Although LSU will enter Saturday’s regular-season finale at Texas A&M as a strong favorite, the Tigers cannot let up as they need to win out to qualify for the College Football Playoff realistically. That means LSU should have plenty of urgencies as coach Brian Kelly hopes to stake his claim for SEC Coach of the Year Honors. The Aggies, meanwhile, have been eliminated from contention for bowl eligibility.
Ahead of the game, Kelly spoke with reporters in Baton Rouge, La., regarding how LSU matches up with A&M, some bulletin-board material coming out of College Station and more. Below is a transcript of Kelly’s most relevant comments courtesy of ASAP Sports.
Kelly: “Certainly, when we talk about a talented football team, this is as arguably as talented as a football team as we’ll see all year. They’re young in some areas, but it doesn’t take away from their talent on the field. Jimbo (Fisher) is an outstanding football coach. I’ve gone against him when he was at Florida State. Certainly this is their game. Last one that they play this year again LSU, their rival, they’ll play their absolute best against us, and we’ll have to meet and exceed our play.
“Certainly outstanding players on both sides of the ball. Devon Achane, the running back, is exceptional. The receiver, one of the best in the country. Again, Stewart is a guy that you must always know where he is. Defensively, young and talented. Outstanding defensive line. Run to the football. Again, great atmosphere. And one that our football team is certainly looking forward to and has, again, from our perspective handled themselves all year in the right way, and we’ll prepare accordingly for an outstanding, talented football team.
“But, look, they don’t have the wins that they wanted, but all they need is one, and that’s to beat LSU. We’ll have to prepare very well and perform well on Saturday against this football team.”
On coaching against Fisher and Florida State four times while he was at Notre Dame:
Kelly: “He is talented. He is obviously a great recruiter, and he is talented. He’s had talented football teams every year that I’ve gone against him. Again, the calling card has always been outstanding offenses, the ability to play aggressive defense and just good football teams. You know, they’ve always been great games. We look forward to another great matchup again.”
On if winning 10 games would be a significant benchmark:
Kelly: “No, I don’t think they give you any ticker-tape parades, but ten wins is certainly a benchmark when people look back on seasons. I think it does a lot in terms of solidifying your postseason opportunities. I believe it puts you in a different category, but I don’t think you can go into the season going, hey, we have to get to ten. I think you can go into the season about winning the SEC West. This is an important football game because we want to continue to improve as a football team as we go into the SEC West Championship Game. So it’s essential for us because each week for us we’re building something within our program.
“As I mentioned, the UAB game may not have been as important to other people outside the walls, but inside the walls, that was a huge game for us. In terms of, you know, doing our job, the way the job needs to be done when it needed to be done, which was important for us. That was a big hurdle for us. This is another one. It’s going on the road against a talented team with nothing to lose, and you have to play well because they will play up to you. I think we think more about challenges within the program than particular wins at this point.”
On Texas A&M’s Jalen Preston saying he wants to ruin LSU’s season:
Kelly: “If he was going to be playing for us and he was one of my players, I would right now probably discipline him. But for us it’s really about our preparation, and how we prepare is going to make a bigger difference than what anybody says about us. So I kind of got through that a long time ago that what people say really has little to do on how you play. Look, we know it’s a rivalry game. We know it’s A&M. Our guys know that. They don’t need any more motivation to play this game, so that’s a distraction. We’ll focus on what will get us to play better, and that’s our preparation, and we’ll focus on that.”
On why he thinks the Aggies have struggled so badly this season:
Kelly: “It’s a young football team. It’s a very talented football team, but it’s young. So, you know, you can see at times it is really scary and then sometimes there’s a loss there of maybe some focus. But if they put it all together, it’s not a team you want to be around when they put it all together. It’s a very talented football team.”
On flipping Harold Perkins from Texas A&M:
Kelly: “Well, I remember everybody being up in arms when he committed to A&M, and I remember telling everybody to be patient. If we just are patient and keep at it, we’ll see what happens. I think in recruiting a lot of this is, you know, early on here is just keep at it. Be patient. Keep doing it the right way. Keep representing who we are and what our plan is for your development, and you have a chance to get anybody to come here. And pull our base. Like I said before, make sure we know who the great players are in this state. So I think we’ve done pretty good in making sure that those things are occurring.”
On if Kelly is concerned about defensive coordinator Matt House leaving for another job:
Kelly: “No. If Matt House gets an opportunity where he thinks he is going to be better for it, I will help him in any way possible. I think that’s part of this profession. He has done an outstanding job. I don’t know that Matt House came here to be the defensive coordinator for a year. He is going to have to run through his family and his wife. I think they like it here, but that’s up to Matt. But I would never be in the way of any of our coaches if they have an opportunity to move on to be a head coach, I would fully support them.”
On his increased use of the transfer portal at LSU compared to at Notre Dame:
Kelly: “Well, it’s kind of what I have alluded to. I think any time that you go in and take transfers that have been in other programs, you have to make sure they’re not carrying a lot of baggage, and you have to make sure that they understand the standards within your program, what your expectations are clearly, that there’s no promises other than the things that you want accomplished within your program. And it’s just clearly communicated as to what the things that you are looking for in making this transfer. As you know, a lot of them were from the state of Louisiana. And so if we can continue down that road where there is a connection to LSU and the state, we want that as well.”
On whether Josh Williams will play against the Aggies:
Kelly: “Josh is making progress. As we mentioned, he had a knee sprain. We want to be very careful and take our time and bring him back accordingly, but every day he has made the kind of progress necessary to hope that he can play this weekend.”
On how the holiday week complicates LSU’s schedule:
Kelly: “Well, the think the same challenges on the road are there for you. Thursday, we handle it a little bit different. We’ll practice in the morning and have Thanksgiving dinner together.
“We’ll bring the coaches’ families in. The players will be with us and share Thanksgiving. We’ll release all of the non-travel players after practice in the morning so they can be with their families. And then, really from there, it just becomes a normal Friday for us where we’ll have meetings at noon and then board the plane around 3:00, 4:00 and get into College Station around 6:00. Then it just becomes business as usual. Yes, it’s just Thursday that alters a little bit.”