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Aggies have extra motivation vs. LSU after last season’s loss, but they’re not looking for ‘revenge’

A&M has far more on its mind than adding to the rivalry with the Tigers.

As a motivational tool, Jimbo Fisher is not a great believer in revenge.

“I mean, any time you get beat, you want to go back and play and compete very well,” the Texas A&M coach said this week. “But I don’t ever like the word revenge. I think revenge clouds your thinking.”

So CFP No. 5 Texas A&M has avoided any talk of settling scores with LSU going into Saturday’s game at Kyle Field. The approach is in direct contrast to LSU a year ago.

Spurred by a seven-overtime loss to the Aggies in 2018, LSU publicly targeted the rematch with A&M from the start of the season. In a charged atmosphere at Tiger Stadium, the eventual national champions extracted payback with a 50-7 rout, the Aggies’ worse loss ever to LSU.

“I feel like a game like football is never a revenge thing,” A&M running back/receiver Ainias Smith said. “What happened in the past is in the past.”

Fisher noted that the both teams have changed considerably since last year as well.

“I think that you got two different teams, two different groups of people, two different years apart,” Fisher said.

Plus, A&M has far more on its mind than adding to the rivalry with the Tigers.

Checking in at fifth in the initial CFP rankings, the Aggies are fully in the playoff mix for the first time since opening at No. 4 in 2016 and have a viable path to the final four on Dec. 20 — albeit with some help.

The Aggies almost certainly need to win out in their four remaining games against LSU, Auburn, Mississippi and Tennessee. The reworked schedule may be taking shape. Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said on his Wednesday radio show that the postponed A&M game had been set for Dec. 19 in Knoxville, according to GoVols247.com. If the road game at Auburn remains Dec. 5 as scheduled, then the postponed home game with Mississippi would fall on Dec. 12.

“Very happy for our team, very happy for our organization, program, all the fans, everybody,” Fisher said of the No. 5 ranking. “But we’ve got to remember why we’re in that situation is that we’re not worrying about the outcomes.”

The Aggies just have to continue to play like they have during a four-game winning streak. While not in the top four, Fisher said, A&M is in a good place.

“You’re in the hunt. You made yourself relevant,” Fisher said. “Now you’ve got to keep yourself relevant and that’s by not worrying about those rankings. Put those away. Those will take care of themselves if you handle your business.”

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he believed that A&M has improved in “almost every area” since last season and then elaborated. Among the improvements: an offensive line that has not allowed a sack in the Aggies’ last 171 pass attempts.

“Well, I think it starts with the physicality,” Orgeron said. “I mean their offensive line is a lot better offensive line than we played last year. Their run game is a lot better. Kellen Mond is playing better; they’re protecting him. ... Then you gotta look at their defense. They’ve got the No. 1 defense in the SEC.”

A&M will be trying to shake off the rust from a COVID-19 enforced 21-day hiatus. The Aggies haven’t played since beating South Carolina 48-32 on Nov. 7.

It was maybe A&M’s most complete performance since Fisher arrived in College Station after the 2017 season. Then it all came to a halt with three positive COVID-19 tests and the resultant contact tracing.

“It was pretty shocking, I would say,” said running back Isaiah Spiller, the third-leading rusher in the SEC. “It was kind of making us mad that we were stopping play. We wanted to keep playing, the team did.

“I feel like we really persevered through this even now. … I feel like we’re ready.”

Find more colleges stories from The Dallas Morning News here.

Chuck Carlton, College sports writer. Covering college sports for the Morning News for more than a decade plus a whole lot of other stuff in past lives. Much like the Big 12, I've improbably survived two bouts of realignment.

ccarlton@dallasnews.com @ChuckCarltonDMN
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