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LSU head coach Ed Orgeron yells on the field in the second half of the Tigers' 42-10 win over the Rice Owls, Saturday, November 17, 2018, in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Recruiting writers will tell you that blue-chip prospects rarely choose which school to attend based on the result of one game.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course. It might be hard to say, for example, that Destrehan High School running back John Emery wasn’t swayed into decommitting from Georgia and eventually committing to LSU by the promise the Tigers showed in October with their 36-16 smackdown of the Bulldogs.

That was a statement game for the Tigers, the one that despite the collapse of earlier top-10 teams they beat away from home — Miami and Auburn — that for LSU still rings true.

March forward six weeks to Saturday and LSU’s game at Texas A&M. While it may be inherently unfair to size up a program by the results of one contest, one three- or four-hour sweep of the clock during the course of an entire year, as when a recruit shifts his flag from one program to the next, there sometimes is no escaping the enormity of the moment.

For the LSU Tigers, this feels like judgment day.

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Forty-one weeks from now, the LSU Tigers will be back in the Lone Star State to play at the University of Texas. It will be the first big test of 2019 after LSU opens the season at home against Georgia Southern.

But in some respects, 2019 begins Saturday night at Kyle Field in College Station. It is a game that appears to stand in frank testament as to whether the Tigers are making step toward being one of the nation’s elite or are still mucking around in Good But Not Great Land — with the Aggies grabbing their heels.

A victory Saturday for LSU means a 10-win regular season. Garden variety programs can win nine games. Ten wins is the benchmark for national nobility in a 12-game regular season.

A victory Saturday for LSU means a certain New Year’s Six berth, though with a string of crashing upsets and shocking outcomes the Tigers have a chance of still wriggling their way into a College Football Playoff semifinal slot.

But realistic things first. LSU has not been to a New Year’s Six bowl since the CFP came into being in 2014. LSU may well get an NY6 invite with a 9-3 record, but with the Tigers’ No. 7 CFP ranking going into this weekend, 10-2 locks it up for sure. The Tigers will know they will be spending the last weekend of the year in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, Atlanta for the Peach or out in Phoenix for the Fiesta.

A victory Saturday for LSU tells recruits who are starting to flock to Texas A&M that the Tigers are still the bully on the block, or at least still the bully on the Gulf coast. As much as Alabama is in LSU’s head with its eight straight victories over the Tigers, that’s how much of a complex the Tigers have given the Aggies.

LSU’s winning streak over A&M actually predates Alabama’s winning streak over the Tigers, going back seven games to the 2011 Cotton Bowl. Since joining the SEC in 2012, LSU has hung a big goose egg on A&M: Six wins against zero losses. If LSU can win this one, it will almost certainly be favored to win next season in Tiger Stadium as well.

Deepening the Aggies’ misery by still have them wonder when they will be able to close the gap not only on Alabama but, LSU as well, may also play on the minds of recruits LSU and A&M are fighting to land.

A loss Saturday for LSU conjures up a negative vibe around the program, one the Tigers have managed successfully (save the 29-0 loss to Alabama earlier this month) to shake after beginning the season amid a swirl of unanswered questions and unabashed crises.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron has been candid in his comments about his team and his program all season long, at times perhaps too candid for his own good. True to his nature, he didn’t pull any punches this week about how important this Texas A&M game would be.

“Yeah, I think it's a huge step,” Orgeron said. “A huge step in building a championship program. It’s where LSU needs to be, a 10-win season going to a New Year’s Day bowl and having a chance to win 11 games.”

If Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher had come to LSU two years ago and done what Orgeron has done — 9-4 last year with a trip to the Citrus Bowl and 9-2 with a No. 7 CFP ranking this year — the gross tonnage of this game might not seem so heavy. The same if Texas coach Tom Herman had come to Baton Rouge from Houston instead of going to Austin. There would be more of a sense that the LSU program is on an upward trajectory instead of the needle hovering between positive and negative.

In truth, already getting to nine wins is an amazing accomplishment for the program this season. But sometimes, truth is trumped by perception. This is one of those times. One of those times when one game means so much.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​