The Tigers are coming off of a well-timed bye week as they get set to host No. 25 Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies had been pick up win after win, but their momentum ground to a halt last weekend as they were defeated on the road at Mississippi State 28-13.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Throw the ball downfield
The Texas A&M defense is a weird old beast. They have an outstanding pass rush and are great on third down, but they are very vulnerable to the big play as their secondary seems incapable of covering anyone.
They have given up over 200 yards through the air to every team they have player except for pass challenged Kentucky and offensively challenged Arkansas. Last week, the Aggies gave up 241 yards passing to Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State, a player who has had a nightmare passing the ball in 2018.
It is time for Jarrett Stidham to go off. He has slowly increased his production as the season has moved along and this is his game to take over. Stidham should eclipse 300 yards passing with a couple of long touchdowns here.
Win the turnover battle
This looks like it probably won’t be a high scoring game. While teams have been able to pass on the Aggies, their ability to get off of the field on third down has limited the overall production of offenses against them.
In a game that is likely to be a low scoring grind, turnovers become key. Auburn has the offense to make this game its own, but that idea would he greatly helped if the Tigers were able to get some plus field position plays out of the defense.
The Auburn pass rush has been much better at home than on the road, so expect A&M quarterback Kellen Mond to toss up a couple of ill-advised passes over the course of the contest. If Stidham can be safe with the ball, then Auburn will win.
Keep the time of possession close
The Aggies will win the time of possession battle here unless something very strange happens.
Texas A&M is a team that wants to run the ball and control the clock, using bruising running back Trayveon Williams to set the tempo of a game. Williams is going to be a problem for the Tigers in terms of grinding out clock, but the Auburn front seven should be more than good enough to contain any big plays from the Aggies running game.
While the Auburn offense hasn’t been working in the quick strike style we are used to under Gus Malzahn, the Tigers can still score in a hurry. The worry is that this – plus the Aggies defensive ability on third down – will allow them to wear down the Auburn front.
Auburn doesn’t have to win the TOP battle, but the Tigers need to be in the vicinity of the Aggies.