Who: #24 Auburn Tigers (5-1, 2-1) at #7 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1)
When: 2:30 p.m. CT (CBS)
Where: Kyle Field in College Station, Texas
All-Time Series Record: Texas A&M leads 3-0-0
Most recent meeting: Texas A&M 63, Auburn 21 (2012)
October 27, 2012.
The lights of Jordan-Hare Stadium beamed down upon Pat Dye Field. The same lights that had shined down on Cam Newton, Bo Jackson and some of the most memorable plays and moments in SEC football history, cast their rays upon something different. Something strange and surreal.
Auburn was 1-6, coming off a close loss at Vanderbilt and reeling. Gene Chizik rumors had already been started. A few days before the Vanderbilt game, I had been contacted by several people stating that a plan to fire Gene Chizik was already in place. I wasn’t surprised, for watching the team had left no doubt in my mind that the days of the leather jacket were over.
However, nobody could have seen this night coming. As bad as Auburn was, and as impressive 20th-ranked Texas A&M and upstart quarterback Johnny Manziel had been, there was still no reason to expect the worst home beat-down in program history.
But it happened.
Texas A&M led 28-0 just 2 minutes into the second quarter. By halftime, the Aggies had put up 42 points and 450 yards of offense (both Auburn first-half all-time worsts). By the end of the fourth quarter, a literally empty Jordan-Hare, save a somewhat small maroon contingent, had had its lights figuratively knocked out.
“Texas A&M 63, Auburn 21.”
63 points. SIXTY-THREE. As in, nine touchdowns. NINE.
It was already obvious that Auburn was not a good football team, but this game was when we realized that it was an absolute dumpster fire and that we would be in for two more beatdowns from arch-rivals Georgia and Alabama. This game is where the wheels fell off. This game was the death knell for Gene Chizik.
Fast-forward a year: October 19, 2013.
A resurgent Tigers team is 5-1, ranked #24 in the AP Poll, leads the SEC in rushing yards (287 per game) and is 3rd in the SEC in scoring defense, yielding just 18.8 points per game.
Gus Malzahn is a magician, quite frankly. He’s quickly tapped into the talent of the roster and, just seven games into his career, has his team in a ranked vs. ranked game against #7 Texas A&M.
Do the Tigers have what it takes to knock off the Aggies for a program-changing win and huge statement?
Key for Auburn: Get pressure on Johnny Manziel. Auburn’s defensive line must put the clamps on A&M’s offensive line, or else the running game will be effective, not to mention the scrambling ability of Johnny Football. Auburn’s defense will hear all week about how many points A&M will score this week and how many they put up on the Tigers last year. This defensive line will have to step up and make a statement.
Key for Texas A&M: Sell out on the run. Put eight in the box. Blitz. Do whatever it takes to stop the run. A&M’s defense is ranked 113th in the country against the run. Auburn is ranked 7th in the FBS in rushing yards per game. That seems like a pretty bad match-up, right? Quite frankly… it is. Nonetheless, stacking the box might not even be enough to stop Auburn from running. Still, A&M has to at least try it. If it fails, then they can still turn to Manziel. Yes, welcome to yet another SEC shootout.
Auburn players to watch: Ricardo Louis and Chris Davis. Much has been made about how one-dimensional Auburn is and how A&M can’t stop the run. However, Nick Marshall, while inconsistent, has shown that he definitely can throw a football. He did throw for 334 yards against Mississippi State, a secondary that’s considerably better than A&M’s. Louis has emerged as one of the best receivers on Auburn’s roster, and he has a chance to capitalize on the Aggies selling out on the run. Meanwhile, Chris Davis, Auburn’s “shut-down” corner, will be going up against a considerably taller Mike Evans, who has nearly 750 receiving yards and 5 TDs this season. Davis has his work cut out for him, needless to say.
Texas A&M player to watch: Any A&M wide receiver not named Mike Evans. With teams double-teaming Mike Evans following his monster performance against Alabama, other receivers have become available for Johnny Manziel. None more than Malcome Kennedy, a 6’1 junior who has 30 catches for 331 yards and 4 TDs this season. If Auburn’s secondary focuses too much on Evans, Manziel has the play-making ability to find another open man. That’s a dynamic of Sumlin’s system and players that makes them very hard to stop.
Auburn vs. Texas A&M edges:
Quarterback: Auburn’s QB play is much improved, but… Manziel. TEXAS A&M.
Running Back: AU has a triple-headed monster at running back. AUBURN.
Wide Receiver: Mike Evans and Malcome Kennedy. Both beasts. TEXAS A&M.
Tight End/H-Back: CJ Uzomah and Jay Prosch. Yeah…. AUBURN.
Offensive Line: Both units are strong, but AU leads the SEC in rushing, fewest sacks. AUBURN.
Defensive Line: A&M’s D-Line has been non-existent, unlike AU’s D-Line. AUBURN.
Linebackers: These two teams both have depth and talent issues here. EVEN.
Secondary: Auburn allows some yards, but not many passing TDs. AUBURN.
Kicker: A&M’s kicker missed 3 PATs in a single game. Consecutively. AUBURN.
Punter: These teams both don’t really punt a lot, so it’s hard to tell. EVEN.
Coaching: Two offensive geniuses who have quickly built strong, ranked programs. EVEN.
Interesting Facts: Last season, Auburn allowed 63 points to Texas A&M, the most points in school history…. The trip to College Station is the farthest away Auburn’s played in a regular season game (in terms of mileage) since USC in 2002…. In the 12 quarters Auburn’s defense has played this year, they haven’t allowed a touchdown in SIX of them (50%). That’s the best 12-quarter stretch for an Auburn defense since the 2008 defense allowed a touchdown in five of the first 12 quarters of the season…. Auburn has outscored opponents 36-13 in the 4th quarter. Texas A&M has outscored opponents 62-45 in the 4th quarter…. This game is the first non-traditional rivalry game (Alabama, Georgia, LSU) Auburn has played on CBS since an October 1st, 2011 win at #9 South Carolina…. The Aggies have scored 40+ points in nine straight games, smashing the previous school record of 3…. Unrelated to this specific game, but the SEC’s Tiger teams have greatly improved in 2013. Last year, Auburn, LSU and Missouri combined for a record of 18-19. This year, the teams are 17-2….
Prediction: I think Auburn can win this game. I would not be surprised. As seen above. Auburn might be even with/better than A&M at every position except quarterback and wide receiver. Auburn can run the football better than almost anyone. Texas A&M has shown that it cannot stop the run at all. Nick Marshall’s back at QB, and his athletic ability could burn the Aggies’ defense. However, while I think Auburn will put up points, I see Johnny Manziel and this talented A&M offense at home in front of a raucous crowd being just a bit too much for the Tigers.
#7 Texas A&M Aggies 45, #24 Auburn Tigers 38
Other SEC Predictions:
#1 Alabama 38, Arkansas 7 (I’m not sure if Bret Bielema knows what a “Quarterback” is.)
#6 LSU 34, Ole Miss 24 (Rebs are still improving, but they’re not one of the SEC West’s bests yet.)
#14 Missouri 20, #22 Florida 17 (Much has been made of Franklin’s injury, but the Gators have had horrible injuries.)
#11 South Carolina 38, Tennessee 13 (Vols almost beat a depleted UGA, but Carolina’s better than a depleted UGA….)
#15 Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 28 (… but a depleted UGA is better than Vanderbilt.)
Other Notable Games:
#3 Clemson 35, #5 Florida State 30 (I see the Tigers winning at home by actually holding Winston pretty well.)
#2 Oregon 50, Washington State 21 (This game is clearly a mis-match. If only WSU had a QB….)
#8 Louisville 31, UCF 0 (This is the AAC game of the year, but I see L’Ville making a statement. Cardinal shut-out.)
#13 Stanford 30, #9 UCLA 24 (I don’t think Stanford will lose twice in a row, even as good as UCLA is.)
UPSET ALERT! Iowa 40, #4 Ohio State 37 (3OT) (Yes, you’re reading this right. The Iowa Hawkeyes and mighty Kirk Ferentz, the same team with losses to Northern Illinois and Michigan State at home, will go into Columbus, against a top-5 Buckeyes team, and hand Urban Meyer a loss. Why? Because this is college football, so it only makes sense that Ohio State would power through games against ranked opponents Wisconsin and Northwestern only to be upset by a team not even close to the top 25.)