Our 2013 NCAA Football schedule continues Saturday from College Station as Texas A&M hosts Auburn. We’ll have complete coverage beginning at 3 PM Eastern on our WestwoodOne affiliates coast-to-coast and streaming live right here on WestwoodOneSports.com!
To get you ready for the game, our analyst Chris Doering, who will call the game, filed this scouting report on the Tigers and the Aggies.
In a nut shell: Hopes are high on the plains as the Tigers are 5-1 at the midway point of Gus Malzahn’s first season as head coach. But the schedule will get much more difficult in the second half of the year beginning with this big game on the road against SEC Western Division foe Texas A&M. This is a pivotal contest because it provides Auburn with an opportunity for its first signature win in this new era of Tiger football and would keep them in the race for the SEC West crown.
Player I’ll be watching: I expect junior running back Tre Mason to get a lot of early carries against the A&M defense in an effort to establish the run. Last year Mason averaged nearly seven yards per carry against the Aggie defense and I believe that number could be even higher this year against a vulnerable A&M defensive front seven.
What the Tigers need to do to win: Auburn needs to run the football. They are the top team in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 287 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers will face an A&M defense that is second to last in the conference, giving up over 200 yards per game rushing. Factor in that Senior defensive tackle Kirby Ennis is out for the season and being replaced by true freshman Isaiah Golden, along with another true freshman at the middle linebacker position in Darian Claiborne, and this sets up for a prime opportunity to run the football right down the Aggies’ throat. By running the football consistently Auburn should be able to pick up large chunks of yardage for their offense and, more importantly, keep Johnny Manziel on the sideline, which is the best defense against this Texas A&M team.
In a nut shell: What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, A&M was fighting to establish themselves in their first year in the SEC, all while being led by a first-year starting quarterback. Fast forward 365 days and A&M is now the hunted amongst the conference with the most visible and controversial player in the country as their trigger-man. This game against Auburn will be the first in a four-game homestand that leads up to a November 23rd showdown with LSU in Baton Rouge. If the Aggies have any hope of making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, they are going to need some help – but a misstep of their own here and they can start to make plans for another Cotton Bowl trip to Dallas in January.
Player I’ll be watching: The player I’ll be watching is the player the entire country will be watching. Love him or hate him, Johnny Manziel is must-see television – and must-listen radio! (*cough* 3PM Eastern Saturday right here on WestwoodOneSports.com *cough*) His style of play if fun and you never know what he is going to do next. Manziel seems to make the biggest plays at the biggest moments in the biggest games. He is at his most dangerous in non-rhythm plays when he is able to break contain and pick up huge yardage with his legs. But, at the same time, you cannot sleep on his passing ability either as he has demonstrated a big arm when throwing the football with great accuracy to his talented group of wide receivers
What the Aggies need to do to win: With Johnny Manziel at quarterback it’s easy to want to count on him too much to carry the team to victory. And while he’s shown the ability to shoulder the load, Texas A&M has so many weapons on offense that can help him in that effort. A&M is most effective in their passing game when they are spreading it around to their deep receiving corp. Mike Evans has been the headliner of the group but Malcome Kennedy and Derel Walker have proven dangerous as well. Throw in Travis Labhart, who is coming of an eight-catch, 97-yard performance against Ole Miss last week, and this offense is very difficult to defend.
– Chris Doering