Averaging 47.8 points per game as a team and currently on a nine-game streak of scoring more than 40 points, this is a Texas A&M offense that is rolling along perhaps as well as any in SEC history at this point. While that would seem to make this a big game for Ellis Johnson and the Auburn defense, which is absolutely is, the biggest burden this week may fall on Gus Malzahn, Rhett Lashlee and the Auburn offense.
Averaging 34.3 points per game this season and facing a Texas A&M defense that is allowing 32 points per game overall and 40 points in conference play, quarterback Nick Marshall and the Tigers should have plenty of opportunities to match Johnny Football point for point this Saturday at Kyle Field. With the likelihood you'll need to score points in bunches to get a win, Malzahn said how much Auburn does on offense how wide open they approach things will just depend on how the game is going.
"As a coach you go in strategically each game with a plan, but then you wait to see how the game unfolds," Malzahn said. "Every game unfolds differently. You have to be able to adjust. Obviously, offensively we will need to score points and we know that. We will see how the game unfolds."
The good news for Auburn's offense is that Marshall appears to be ready to go this weekend against the Aggies according to Malzahn. Paying close attention last week n practice while watching Jeremy Johnson get most of the reps, Marshall looks to back from the knee injury that caused him to miss homecoming and Malzahn said because of that he'll be back in the starting role.
"He was locked in during practice last week," Malzahn said. "He practiced Sunday and he looked good. We are past the midway point. If it was early in the season I would be concerned, but I am not too concerned now."
Marshall's ability to run should add even more weapons to an Auburn offense that enters the game leading the SEC in rushing at 287 yards per game. Facing an Aggie defense allowing 201.2 yards per contest, junior running back Tre Mason knows it's up to the Tigers to get the job done if they want to come away with the win.
"We're a run-based offense," Mason said. "We're going to continue to run the ball. We feel like our O-line is great, so we're going to run behind them and just looking forward to taking advantage of those opportunities that they give us."
One of the biggest questions heading into the Top 25 showdown is how fast will the Tigers go on offense? Trying to find a balance between keeping your offense in rhythm and keeping Manziel on the field is something Auburn will have to deal with and Malzahn said it's all about situation.
"I think you've got to really see how the game unfolds and each game unfolds differently," Malzahn said. "Sometimes you may need to try to keep it away from him. Sometimes you may need to go a little faster. Whatever your advantage is, that's what you need to do. But obviously the more you keep the guy on the sideline that helps your team and we understand that. But at the same time we're pretty good at certain things, so we've got to have that balance. We'll see how the game."
Known for his productive offenses dating back to his high school coaching days and in the college ranks at Arkansas and Tulsa, Malzahn said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin does a great job in getting the most out of his offense from week to week. While it would be easy to get caught up in the hoopla of going toe-to-toe with Manziel and the Aggies in a scoring-fest, Malzahn said this week all the Tigers care about is the end result.
"You know all I am worried about is winning," Malzahn said. "I am not into seeing who has the best offense; it is about who has the best team and just trying to strategically find the best chance we have to win and doing that. That is really all I am focusing on."
Kickoff for Saturday's showdown between No. 24 Auburn and seventh-ranked Texas A&M is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.