Big finish means big opportunity for A&M

IRVING, Texas -- Texas A&M became the biggest story in the Big 12 with its six-game winning streak to close the season, knocking off a pair of top-10 opponents and doing what almost no one gave them a chance to do midway through the season.

Sitting at 3-3, the Aggies rescued one of the most hyped seasons in recent memory with the season-ending streak to reach the Cotton Bowl for the first time since the 2004 season.

But now that they're here, a win could mean even more than any of the six that preceded it.

"This is huge," defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. "This can put an exclamation point on our season. We've made some strides this year, but playing a team that's been in the top 10 all year long, that has the tradition that LSU has had -- past and recent tradition of championships -- playing in a great, great league, if we can find a way to get these guys on Friday, I think it sends our seniors out the right way and it really launches us into next year and confirms that our guys really have made the strides we wanted to make."

The Aggies haven't punctuated a season like that in quite some time. Losers of their past four bowl games, the Aggies have finished the season with a bowl win just once since 1995. The one win came in the Gallery Furniture Bowl, a now-defunct game that was played just five times and lacks the prestige of the Cotton Bowl, which marks its 75th edition on Friday night.

A new bowl tradition for the Aggies could begin with a win over LSU.

"I don't even know the last time A&M won a bowl game," junior receiver Jeff Fuller said. "I just feel like winning, beating Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas was a huge step. That's the first time we've ever beat all three of those teams, but to turn it around and have the Cotton Bowl against a team like LSU, possibly putting ourselves in the top 10 for next year, this game is definitely really important to us.

"It's a great opportunity to win a lot of respect."