1. Well, the Aggies made the high-profile hire of last offseason. Verdict on year one of Jimbo Fisher to date?
Rush: So far, pretty much on track. But how he does against LSU was always going to be the real measuring stick for 2018.
Lucas: Jimbo has definitely taken what he was given and made it better. He changed the culture and the style of play, and this team is exceptionally improved fundamentally and mentally. These boys play SEC football. That said, for me the measuring stick for all coaches comes down to wins and losses. The rest is just posturing. This team has only beaten the teams with less talent. You get no credit for doing what is expected. You get kudos for the exceptional. Beating LSU would be exceptional and a shot across the bow to the rest of the nation. A loss means we aren’t there yet, and will have to wait another year before we know.
2. Kellen Mond has been a nice surprise as a solid QB for the Aggies. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Rush: Mond’s confidence and ability have grown exponentially since last year. His biggest strength is probably his coolness and composure (see the Clemson game). His weakness is that he still makes some questionable reads and throws (Auburn, Mississippi State).
Lucas: One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is how much he has grown physically. Mond has certainly put on more muscle, and this gives him the confidence to stand in the pocket and take a hit. His weakness is an inability to anticipate plays. He gets very locked into his pre-snap read. He needs to let the game come to him a bit more.
3. Defensively, the Aggies handle the run very well, but have been awful against the pass. What has been the story there?
Lucas: Some of it is losing more than their share of 50/50 balls. The rest is just poor coverage. Elko has run a lot of single high, and A&M’s safeties haven’t been quick enough to compensate when the corners get beaten. Deboine Renfro and Myles Jones were recruited for their physical tools, not coverage ability. And that shows….both the good and the bad.
4. Trayveon Williams and Jace Sternberger have had big years. Are they the two guys LSU will really need to key on, or can this team spread the ball around a little more?
Rush: The short answer: yes, take those two guys out of the equation and the offense struggles. True freshman Jashaun Corbin at running back is a dynamic player, and having Jhamon Ausbon back lends stability to the WR corps but overall, #5 and #81 are the bread, butter, and pretty much every other component of the meal.
Lucas: Those are the guys. There’s no way around it. Mond and A&M have had tremendous difficulty getting the ball to the wideouts. Jahmon Ausbon can also get open, and I expect to see him locked up with Greedy Williams most of the day. Quartney Davis has shown flashes as well, but don’t expect A&M to target anybody else very often.
5. What does this game mean to y’all, and can we expect a juiced up atmosphere on Saturday?
Lucas: I’m not gonna hide from it. This game means a lot to me, A&M fans, and the trajectory of the program. I expect a sellout crowd and an electric atmosphere. There is no college football aphrodisiac like hope. A&M fans have it. If the Aggies win, they’ll have more hope.
6. How do you see this game playing out?
Lucas: These teams are closer than people think. Don’t expect gimmicks. Jimbo isn’t taking any shortcuts. He wants A&M to develop a reputation for standing up and play physical football like Bama and LSU. To win, A&M has to convert in the red zone and not turn the ball over. If they do that, and are able to contain LSU’s running game, they should win. Think Mississippi State/LSU last year. If they make mistakes and don’t convert the game will look more like Mississippi State/LSU this year. I expect the margin to be 27-21. I don’t know which team will win. I hope it’s ours.