LSU's last trip to Kyle Field was full of uncertainties.
The Tigers' All-American running back Leonard Fornette did not make the trip to College Station due to a nagging ankle injury that he fought through for the majority of the 2016 season. Fornette's absence gave the Aggies the opportunity to break through two barriers in the matchup since A&M joined the Southeastern Conference -- beat the Tigers and win the rushing battle.
Instead, Tiger backup running back Derrius Guice ruined both, rushing for a school-record 285 yards while leading LSU to a 54-39 victory. Guice posted the most rushing yards by an A&M opponent and scored four times to give the Tigers five straight conference wins over the Aggies.
The Tigers return to town Saturday, but in this edition of LSU vs. A&M, all eyes are on the Aggies' rushing attack and the SEC's leading rusher, Trayveon Williams. With 1,326 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, Williams paces the SEC in both categories. He also has 3,181 career yards -- 118 shy of reaching third on A&M's all-time rushing chart.
"I definitely feel like I've been practicing a lot harder," Williams said. "I've been trying to make practice more like game situations. I definitely feel like as captains we've been pushing the issue on that as a whole team. I definitely feel like it's showing."
In 2016 backing up Keith Ford, Williams rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown against LSU. Last year, he accounted for all 55 of the Aggies' team rushing yards, punching in one score.
This season, the arrival of head coach Jimbo Fisher has given Williams plenty of support by way of formation. Tight ends Jace Sternberger and Trevor Wood along with fullback Cullen Gilliaspia have taken pressure off the offensive line and provided more downfield blocking for the 5-foot-9, 200-pound running back.
In his third year as the Aggie's bell cow back, Williams has made strides with his eyes to compliment explosive feet, Fisher said.
"Understanding where holes are going to be, I think his eyes have gotten much, much better," Fisher said. "If he can't see what to do, how can he transition to your brain, to your feet, to your body to do it? I think he's become a more disciplined runner."
While Williams has had moderate success against LSU, he must help A&M as a team exorcise the ghosts of frightening rushing performances past.
Since 2012, LSU has outrushed A&M 1,719 to 625 in their six games. Since 2013, the Tigers have had at least one 100-yard rusher, and they had two last season in their 45-21 victory at Tiger Stadium. The Aggies as a team have posted more than 100 yards rushing just twice against LSU since 2012, gaining 134 in 2012 and 188 in 2016.
While running backs like Fournette and Guice account for much of the discrepancy, Williams knows so does the LSU defense.
"Running against a physical front ... LSU is one of the best defenses in the country, and they aren't afraid to show it," he said.
LSU enters the game with the 62nd-ranked rushing offense in the country to A&M's 39th, which is one of several reasons the Aggies have optimism that they can break the seven-game losing skid to the Tigers that stretches back to the 2010 Cotton Bowl.
"Through the last few years, we struggled in this part of this season, but right now we're hungry and we're getting stronger as the season goes on," Williams said. "It doesn't always show in all positions, but our practice is getting a lot better. I'm definitely feeling good about this week."
And breaking the curse against the Tigers would put the proper finish on Fisher's first season in Aggieland, Williams said.
"Any win that we have on our schedule is definitely a win that shows the progress of where this program is going, but this win over LSU will put a stamp on the direction that we're going," Williams said. "Coach Fisher always tells us that we're the team that is setting the foundation for where this program is going, so I definitely feel like a win over LSU will set that."