Howard Matthews, Toney Hurd Jr., Sean Porter

Texas A&M defensive backs Howard Matthews (31) and Toney Hurd Jr. (4) and linebacker Sean Porter (10) celebrate with fans following A&M's 30-27 win over Mississippi in an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Hello, rivalry. Texas A&M and LSU have played 50 times, but Saturday's game will be the first in Southeastern Conference play, and for that matter the first time in league play. It's also LSU's first trip to Kyle Field since 1995.

"It's interesting talking to our players," A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "This game, our fans are excited. We haven't played LSU in awhile and certainly not at Kyle Field. That's been the summer talk for our fans, and that's great.

"But our team has put ourselves in the position where it's a meaningful game in the West Division. It'll be at a fever pitch at 11 o'clock."

Aggie fans are even more excited than they were a few months ago because A&M is better than expected, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is better than anyone imagined, and LSU, while still good, is not as great as everyone thought they were three months ago.

The 20th-ranked Aggies (5-1, 2-1) haven't lost since a 20-17 opening-season loss to Florida. A&M has been rolling behind Manziel, who has rushed for 676 yards and passed for 1,680 more. He's accounted for 24 touchdowns and been virtually unstoppable since Florida held A&M scoreless in the second half.

He's gone from being A&M's potential backup quarterback to a possible contender for the Heisman Trophy.

Sixth-ranked LSU (6-1, 2-1) was going to be the preseason No. 1 team because of its stout defense, but the Tigers suffered a huge loss when defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year, was dismissed from the team. His loss, along with injuries and inexperience, have shown as LSU struggled in victories over Auburn (12-10) and Towson (38-22), and lost at Florida (14-6).

But last week the Tigers got a huge 23-21 victory over South Carolina at Death Valley, where LSU will play top-ranked Alabama (6-0, 3-0) on Nov. 3. That's a game LSU players and fans had circled since losing to Alabama in the national championship game last season, but first the Tigers have to beat the Aggies, who guess what? They've had this date circled the moment the SEC newcomers received the schedule.

"Any time you play an SEC game at home, you'll have it circled in your mind," said A&M senior safety Steven Terrell. "Any opportunity on Kyle Field is one I've circled. You've got to bring it all. The atmosphere will be crazy."

LSU head coach Les Miles and the Tigers will add to that atmosphere.

Miles has been complimentary of the Aggie program and its traditions when he played A&M at Oklahoma State from 2001-04 and again in 2010 when LSU beat A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 41-24.

His respect for A&M and what it stands for goes back to his days as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys from 1998-2000, when he met and became good friends with Aggies Jon and Sandy Heidtke.

Miles said at the SEC Media Days that A&M would come into the league "and be able to compete on a very even basis very quickly."

Miles, though, rubbed some Aggies wrong in May when asked how newcomers Missouri and A&M will fare in the SEC.

"I would say 'Strap it up,'" Miles said. "They're going to really not enjoy their welcoming to this conference."

Earlier this week, A&M sophomore starting right guard Cedric Ogbuehi tweeted "It's time," showing a picture of Miles with the quote.

"We're playing to prove people wrong," said senior center Patrick Lewis, one of five Louisianans on the A&M roster who are expected to start. "Our offseason was about working hard to prove people wrong. We didn't come to the SEC to be a doormat, we came to compete and compete for championships."

Though division titles and championships haven't been at stake in the previous A&M-LSU games, other than the Orange Bowl in 1944 and the Cotton Bowl in 2010, it's been a heated series, in part because of the proximity.

LSU dominated play from 1960-73, going 12-1-1, but that was a stretch where 17 straight games were played at LSU. Things changed when it became a home-and-home series, with A&M winning six of seven, including the last five regular season meetings. LSU opted out of the series after the 33-17 loss in 1995.

A&M fans are excited about LSU's return, making this game a Maroon Out.

"I think anytime that you play in a place where the people really enjoy their team, there's a real loyalty there, and opponents that visit recognize it," said Miles, who split a pair of games at Kyle Field while at Oklahoma State. "I think it's always been a place where, as an opponent, you wanted to go and play well."

A concern about A&M leaving the Big 12 Conference was that the Aggies would miss playing their in-state brethren, especially the rivalry with Texas, but it would appear LSU and Miles have filled that void.

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