COLLEGE STATION -- Deep in Louisiana bayou lies Tiger Stadium. Nicknamed "Death Valley," former LSU coach Les Miles once told reporters it was a place dreams come to die.
Texas A&M's aspirations of its first 10-win season in the Jimbo Fisher era remain alive. That too would die should the Aggies (8-3, 4-3 SEC) fall flat in the regular-season finale in the Tigers' backyard.
"When you play in the SEC, you have to give that team your best," Aggies defensive back Antonio Johnson said. "If you're off one day, that could be it."
The No. 14 Aggies don't control their own destiny when it comes to making a New Year's Six Bowl in 2021. They need help from two rivals (Alabama and Mississippi State), but a win solidifies nine victories in Year 4 of Fisher's time in College Station.
None of that matters in the eyes of the athletic directors and boosters. What matters is how teams build off the season before. LSU (5-6, 2-5) is an example that the SEC isn't a league of "what have you done in the past" but rather "what have you done lately."
Tigers coach Ed Orgeron will be calling the shots one last time in Baton Rouge. Two years ago, LSU hoisted its first national title since 2007 under the direction of Orgeron and former Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.
Since then, the Tigers are 10-11, and athletic director Scott Woodward will be looking for his next head coach.
Florida coach Dan Mullen, hired in the same offseason as Fisher, was just fired despite posting a 34-15 record.
"It's going to be very emotional, and (Ed) will have them ready to play," Fisher said Monday. "It's going to be a great challenge for us."
The Aggies are coming off a tune-up 52-3 victory against Prairie View A&M in the final home game of the season. Seniors said their goodbye to Kyle Field with smiles and tears. Backups were able to show what they're capable of should their number be called.
A&M knows what Tiger Stadium brings. It's not just about the talent on the field, but LSU fans create a volatile environment that often factors in the final score.
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"It's very electric, very fun, great people and they love their Tigers," Fisher said of Death Valley. "It's a heck of an atmosphere ... great place to play when you're home, a tough place to play when you're on the road."
Fisher knows Baton Rouge well. Working with Nick Saban and later Miles, the Aggies coach spent six seasons (2000-06) as the Tigers' offensive coordinator, including a national title in 2003. Those ties are the reason Fisher's name is linked to the LSU opening.
Woodward, who served as A&M's athletic director from 2016-19, played a vital role in Fisher leaving Florida State for A&M. Even with Fisher agreeing to a new contract that will pay him $9 million in 2022, it's expected that Woodward still will test the waters with his old friend.
Fisher has repeatedly made his point about a potential return to Louisiana.
"Hopefully (the players) have trust in me. I definitely I have it in them," Fisher said when asked about remaining at A&M for the foreseeable future. "We're developing each and every day."
Outside of a 29-19 loss to No. 10 Ole Miss, the Aggies have won five of their last six outings. The offense has found stability on the ground, the defense has only allowed more than 14 points twice.
Then again, it's LSU. It's the last hurrah for the Tigers seniors and for Orgeron. Should the Tigers win, they'll be bowl eligible, keeping the roster together a tad longer.
That makes LSU dangerous with nothing lose. And don't think the Aggies aren't aware.
"It's going to be tough and challenging whenever coming out against LSU," wide receiver Jalen Preston said. "It's always tough with the crowd that they have. Just have to prepare."
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