A pair of ranked teams looking to take down the perennial champion in the SEC West square off Saturday when No. 8 Auburn travels to face No. 17 Texas A&M. The Tigers come into the contest 3-0 but have yet to play a true road game, while the Aggies are 2-1, with their loss coming on the road against No. 1 Clemson.
This will be the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams as they try to unseat No. 2 Alabama in the division. The Crimson Tide have won five of the last seven SEC West titles, with Auburn taking the crown in the two seasons Alabama failed to win it. Texas A&M tied for second in the division last season, tying for their best finish since joining the conference.
The moneyline for this game has the Auburn Tigers +155 and the Texas A&M Aggies -175. Texas A&M is a 3.5-point favorite, with the over/under being set at 47.5.
Hitting The Road
While the Tigers are undefeated, they still have some questions, notably, how will true freshman quarterback Bo Nix hold up against Southeastern Conference opponents. Auburn did get the win over nationally-ranked Oregon in the season opener, but it wasn’t like Nix had an outstanding game, as he finished just 13 of 31 for 177 yards and two interceptions to go with his two scoring tosses. He’ll need to deal with a difficult A&M defense that was able to hold top-ranked Clemson to just 24 points.
To take pressure off of Nix, the Tigers will need to continue the running game that has carried them to this point. Four players rushed for over 100 yards last weekend as Auburn racked up 467 yards in a win over Kent State. The lead runner is JaTarvious Whitlow, who has rushed for 341 yards on 64 carries and scored three touchdowns on the ground. The Auburn defense can also do its part by keeping the Texas A&M offense in check. The Tigers are tied for 34th in the nation in rush defense, holding opponents to just 100.7 yards per game.
Wanting A Big Win
The Aggies were very confident that they could hang with Clemson, but the game was a blowout, with A&M only scoring a touchdown in the closing seconds to make the 14-point margin what it was. Quarterback Kellen Mond has been solid for much of the season, but he’ll need to have a big game for the Aggies to get this win. The junior has thrown for 747 yards and five touchdowns, but he’s also thrown three interceptions. Mond has a group of dangerous wide receivers in Jhamon Ausbon (17 catches, 253 yards, two TDs), Kendrick Rogers (13 catches, 155 yards) and Quartney Davis (11 catches, 144 yards, one TD) that can break a big play.
The Aggies’ defense must put the game on Nix’s shoulders, which means shutting down the Auburn running game. They’ve held opponents to less than 90 rushing yards per game this season, and Clemson’s Travis Etienne had just 53 yards on 16 attempts against the Aggies. Look for coach Jimbo Fisher to bring a lot of defenders near the line to force Nix to go to the passing game, and then bring lots of pressure to try to rattle the freshman.
A&M Knocks Off The Tigers
Texas A&M has already played a heavyweight opponent in Clemson, so the Aggies are ready for this one, especially at home with the home crowd called the 12th Man. Nix and the Tigers may put some points on the board, but Mond is going to have a big game spreading the ball around to his wealth of receivers. I’m taking Texas A&M -3.5 to earn the victory.