, but the message remained the same.

"This season will likely be remembered as a disappointment. There's no hiding that. There's no going away from that," Robinson said. "It's also a learning experience for the players.

"This is a lesson for the team to deal with some growing pains and some scars you develop. You just have to overcome them in the future."

The Aggies (4-7, 1-6 SEC) will suit up one more time in 2022. With bowl eligibility off the table, Texas A&M won't have much to play for in terms of immediate expectations.

It will, however, have the chance to spoil No. 6 LSU's chances of making the College Football Playoff in Year 1 of the Brian Kelly era. For players like Cooper, a native of Louisiana, there's more than pride on the line facing the hometown team.

That's a big thing that we're looking forward to," Cooper said Saturday. "We're looking forward to making a stamp, to make this happen."

In a sense, the preseason trajectory of LSU and Texas A&M has flipped since Week 1's initial kickoff. After nabbing the No. 1 recruiting class for 2022, the preseason No. 6 Aggies were projected to contend for an SEC West title and perhaps a chance for the College Football Playoff.

LSU (8-2, 6-1 SEC), two years removed from winning its third national title since 2000, was expected to take a season under Kelly and build a sustainable foundation for 2023. The crew in Baton Rouge worked overtime to put in the final touches of the base level before the start of conference play.

The Tigers have won nine of their last 10 games behind Kelly's play-calling and improved quarterback play from transfer Jayden Daniels. Defensively, LSU has a trio of playmakers that can ruin a quarterback's day, including freshman phenom Harold Perkins at middle linebacker.

"You just see a natural athlete," Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said of Perkins, who initially committed to Texas A&M in January. "He's great in space, rushes, plays physical. He's a very intelligent young man. We knew going in he was a very highly recruited guy ... he's a very good player. I always enjoyed being around him."

Morale is higher around the program this week following a monotonous victory over the Minutemen (1-10). A win Saturday might show that the program is headed in the right direction entering the offseason.

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A victory not only helps the Aggies avoid their worst record since 2008, but the same goes for Fisher. Prior to joining the 12th Man following the 2017 season, the fifth-year Aggies coach finished a career-worst 5-6 at Florida State before resigning to take over for Kevin Sumlin.

Fisher said Monday that a win would mean little in the short term. In the long run, it could pay dividends in boosting the status of the program entering the off period in terms of recruiting and the transfer portal.

The Aggies won't just be looking to build their recruiting class before the Early Signing Period next month. Fisher will be back to work Sunday, hoping to convince those currently on the roster to remain in College Station for another go-around after a lost season.

"It's huge for the future of what you have here, which we [still] believe is extremely bright in terms of where we're going we're doing and what we're doing," said Fisher.

Fisher has preached since the Aggies' 42-24 loss to Florida the term "finishing." It's not just about closing out games with victories, but rather playing for the seniors who will don the Maroon and White uniforms one more time.

Players like receiver Jalen Preston, linebacker Andre White Jr. and safety Demani Richardson all could elect to return for another year because the NCAA did not count eligibility in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Third-year players, such as Robinson, Cooper and running back Devon Achane, all are expected to mull over their decisions following Saturday's outing. 

For Fisher, a win would do wonders for his approval rating among boosters. In reality, the upset at home is for his players, who expected much more than a sub-.500 season when Sam Houston arrived at Kyle Field back in September.

"It'd be a great send-off for the last time they walk in that stadium," Fisher said. "It's another lesson of persevering and not letting circumstances dictate who you are and what you are, but rather how you deal with it.

"It'll be great for those seniors and it'll be a great message for those young players going into the offseason." 

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