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SEC West foes collide in this matchup of top 25 teams
Coming off a last-second 41-38 victory at Ole Miss, the Aggies return to College Station for a four-game home stand. Surprisingly, Auburn has the same record (5-1, 2-1 SEC) as Texas A&M, as the Tigers' program has been reborn under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers lost to No. 6 LSU but picked up SEC West wins against Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The teams will be fighting for third place in the West, behind Alabama and LSU.
Three Things to Watch
Return of Auburn QB Nick Marshall
The junior quarterback sat out Auburn's 62-3 blowout of Western Carolina last Saturday due to a knee injury suffered a week earlier against Ole Miss. Marshall struggled with consistency and turnovers in his first four games; however, he played his best against Ole Miss. Marshall finished that day with two rushing touchdowns, 238 yards of offense on his own and avoided any turnovers. Marshall has been the x-factor for Auburn's renaissance season, and his dual-threat abilities will keep the Aggies' defense off guard.
Texas A&M receivers
This is one of the deepest and most physically talented receiving corps in the nation. It all starts with 6'5" Mike Evans, a matchup nightmare for every defensive back in the country. He has five touchdowns and 737 yards and averages an SEC-best 23 yards per reception. He is joined by Malcome Kennedy, Derel Walker and Sabian Holmes. Kennedy ranks second among A&M wide receivers in both touchdowns (four) and receptions (30) and third in receiving yards (331). Auburn's defense has been rather suspect, allowing 445.8 passing yards per game.
Auburn's three-headed rushing attack
This is the nation's seventh-ranked rushing offense, averaging 287 yards per game on the ground. Three running backs see time, and quarterback Nick Marshall also adds a running dimension. Auburn ran for 511 yards on 43 carries and had 30 first downs last week against Western Carolina. The Tigers also run the ball well against top competition, averaging 210 rushing yards per game in SEC contests. Tre Mason is the Tigers' lead back, rushing for 515 yards and seven touchdowns. The change-of-pace backs are Cameron Artis-Payne, who has 389 yards and three touchdowns, and Corey Grant, who averages 10 yards per carry and has three touchdowns. All of these backs are quick and explosive, all having rushes of over fifty yards on the season.
Key Player: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Is this really a surprise? The reigning Heisman winner hasn't slowed down in his redshirt sophomore campaign. He has combined for over 2,200 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns, completing an impressive 73 percent of his passes while averaging 6.5 yards per rush. Manziel broke out in the ground game last week, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels. If Auburn wants to win, it has to stop one of the nation's best players.
This will be an absolute track meet. Expect a shootout for two of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Auburn has a chance in this game solely from their outstanding rushing game. If the TIgers control the clock and keep Manziel off the field, Auburn could pull an upset. Texas A&M's defense struggled mightily against the Ole Miss offense giving up 38 points and stopping the run has been an issue all season. If the Aggies had problems with the Rebels, they will likely find the Tigers, who defeated Ole Miss earlier this year, to be a tough opponent as well. Ultimately, I'll stick with the team that has the best player on the field.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Auburn, 27