Whenever the first Saturday in December rolls around it usually means it is championship weekend in college football. In 2020, it is just another week in a weird regular season. Perhaps the best game in the SEC this weekend is between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Auburn Tigers. The Aggies are currently ranked fifth in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and are fresh off a 20-7 victory over LSU. Auburn is coming off a 42-13 defeat to Alabama and dropped out of the rankings. The game will kick-off at 11 AM Central and will be televised on ESPN.
Texas A&M vs Auburn Preview
Auburn Returns Home
There are two Auburn teams. The one that plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium and is almost unbeatable, and the one that goes on the road and looks mediocre at best. On the season, Auburn is 1-3 away from home. Those three losses have been against Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. The Tigers were badly outplayed by Georgia and Alabama, and three Bo Nix interceptions cost them the game against South Carolina. In those away games the team is averaging 19 points per game and giving up 31.8 per contest.
On the flip side, Auburn is 4-0 at home this season outscoring their opponents 137-69. They are averaging 34.3 points per game and giving up just 17.3 on defense. It should also be noted that Auburn’s toughest opponents have been on the road. Since Gus Malzahn became the head coach in 2013, Auburn is 44-10 at home. That is a great record, but in the away or neutral site games the Tigers are 22-24. That has been the major issue in the program taking the next step. Lucky for Auburn this week they are back at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn Offense Must Regain Momentum
Going into the Iron Bowl the Tigers had been showing great improvement on offense over the last several games. They had found their rushing attack with Tank Bigsby, the offensive line was playing much better, and Bo Nix had been efficient. Well, none of that happened against Alabama. Bo Nix went back to being bad Bo once again. One could also reference bad Bo as road Bo because on the road is usually when his issues arise. Nix threw his 12th career interception on the road in his career compared to ten touchdown passes.
For Nix to be successful, the rush attack must be there. Alabama made a point to take that away early and made the Tigers one-dimensional. With Bigsby limited due to injury, Auburn only gained 120 yards on the ground with an average of 2.9 yards per carry. It will not be much easier this week against the Aggies. Texas A&M held LSU to just 36 yards rushing on Saturday, and on the season is only giving up 87.1 per game. This might be another week where a bulk of the offense is placed on the shoulders of Nix and the passing game.
Slowing Down the Aggies
While the Aggie defense was great against LSU, the offense left much to be desired. Texas A&M was only able to put 20 points on the LSU defense, and quarterback Kellen Mond struggled. Mond went 11 of 34 for just 105 yards on the evening. This is the same LSU defense that Nix and company torched for 300 yards passing and 48 points. A possible positive sign for the Tigers.
While the passing game struggled for the Aggies, the running attack was on point led by Isaiah Spiller. The sophomore ran for 141 yards with one touchdown of 52 yards. The rush defense has been the weakness of the Auburn defense this season. Teams have been able to use their ground game to control the clock and limit possessions for the offense. On the season, they have given up an average of 162.4 yards and Texas A&M averages 185.3. Auburn will not be getting any help on that side of the ball this week with Malzahn ruling out the return of linebacker K.J. Britt. The senior has not played since the second game of the season against Georgia due to surgery on his thumb.
Texas A&M vs Auburn Prediction
This will be the first time Auburn has played a regular-season game after the Iron Bowl since 2001 when the Tigers played LSU in a make-up game from earlier in the season. How will they react after the blowout to Alabama? That must be a key question for this game.
For Texas A&M, they are looking to enhance their resumé in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. They are in a prime position to potentially jump up in the rankings and get into the fourth spot.
With all of that being said, this just feels like a game Auburn can win. Whenever Gus Malzahn has had his back against the wall and needed a win he has found a way to get his team ready. Plus, the added advantage to be back at home where he and his quarterback perform well. Auburn wins this in a big upset 24-17.