No. 5 Texas A&M pushing for CFP-sealing win at Tennessee

NCAA Football

Texas A&M enters the final week of the regular season ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff, in prime position to maintain pressure on the top four contenders in the hopes of securing a bid.

A victory Saturday at Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee would allow the Aggies to do their part. The rest, they concede, is out of their hands.

“The goal for the end of the season is to finish, to keep doing what we have been doing, to keep pushing, to keep climbing and going over those stepping stones,” Aggies defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal said. “We have to figure out who we want to be and how great we want to be.”

With each of the top four teams also in action Saturday — including a head-to-head meeting between Nos. 2 and 3 Notre Dame and Clemson in the ACC championship — there’s certainly potential for the Aggies to reach CFP paydirt.

The outcome of their conference title game, the SEC showdown between Alabama and Florida, could also have a direct impact on the Aggies. A Florida win might move the Gators into the semifinals and Alabama could still be one of the top four given the Crimson Tide’s mighty resume.

Coach Jimbo Fisher has been diligent in keeping the 7-1 Aggies, winners of six straight, focused solely on Tennessee.

Save the speculation for Saturday night, or scrap it altogether should the Aggies lose to the 3-6 Volunteers, who snapped a six-game skid with last week’s 42-17 victory at in-state foe Vanderbilt.

“You control where you are going to go based on what you do,” Fisher said. “Guys are either going to believe it or not. Our guys have done a great job doing that. Eliminating the clutter and blocking it out. Those things are all poison since they don’t help you. What helps you is how you practice, play and prepare. It’s what it has to get down to, and I think we have done that all year, and hopefully we can do that one more time before the postseason.”

Volunteers offensive lineman Trey Smith called the game “an extremely big deal,” acknowledging what Texas A&M has at stake.

“They’ll be coming in and playing with their best ‘A’ game to put on a great performance,” Smith said. “In the same breath, we have to come prepared because they’re one of the top five teams in the country. They’re a very talented group.”

Tennessee true freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey steered the victory at Vanderbilt, finishing 14-for-18 for a career-best 207 yards and two touchdowns.

The Volunteers lead the all-time series against the Aggies 2-1, but the teams haven’t met since 2016, when Texas A&M earned its first win in the rivalry with a home victory. If Tennessee has hopes of prevailing in its fourth game against a top-five foe in 2020, containing Aggies running back Isaiah Spiller will be key.

Spiller has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season, going for 120 in the Aggies’ most recent contest, a 31-20 win at Auburn on Dec. 5.

“I feel like when we get the run game going, we are pretty hard to stop because then we can hit you with a pass,” Isaiah Spiller said. “We are all-around a good team, but when our run game is going, we are pretty hard to stop.”

–Field Level Media

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