After yet another tough SEC loss over the weekend, Auburn will host the high-scoring Texas A&M Aggies in just the second night game at Jordan-Hare Stadium this season.
Keeping with this year’s script, the Tigers had no answer to the like-wise reeling Vanderbilt Commodores, falling 17–13 on the road thanks to a lack of offensive firepower.
Through seven games, Auburn (1-6, 0-5 SEC) has averaged a measly 276.7 total yards per game while allowing its opponent to collect over 411.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, has been putting up big numbers during its first season in the SEC. Averaging a staggering 524.6 yards per game, the Tiger defense is going to have to work overtime to avoid another blowout like Ole Miss.
The Aggies freshman dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel is a force to be reckoned with. The first-year starter has already thrown for 14 touchdowns and ran in another 10 through the first seven games. Despite having the worst start of his career last week against LSU, Auburn cannot risk underestimate Manziel’s ability to pick apart opposing defenses.
Forcing, not making, turnovers is the top priority for this Tiger squad. LSU forced five Aggie turnovers last Saturday and came out with a 24–19 win. Auburn similarly had five turnovers against Mississippi State earlier in the season to hand the Tigers its second straight loss. If Auburn can protect the ball while creating mistakes on the defensive side, the upset probability will rise exponentially.
Another key for the home team is the run game. As seen through the first seven games, the quarterback situation is nowhere near ready to compete against some of the nation’s toughest defenses. Auburn has to put the ball in sophomore running back Tre Mason’s hands if it wants to move the ball downfield.
Quarterbacks Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier feel enough pressure as it is, so adding another strong back to help out senior Onterio McCalebb can help alleviate some of that and reduce the risk of hurried passes picked off by the defense.
Auburn’s offensive line is going to have to turn up the heat if it’s going to protect the quarterback. Aggie defensive lineman Damontre Moore is one of the nation’s best defensive players. He currently leads the FBS in sacks with 9.5 and had a stellar performance against LSU with a recorded 10 tackles. If the offensive line doesn’t keep a lookout for Moore, it could be a very long day for the Tiger quarterbacks.
Injuries also have a bearing on Saturday’s game. Senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is out for the season, meaning one less throwing option for Moseley or Frazier. Then there is the loss of freshman offensive lineman Avery Young. With an already struggling line, Young’s absence is sure to be felt.
Auburn needs another strong defensive showing like that against LSU if it wants to feed off A&M’s heartbreaking loss last week. The Tigers have home field advantage and the 6 p.m. kick-off is definitely in their favor, but unless the team can find a way to make big stops when it matters most, don’t hold your breath for an upset.