With so much uncertainty swirling around the program right now, the Auburn Tigers’ only respite might come on the field this Saturday when they host the Texas A&M Aggies, who will be looking for redemption after a heartbreaking loss against LSU.
Texas A&M’s first season in the SEC has gone as well as expected. Through seven games, the Aggies are 5-2 (2-2 in conference) and ranked No. 20 in the BCS. They were close to making their first huge statement in the conference against LSU last week, but were outscored 24-7 after taking a 12-0 lead halfway through the second quarter.
Auburn’s season has been…disappointing, to put it mildly. Head coach Gene Chizik’s leash keeps getting tighter with each passing week. The Tigers are 1-6 (0-5 in SEC) this season, with the lone win coming in overtime against Louisiana-Monroe. This is a lifeless program with no sense of direction at all.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN U
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Line: Texas A&M (-7), according to Vegas Insider
Texas A&M Injury Report (via USA Today)
|OL Shep Klinke||Out||Foot|
|RB Brandon Williams||Out||Eligibility|
Auburn Injury Report (via USA Today)
|DB Enrique Florence||Questionable||Undisclosed|
|TE Philip Lutzenkirchen||Questionable||Hip|
|QB Kiehl Frazier||Questionable||Arm|
|OL Christian Westerman||Questionable||Undisclosed|
Texas A&M does have a lot at stake in this game. Not only can it make a statement against a bad SEC team, but a win would make the Aggies bowl eligible. The transition from the Big 12 has not been easy, but to be ranked in the BCS Top 25 already speaks volumes about the job that the coaching staff has done building the players up and how well the players have executed thus far.
Poor Auburn can see its already-slim bowl prospects go up in flames. One more loss and the best record the Tigers can hope to achieve this season would be 5-7. That is hardly what this program had in mind after an eight-win season last year.
What They're Saying
The stats surrounding this Auburn program since Cam Newton left after winning a BCS title in 2010 are alarming.
Per Lou Holtz of ESPN (via Twitter), Auburn's conference start is its worst in 32 years, and the loss of Newton has completely altered this program.
Auburn is 0-5 in the SEC for 1st time since 1980. Gene Chizik is 22-35 without Cam Newton as head coach in five seasons (14-0 with Newton).— Lou Holtz (@ESPNDrLou) October 21, 2012
If that's not enough, Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes Chizik's struggles back even before he was coaching at Auburn.
Gene Chizik stat of day: He's 9-27 in conf. games (Big 12, SEC) as head coach without Cam Newton. Predictions: bit.ly/RLhsoU— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzAJC) October 19, 2012
It is beyond panic time in Auburn. This is a program that has a rich tradition and should have been able to capitalize on winning a national championship, but things just keep getting worse with each passing week.
Texas A&M Player to Watch: DL Damontre Moore
Sure, there is a lot of offensive firepower on the Aggies' roster, but why not give a little credit to one of the best defensive players in the country that not a lot of people talk about?
Moore currently leads FBS in sacks with 9.5.The junior defensive end had a huge showing last week in a marquee matchup with LSU, recording 10 tackles, including two for loss and a sack.
Given how bad Auburn has been on offense this season, Moore could have a classic game with multiple sacks, even more tackles for loss and just menacing anything that moves in the Tigers' backfield.
Auburn Player to Watch: RB Tre Mason
Looking over the season stats for Auburn's offense this season can be painful. The team ranks 100th in rushing yards, 117th in passing yards and 121st in points per game. Those numbers are out of 124 FBS schools.
Mason has been a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for the Tigers. He is averaging 5.1 yards per carry with four touchdowns on just 93 carries.
Just for reference, those four touchdowns account for 40 percent of the touchdowns the Tigers have scored in seven games this season.
If the Tigers are going to hang with Texas A&M in this game, Mason has to go for at least 100 yards and a couple of scores. They don't have anyone else, with the possible exception of Onterio McCalebb, who can impact a game positively on offense.
Key Matchup: Texas A&M Defensive Line vs. Auburn Offensive Line
If I am singling out a defensive end and running back, it only makes sense to talk about the matchup in the trenches as the one that will decide this game.
The Aggies boast one of the best front-sevens in the SEC, led by Moore. Auburn has solid running backs who don't get to showcase their abilities as often as you would like because they are trailing and forced to throw.
If the Tigers are able to control the line, keep the ball moving and control the time of possession in this game without having to rely on their quarterback (whether it's Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley) too much, they should at least be able to hang around.
Texas A&M is playing good football right now, especially on defense. Auburn doesn't have a pulse at the moment. Playing at home could help the Tigers, but not enough to lead to an upset.
Texas A&M 31, Auburn 20