Six weeks ago, Texas A&M had a rude awakening in its SEC debut, a 20-17 loss to Florida. It was one of those games in which the Aggies seemed a split-second away from turning average plays into big gains, but missed opportunities spoiled what should have been a banner day for the program.
It wasn't a bad game necessarily, just not a good one.
But the Aggies are now winners of five straight games and ranked No. 18 in this week's BCS standings, a sign of how far head coach Kevin Sumlin has brought this program in his first year.
After last week's 59-57 shootout win at Louisiana Tech, Sumlin's team welcomes LSU to Kyle Field. After that season opening loss to the Gators, the Aggies can regain a measure of credibility this Saturday against the No. 6 team in the nation.
Sumlin thinks the Aggies will be more competitive this time:
"I think we're a different football team than we were six weeks ago. Really, going into Florida, we went in blind. We really didn't know - you don't have anything to really compare it to. Now, you go into this game, you've had like opponents, actually," Sumlin told John Granato and Sean Pendergast on 1560 AM in Houston. "Our guys have a better feel. We've played three SEC teams, we've won two of those games, lost to Florida by three. We've been able to have a better gauge of where we are physically. … We gained some confidence out of that Florida game."
This has the potential to be a statement game for the program and a true barometer for the Aggies in their first year in a new conference. A win against LSU, which won the SEC Championship Game and made the BCS Championship Game last year, and all of a sudden Texas A&M is no longer the outsider with ambitions of keeping up in the top conference in college football.
Saturday's game not only poses the possibility of erasing the memories of the season-opening loss to Florida, but would also finally clear the air from last season. In 2011 in the final year under head coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies went 7-6 and closed out the season with a win over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It was an underwhelming season, filled with poor execution and unfulfilled expectations.
But this is a new season, and Sumlin can put his stamp on it with a win against LSU.
"I think our players understand us and our attitude right now. I've got enough to worry about than to worry about last year," Sumlin said. "There's a reason we do things the way we do them and I think our players understand that. I think they understand our expectations."
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