Pasquali’s Pix: Points to be at a premium for Vols-Gators; Bulldogs to roll

Texas A&M photo by Tom Diniz Santos / Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday at Miami, but he was also intercepted twice as the Hurricanes pulled away for a 48-33 victory.
Texas A&M photo by Tom Diniz Santos / Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday at Miami, but he was also intercepted twice as the Hurricanes pulled away for a 48-33 victory.

Texas A&M has produced a 6-8 record since signing the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class and has yet to win outside the Lone Star State.

That’s not how top-ranked hauls are supposed to work.

The Aggies went 5-7 last year after beginning the season ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press poll, and their plans for a quality rebound year suffered an early blow last weekend with a 48-33 loss at Miami. Texas A&M jumped out to a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter before the Hurricanes closed on a 41-16 tear.

“We’ve got a lot of football left,” Aggies sixth-year coach Jimbo Fisher said Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference teleconference. “I think we still have a very, very good football team, and we expect to correct things, move on and still have a great year.”

Last Saturday went from bad to worse for the Aggies when longtime rival Texas went to Alabama and defeated the Crimson Tide 34-24. Texas and Oklahoma are joining the SEC next season, which will make it even tougher in Texas A&M’s quest to succeed.

The Aggies are still seeking their first trip to the SEC championship game since entering the league in 2012, and they have losing records within their division against Alabama (2-9), Auburn (5-6), LSU (3-8) and Mississippi State (5-6). The Ole Miss series is a 5-5 split due to the 2020 contest being canceled due to the coronavirus.

That 2020 season has been the high-water mark of the Fisher era, with the Aggies posting an 8-1 regular season and then winning the Orange Bowl over North Carolina. In Fisher’s last 23 games, the Aggies are just 11-12, which begs the question of whether Texas A&M will ever get over the hump.

“It’s a very fair question, and I thought we did in 2020,” Fisher said. “We had a tremendous year, and I thought we should’ve been in the playoff. That’s neither here nor there, but we had experience that year, and after that, I think we had a couple of injuries and some youth at the same time. When that happens, you just have to keep the faith to keep doing this.

“We have to play on the road better and we have to keep our maturity, but I do think we have a good team.”

Texas A&M, which has lost at least four games in nine straight non-COVID seasons, hosts Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday. The Aggies then begin conference play with consecutive contests against Auburn, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee before their open date.

“Saying it and doing it are two different things,” Fisher said. “We’ve been close, but we’ve got to keep fighting to pull some of these situations out.”

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LSU second-year coach Brian Kelly previously coached at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

Kelly has taken teams to Canada and Ireland and worked countless times in the snow, but he has never coached a game at Mississippi State. In other words, he has never encountered cowbells.

“We had them out in practice yesterday,” Kelly said Wednesday. “They create a different environment, that is certain. I guess it’s like anything else in that if you get used to it during the week of practice, it then becomes your job to make sure they’re not as active in the game by playing well. Certainly early in the game, we expect a really enthusiastic crowd, and it will be up to our play to manage that.

“We’ve got all of our managers this week working on cowbells.”


Pasquali’s Pix

LSU at Mississippi State: The Tigers are 20-3 against the Bulldogs so far this century. Tigers 28, Bullies 21.

South Carolina at Georgia: Still can’t believe this border rivalry is coming to an end on an annual basis. Still can’t believe this is the last year of the “SEC on CBS.” Bulldogs 41, Gamecocks 10.

Alabama at South Florida: Just a couple of 1-1 teams getting after it. Tide 45, Bulls 6.

The Citadel at UTC: This is the 57th series meeting, making The Citadel the most frequent opponent for the Mocs. Mocs 34, Bulldogs 13.

Tennessee at Florida: The Gators haven’t exactly frightened folks offensively this season, but their defense is allowing just 191 yards per game. Vols 20, Gators 17.

Samford at Auburn: The Tigers have won 31 consecutive homecoming games and are 28-0-1 all-time against the Bulldogs. Tigers 38, Bulldogs 9.

Vanderbilt at UNLV: Is there a more iron-clad stat in college football than the Commodores having never lost in Nevada? Commodores 23, Rebels 20.

Georgia Tech at Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin’s Rebels won last year’s meeting 42-0 in Atlanta. Rebels 45, Yellow Jackets 28.

Other picks:

Memphis 35, Navy 26

Miami 48, Bethune-Cookman 9

Arkansas 42, Brigham Young 35

Kansas State 31, Missouri 28

Texas A&M 50, UL-Monroe 21

Kentucky 49, Akron 22

Florida State 34, Boston College 13

Penn State 37, Illinois 20

N.C. State 56, VMI 7

Notre Dame 63, Central Michigan 14

North Carolina 27, Minnesota 26

Ohio State 52, Western Kentucky 15

Washington 33, Michigan State 24

Middle Tennessee 38, Murray State 19

Michigan 45, Bowling Green 10

Texas 41, Wyoming 12

Clemson 40, Florida Atlantic 3

Last week:

Winners — 22

Deion doubters left — 3

Pasquali is 43-7 (86.0%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.