Aggie fans need to think of Saturday’s football game against South Carolina as a “thanks for staying party” for Jimbo Fisher.
Earlier this week, Texas A&M’s head coach emphatically ended any speculation he might be interested in bolting for LSU.
“I love it here,” Fisher said.
And he does. By all accounts, Fisher enjoys everything about coaching the Aggies, from living in Texas during the offseason to game days at Kyle Field, where the atmosphere reached its best two weeks ago during a 41-38 victory over Alabama. The crowd of 106,815 frenzied fans created such a buzz that Fisher said he couldn’t hear someone right in front of him on the sideline.
“That atmosphere and the environment, if you don’t want to play in that, there’s something wrong with you,” Fisher said.
Aggie fans don’t have to throw golf balls, mustard bottles or even actual whiskey bottles to create one of the best home-field advantages in college football. They also don’t have to intimidate opposing fans. Far from it, they actually throw out the welcome mat.
It’s a homefield advantage that can help a coach like Fisher win a national championship.
“That’s as good an environment and atmosphere in college football, bar none,” Fisher said. “I don’t care where it’s at.”
The win over Alabama marked Fisher’s fourth victory at Kyle Field over a top 15 team, and all were thrillers. A&M beat 13th-ranked Kentucky 20-14 in overtime in 2018 and eighth-ranked LSU 74-72 in seven overtimes later that season. Last year, A&M beat fourth-ranked Florida 41-38 in overtime. There were only 24,725 fans at that game, because of COVID-19 restrictions, but Florida head coach Dan Mullen said there must have been 50,000 fans in attendance, paying the ultimate compliment to Kyle Field’s worth.
But as they say around here, Highway 6 runs both ways. Opponents also love to play at Kyle Field and can feed off its atmosphere, too.
Just three weeks ago, unranked Mississippi State pulled off a 26-22 victory. That made Mississippi State head coach and former Texas Tech boss Mike Leach 4-2 at Kyle Field, and it was the 16th victory by an unranked visitor at Kyle Field since 2000. That’s why Kyle Field doesn’t rate high in lists of best collegiate venues that include home-field advantage as a determining factors. LSU’s Tiger Stadium known as “Death Valley” is always near the top. LSU, which has won three national championships since 2000, has lost only seven home games to unranked teams over the past 21 seasons, and for Tiger fans, that’s seven too many.
The Aggies know firsthand they’ll have to play a lot better at home if they want to win championships. From 1985-1999, A&M went 82-7-1 at Kyle Field, helping it win seven conference titles and giving the stadium an aura as one of the nation’s toughest to play at.
Fisher has done a good job taking advantage of Kyle Field, going 18-4 at his newest home venue, including 4-3 against ranked teams. He had won nine straight until losing to Mississippi State. Fisher more than atoned for that by making good on his offseason prediction of beating Alabama. Now the challenge is for A&M to finish the season strong to be in position for greater success.
A&M can cap a great week by beating South Carolina. It shouldn’t be a problem — the Aggies are three-touchdown favorites. Then again, they also were favored by a touchdown to beat Mississippi State, and playing down to the competition is what led A&M to back-to-back losses against Arkansas and Mississippi State. You don’t expect A&M to play against South Carolina with the same intensity it did against Alabama for 60 minutes. But championship teams take care of business, especially at home.
That’s something A&M needs to work on. Fisher says he’s sticking around to help make it happen.
Robert Cessna’s email address is email@example.com.