Week 8 - Auburn at Texas A&M

Posted Oct 16, 2013

Week 8 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Auburn at Texas A&M

- Georgia at Vanderbilt | South Carolina at Tennessee
- Florida at Missouri | Auburn at Texas A&M
- LSU at Ole Miss | Arkansas at Alabama

Auburn (5-1) at Texas A&M (5-1) Oct. 19 3:30, CBS

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Auburn lost to LSU, Texas A&M lost to Alabama, and neither one has been able to come up with a truly big win yet. Neither one can afford a truly big loss, either.

The Aggies have been entertaining, and they came within a whisper of pulling off the win over the Tide and being the No. 1 team in America. All of the team's goals are still potentially out there, even if it'll take just about every unbeaten team to lose to get there, but with road games at LSU and Missouri to close out the regular season, it's not going to be easy.

This is the light and breezy part, even with a ranked team coming to College Station, with Vanderbilt, UTEP and Mississippi State all at home over the next few weeks, but Arkansas was a bit of a fight and the win over Ole Miss came down to the last second. Auburn can only hope to be around in the final moments with a chance to pull off the big upset.

No one thinks Auburn can get through Georgia and Alabama to close out the season, and going to Arkansas and Tennessee will be a fight, but the program has turned around under Gus Malzahn, but like Texas A&M, it's looking for a really big win to generate some national buzz. Also like A&M, the best victory this year is over Ole Miss, which was nice, but it's nothing compared to what it would be like to win this week.

The offense might not be quite as explosive as Malzahn might like, but it's fine compared to last season, and the defense has done its part with a strong first half of the season, but after losing 63-21 last season, it's time to show that things really have changed. It's going to take a wild and crazy offensive performance to do it.

Why Auburn Might Win: Everyone is getting fat off the A&M defense. There's no pass rush to speak of and no real pressure on mobile quarterbacks, and now it's up to Auburn and its rest quarterback, Nick Marshall, to outManziel, Johnny Manziel. Marshall was fine last week, but he sat out against Western Carolina with a slight knee injury – he wasn't needed in the blowout. With his mobility and his playmaking skills, he should be able to do whatever he wants with time to operate. Whether it was 339 passing yards against Mississippi State or the 140 rushing yards against Ole Miss, he can move the offense in a variety of ways, and A&M doesn't have the line to stop him. However …

Why Texas A&M Might Win: Does Auburn have the passing game to keep up? SMU is a passing team equipped to throw and throw some more. Alabama has AJ McCarron, and Ole Miss has the receivers to push the ball down the field for 329 yards and five scores. Auburn's passing game has been fine, and Marshall was fantastic against Mississippi State, but it's not the explosive attack needed to match A&M stride for stride. The Tiger pass rush has gotten the job done, but the secondary has been okay, not great – it needs to be great to handle Manziel. The Aggie offense moves the chains by completing every third down chance – or almost all of them – and while Auburn's defense is good at getting off the field, it failed to stop LSU's balanced attack and was ripped up by Ole Miss.

Who To Watch Out For: It's time for Sammie Coates to have a breakout performance. Who's going to light up the Aggie secondary? It's Auburn's top receiver, who sat out last week to get healthy, but he's more than ready to go. He has only caught 13 passes for 319 yards and a score, but he's averaging 24.5 yards per catch and has become a big play target. The 6-2, 201-pounder has special athleticism, speed and size to be a matchup nightmare, and now he has to come up with home runs.

- There's no concern about the Manziel knee injury that looked so scary early on against Ole Miss. He came back and was fine, and there aren't any limitations.

- There hasn't been much of a need for the punting game, but Texas A&M's Drew Kaser has been terrific, averaging 47.5 yards per kick. Auburn's Steven Clark has been strong, too, averaging over 43 yards per try – he's been ultra-steady and consistent.

- This is just the fourth meeting between the two schools, and the previous three were all ugly. A&M won last season by 42, and blasted away with a 36-16 win in the 1986 Cotton Bowl. The first meeting was a 16-0 A&M win – in 1911.

What Will Happen: Auburn will make this fun, and Marshall will put up huge numbers, but Manziel and the A&M offense will always stay one step ahead. This will be a wild shootout that helps put Manziel really and truly back into the Heisman chase.

Prediction: Texas A&M 45 … Auburn 38
Line: Texas A&M -13.5 o/u: 71.5
Must See Rating: (5 Bad Grandpa – 1 Vanilla Ice Goes Amish) … 4
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