(22) Texas A&M (5-2) at Auburn (1-6)
Saturday, October 27, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After dropping a hard-fought SEC battle last week, the 22nd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will try to bounce back on Saturday night on the road against the Auburn Tigers.
Texas A&M dropped their first-ever SEC game on opening day, 20-17 against nationally-ranked Florida, but it was able to respond beautifully with five straight wins before falling at home to No. 6 LSU last week, 24-19. Head coach Kevin Sumlin knows that the conference is a grind, but despite the loss, he views his team as one of the league's best.
"Effort was not the problem," Sumlin said following the LSU game. "As long as our guys continue to give effort like that, we're going to be able to win in any game. The hump we have to get over is execution and being consistent. Against a very talented team, the margin of error is really, really small."
While the Aggies have played well, the Tigers have uncharacteristically been one of the worst teams in the conference this year. Auburn is 0-5 in SEC play, most recently losing at Vanderbilt, 17-13.
"We have to continue to work," head coach Gene Chizik said following his team's fourth-consecutive loss. "This is a good football team. The bottom line is we have to find these wins in the fourth quarter. We have to close these games out in the end."
As newly-formed conference rivals, these two teams have only met twice before, most recently in the 1986 Cotton Bowl. Texas A&M has won both matchups.
This bout consists of two polar-opposite teams in terms of offensive production, with Texas A&M being the SEC's most potent squad both in points per game (43.0) and yards per game (524.6), while Auburn ranks last in both categories (15.7 ppg, 276.7 ypg).
Quarterback Johnny Manziel is on pace for one of the best freshman seasons in conference history, having already broken the SEC record for total yardage in a game twice (557 vs. Arkansas on Sept. 29, 576 vs. Louisiana Tech on Oct. 13). On top of being a great passer (279.4 ypg, .638 completion percentage, 14 TDs, six INTs), he is also the second-leading rusher in the conference (703 yards, 10 TDs). The signal-caller is coming off his most pedestrian performance of the season against LSU with 276 yards passing, 27 yards rushing, zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mike Evans has benefited most from Manziel's emergence as he ranks third in the conference in both catches (42) and yards (625). Ryan Swope (30 receptions, 380 yards, three TDs) has also been a big factor in the receiving game.
Although Manziel is the team's leading rusher, both Ben Malena (462 yards, four TDs) and Christine Michael (196 yards, five TDs) are having impressive seasons as well.
The Aggies are much more than just a flashy offense, as they have allowed their opponents to score just 22.1 ppg. The defense has been solid on third down, yielding just a 28 percent success rate.
Damontre Moore has been one of the SEC's most dominant defensive players with 62 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks -- all team-highs. Steven Terrell has two of the team's six interceptions.
Auburn's offensive struggles can be pointed directly at poor quarterback play. Kiehl Frazier started the season under center but played very poorly (56- of-103, 664 yards, two TDs, eight INTs). Clint Moseley has taken over in recent weeks, but he hasn't played much better (38-of-59, 373 yards, TD, three INTs).
Emory Blake has been productive despite the lack of continuity at QB, securing a team-high 30 receptions for 425 yards and two scores. No other Tiger averages more than 24 receiving yards per game.
A solid running back tandem has saved Auburn from being completely inept on the offensive side of the ball, as Tre Mason (474 yards, four TDs) and Onterio McCalebb (332 yards, two TDs) each average 5.1 yards per carry. The multi- talented McCalebb is just the second player in SEC history with 2,000 rushing yards, 1,000 kick return yards, and 500 receiving yards.
The Tigers defense (25.1 ppg) has not helped matters much in the first half of the season. It could have its hands full with the Aggies' rushing attack as the unit surrenders nearly 200 yards on the ground per game.
Daren Bates is one of the best linebackers in the country with 74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. Corey Lemonier has a team-high five sacks and has hurried the quarterback another eight times.
It's been a nightmare season for Auburn, and while it will be glad to be home for the first time in a few weeks, it will not enjoy having to face one of the best teams in the country. There's very little chance that the Tigers offense will be able to come close to being able to keep up with the Aggies in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas A&M 38, Auburn 17
10/24 10:33:44 ET