The LSU defense knew it was being blamed for the program's drop from the top ranking in the country, and it responded with its most dominant performance of the season.
This is a team disciplined by its head coach, Ed Orgeron, to "block out the noise," to ignore the praises and criticisms.
But a particular sound wave broke through: the words of College Football Playoff committee chairman Rob Mullens, who said Ohio State was the more "complete" team when the Buckeyes jumped LSU to the No. 1 spot in the playoff rankings last Tuesday night.
"We definitely took that as a challenge," LSU safety JaCoby Stevens said.
For LSU, this was The Statement Game.
Had the committee been wrong at the time?
LSU had given up nearly 100 points in its previous three games, which included a 58-37 win over Ole Miss in which the Tigers surrendered its most total yards in a game since 2001.
By late Saturday night, the LSU Tigers felt they had proven Mullens wrong in a 50-7 victory over Texas A&M in the regular-season finale, a blowout that nearly surpassed LSU's largest gap in yardage in school history, when the Tigers outgained Mississippi State by 469 yards in a 51-0 victory in 2004.
LSU's six sacks against the Aggies were its most since recording eight in the 2016 Citrus Bowl, a 29-9 win over Louisville. The Tigers sacked Texas A&M's Kellen Mond three times by halftime, and defensive end Neil Farrell strip sacked backup James Foster for a safety in the fourth quarter to set the game's final score.
Orgeron said LSU used new blitzes to stimulate the pass rush. Outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson said he rushed more than he had all season.
Orgeron has said at the start of the past two seasons he believed Chaisson could beat Arden Key's single-season sack record (12, 2016), and it appears the 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore will fall short again.
Chaisson missed the 2018 season after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the season opener, and although he missed two games with injury this year, he snapped a five-game sack drought by recording 1½ sacks against Texas A&M — both accounted within the Aggies' first three drives.
Safeties Stevens, Grant Delpit and Kary Vincent each had interceptions, and Mond was held to a season-low 33.3% completion rate.
Texas A&M converted 2-of-13 third downs. Orgeron said LSU didn't allow the Aggie receivers to beat them one-on-one as they had a season ago, and senior cornerback Kristian Fulton dislodged a pass from Kendrick Rogers mid-air in the third quarter that forced a punt.
"This is overall a tremendous night, an overall package," Orgeron said. "What a difference a year makes."
This one ended in regulation.
Texas A&M had just 44 yards of total offense midway through the third quarter.
"How many yards did they have?" LSU quarterback Joe Burrow asked after the game was over.
One hundred sixty-nine.
"Oh gosh," Burrow said. "That's a pretty dominant performance by those guys. That's back to the LSU standard, and I know they've worked so hard for it this week and they're going to continue to do it."
Chaisson said LSU took the defensive criticisms personally.
"There's too many great guys on this defense," said Chaisson, who has 3½ sacks this season.
Joe Burrow played his final game inside Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, and as LSU completed an undefeated regular season, he showed his appreciation for a place that became home.
He began to list them.
Delpit: "the best safety in college football."
Vincent, a track athlete at LSU: "the fastest player in college football."
Derek Stingley and Fulton: "the best cornerback duo in college football."
Patrick Queen: "the fastest linebacker in college, who can go sideline to sideline in a heartbeat."
Jacob Phillips: "probably one of the smartest inside linebackers."
"There's too many high-caliber players on this defense to be disrespected like that," Chaisson said. "So we made sure that it was a point of emphasis to impose our will and make sure people know that we were the better team."
Joe Burrow continued on his path to totally rewriting the LSU and Southeastern Conference passing records.
The defensive revival comes at a pivotal time for LSU (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference), which completed its first undefeated regular season since 2011, fourth in school history, and will begin its postseason run with the SEC Championship Game against No. 4 Georgia (11-1, 7-1) in Atlanta on Saturday.
Georgia won the Eastern Division with a defense that ranks second nationally with 10.4 points allowed per game, although its offense has sometimes sputtered.
The Bulldogs kicked four field goals in a 19-13 win over Texas A&M, a week before smashing lowly Georgia Tech 52-7 in the regular-season finale.
LSU will be Georgia's toughest offense yet, a unit that ranks second nationally with 48.7 points per game. Only Auburn has held LSU to fewer than 30 points, a game that LSU won 23-20.
But the Tigers' offense was never a question to people like the CFP's Mullens.
Now, the Tigers enter the postseason with a defense that has regained its confidence.
"I feel like we still have a long ways to go," senior defensive end Breiden Fehoko said. "We know the type of talent we have. We know what we can do as a team. We know where we need to go as a destination."
LSU needed just two drives and a little more than half of the first quarter of Saturday night’s game with Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium to se…