Photography: Mike Cortez

StatTiger Column: Previewing The Auburn at Texas A&M Football Game

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers, predicts the winner and writes about the keys for Auburn's SEC football road game at Texas A&M.

Jovon Robinson (above) could be a key player for Auburn on Saturday night.

Auburn (4-4 overall, 1-4 SEC) vs. No. 24/25 Texas A&M (6-2 overall, 3-2 SEC) 

Series Record: Texas A&M leads 4-1.

Last Meeting (2014): Texas A&M won 41-38

About the teams:

  • Coach Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M is 69-30 all time and 34-13 with the Aggies. Coach Gus Malzahn is 33-14 all time and 24-11 at Auburn.
  • Auburn is coming off a 27-19 loss against at home to Ole Miss and Texas A&M defeated South Carolina, 35-28, at home. 
  • Auburn is 1-2 vs. TAMU since the Aggies joined the SEC.
  • The Aggies under Kevin Sumlin are 16-13 in conference play.
  • Auburn is 3-8 during its last 11 conference games.
  • The Aggies returned eight starters on offense and seven on defense this season.
  • Texas A&M made a quarterback change last week with Kyler Murray the new starter. He has completed 63 percent of his passes at 6.6 yards per attempt. Kyle Allen, the previous starter, has thrown for 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Auburn’s Sean White has completed 59 percent of his passes for 212.6 yards per game. He is the first Auburn quarterback to throw for 250-plus yards in three consecutive games since current AU wide receiver coach Dameyune Craig did it in 1997.
  • Tra Carson leads TAMU with 646 yards rushing at 54.5 yards per rush. Murray brings an added dimension to the Aggie offense, averaging 6.5 yards per rush. Peyton Barber leads Auburn in rushing yards with 787 at 4.37 yards per carry. Look for Jovon Robinson to play a major role again this week after rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries against Ole Miss.
  • True freshman Christian Kirk leads the Aggies in receptions with 47 for 662 yards and four touchdowns. Josh Reynolds is a big-play receiver with 29 catches for 532 yards. Auburn's Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers with 36 receptions for 563 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn needs another receiver to step up to take the coverages away from Louis.
  • Armani Watts leads TAMU with 75 tackles for the season, which is the fourth best in the conference. The Aggies have six different players with at least 42 tackles on this season. Auburn’s Rudy Ford is second in the SEC with 86 stops and Kris Frost is 10th in the conference with 65 tackles. Myles Garrett (DE) leads the conference in tackles for losses with 15.5. Cassanova McKinzy is No. 11 in the conference with 8.0 tackles for loss. 
  • TAMU is No. 1 in the conference with 9.4 tackles for loss per game. Auburn is No. 13 in the conference with 4.5 per game.

How they match up...

Texas A&M? is No. 7 in total offense in the SEC with 398.2 yards per game and will face off against an Auburn team ranked No. 14 in total defense in conference play. Auburn has allowed 464.6 yards per game.  

Auburn is No. 8 in total offense in the SEC with 379.8 yards per game and will face an Aggie team ranked No. 12 in total defense, allowing 435.0 yards per game in conference play.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Sean White will be making his third road start as a college quarterback.

Texas A&M has the No. 8 in scoring offense in conference play at 23.8 points per game. The Aggies will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 14 in conference play, allowing 34.0 points per game. Auburn has allowed 28.0 points per game in conference play during regulation.

Auburn has the No. 7 scoring offense in conference play, averaging 25.0 points per game. The Tigers face an Aggies, who are ranked No. 10 in conference play at 26.0 points per game.

Texas A&M has the No. 5 third down offense in conference play and will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 12 in third down stops.

Auburn has the No. 7 third down offense in conference play vs. a defense No. 7 in third down stops.

Based on scoring margins and averages from FBS competition only, it projects an Auburn victory of 23-22 and a Texas A&M victory of 30-17. Average the two scores and Texas A&M projects to a 26-20 win over Auburn.

Texas A&M has the No. 11 running offense in conference play vs. an Auburn defense ranked No. 11 in run defense. Auburn has the No. 6 running offense in conference play vs. Texas A&M, which is ranked No. 13 in run defense.

Based on rushing averages and margins from conference play only, Auburn is projected to rush for 211-276 yards against the Aggies.

Keys to Victory...

  1. Auburn must take advantage of an Aggie defense ranked No. 13 in conference play while allowing 233.8 yards per game on the ground.
  2. Auburn’s secondary must tackle well this week against a pass offense that lives off of the high percentage, short passing game. TAMU is No. 9 in the SEC in conference play with 7.1 yards per attempt. 
  3. Texas A&M's defense is dead last in the conference in allowing running plays of 10 yards or longer with 60 of them this season.
  4. The Aggie defense is No. 104 nationally in yards per rush allowed inside the red zone. Auburn must take advantage of this to finish scoring drives with touchdowns rather than field goals.
  5. Auburn can ill afford a slow start on offense. The offense under Malzahn is 6-9 against FBS competition, when scoring only three points in the first period and is 7-11 with only 10 points or fewer points by halftime. 
  6. Texas A&M is No. 114 nationally in run defense on first down plays. This bodes well this week for Malzahn, who prefers to run early and often.

What to Watch...

  • Texas A&M is 6-11 in conference play when allowing moer than 200 yards rushing. Can Auburn establish a consistent running attack against the Aggies?
  • Texas A&M is 3-12 in conference play when held under 165 yards rushing. Can Auburn hold the Aggies’ running game in check? TAMU is currently averaging only 134 yards rushing in conference play.
  • Quarterback Kyler Murray has been labeled the next Johnny Manziel, which could be an issue for the Auburn defense. From 2009-2015, Auburn has faced 12 opponents who fielded a quarterback who rushed for at least 70 yards against the Tigers. Though Auburn is 9-3 in those games, the opposing quarterbacks averaged 98.3 yards rushing and their offenses scored 33.4 points per game.
  • White entered the Ole Miss game completing 64 percent of his passes, but hit only 43 percent against the Rebels. His left knee injury did not allow him to step into some of his throws, causing the ball to sail high. Auburn needs a healthier Sean White to be successful Saturday night.
  • The opponent’s leading rusher vs. Texas A&M this season has averaged 123.1 yards per game at 6.2 yards per rush. Jovon Robinson will have a grand opportunity for a big individual performance.

 Final Word...

 Texas A&M will be the worst run defense fielded by a Power-5 opponent Auburn has faced this season. This just might be the medicine an ailing running attack needs, especially with White playing with an injured knee. Though the Aggies are No. 3 nationally in tackles for loss, their strength is at defensive end. Opponents have found consistent success running between the tackles, something Auburn will likely target this Saturday night. More than one-third of the sacks allowed by Auburn have come on third downs, a situational play that favors Texas A&M. The Aggies are No. 60 nationally in yards allowed per play on first down, an area Auburn must take advantage of Saturday night.

A key for Auburn against Texas A&M is early offensive success, something that has eluded the Tigers this season. Through eight games Auburn is No. 113 in yards gained during the first quarter, No. 113 in yards per play during the first quarter, No. 89 in first down ratio and No. 75 in touchdown ratio during the first period. In contrast, Texas A&M’s average ranking in those four categories is No. 25 nationally. Auburn has averaged only 2.4 yards per rush during the first period, and the first period is Auburn's third-worst passing quarter. If Auburn cannot break this trend, it could make for a long night in Texas.

The final key for the Tigers is their psychological mindset. Players tend to play through injuries when the win column is near full, but not so much when the losses begin to mount. This Auburn team has not mastered the art of closing out games, and the first sign of major adversity could be fatal for the Tigers. Auburn’s fortitude will be tested in College Station and how the team responds to the ebb and flow of the game will decide the outcome. Auburn has scored no more than three offensive touchdowns in regulation vs. conference competition this season. It will take more than three offensive touchdowns to win this Saturday night, and I'm not sure the Tigers are healthy enough to do so. Texas A&M 31, Auburn 24

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Florida over Vanderbilt (Clinches East Division)

Georgia over Kentucky

Ole Miss over Arkansas

Tennessee over South Carolina

Alabama over LSU

Season Record: 59-18


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