BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — It could be a little awkward when Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher leads the Aggies out of the visitor’s locker room at Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
Fisher has been widely mentioned as a candidate to fill LSU’s coaching vacancy, but has emphatically stated he has no plans to leave College Station any time soon. This week, players at Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC) said they trust that Fisher means what he says.
“It makes us really happy. Coach Fisher is building a special place here,” Aggies receiver Jalen Preston said this week while referencing A&M’s highly regarded incoming recruiting class. “This is going to be a special team.”
Fisher also mentioned recent recruiting successes while saying, “I’m the dumbest human being on God’s earth to recruit all these guys to A&M so I can go (to LSU) and go play against them.”
Still, there are plenty of people in Baton Rouge who’d like to see Fisher consider leading players out of the home locker room at Death Valley next season.
Fisher has a past with LSU and its athletic director, Scott Woodward. In late 2017, Woodward was the Texas A&M A.D. who lured Fisher away from Florida State. Fisher also was an offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000 to 2006 under both Nick Saban and Les Miles.
Meanwhile, outgoing LSU coach Ed Orgeron, a south Louisiana native, will be living out the final chapter of a dream job that saw him go from being celebrated as home-grown national champion two seasons ago to being run out of town this fall.
His rollercoaster ride at LSU ends with a chance to beat the coach who could potentially have his job — if he wanted it.
“I know it’s going to be his last game, so it’ll be very emotional,” Fisher said. “They’ll be ready to play.”
Orgeron hasn’t cried foul. He says he understands the Tigers (5-6, 2-5), who are one game under .500 during the past two seasons combined, haven’t met expectations. He’s also getting a soft landing — a nearly $17 million buyout.
“I am appreciative of the time I had here,” Orgeron said. “A lot of great days.”
Orgeron and the Tigers still have something riding on this game. A victory makes them bowl eligible and several players have said they want to give Orgeron a triumphant sendoff.
“I appreciate that. I love those boys. They know that. But I want them to play for them. I want them to win for the Tigers,” Orgeron said. “It’s never been about me.”
LSU is 7-2 against Texas A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012, but the Tigers have lost two of three since Fisher arrived in College Station.
Now the Aggies, who haven’t won at Tiger Stadium since 1994, come in as 6 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
If LSU loses, the Tigers will finish a season with a losing record for the first time since 1999.
Citing the Aggies’ success running the ball, Orgeron has forecast a “battle in the trenches.”
Texas A&M’s offense has been led by the running back tandem of Isaiah Spiller (third in the SEC with 984 yards rushing) and versatile Devon Achane (1,328 all-purpose yards).
LSU’s defense, led by Butkus Award finalist Damone Clark, has been stout against the run recently, allowing just 265 yards rushing combined in its past three games against Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana-Monroe.
Freshmen have stood out lately for both teams, particularly in the passing game.
A&M receiver Moose Muhammad had five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns in just his second career game during last week’s victory over Prairie View.
Three of LSU’s top five active receivers are freshmen: tight end Jack Bech (42 catches for 478 yards and three TDs) as well as receivers Malik Nabers (20 catches, 349 yards, three TDs) and Brian Thomas Jr. (26 catches, 344 yards, two TDs).
Nabers had 143 yards and a TD last week against Louisiana-Monroe.
With a win, Texas A&M can improve prospects for a New Year’s Day bowl and stay on track for its first 10-win season since 2012.
LSU might not get a bowl bid if it wins, but it also theoretically could get a bowl invitation at 5-7 should there not be enough eligible teams to fill out the entire bowl lineup.
Should the Tigers go to a bowl, Orgeron has said he’d like to coach in it, but isn’t sure he would.
“I’m going to talk to the administration,” Orgeron said. “We need to have a conversation to see what’s best for the football team.”
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25
Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.