Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett

Stat Tiger Column: Previewing Texas A&M at Auburn Football In SEC Opener

Inside the Auburn Tigers columnist Stuart Carter crunches the numbers in his StatTiger column and predicts a winner for the Texas A&M at Auburn football game.

Myles Garrett (above) is a standout defensive end for the Aggies.

Texas A&M (2-0) at Auburn (1-1)

Series Record: Texas A&M leads 4-2-0

Last Meeting: (2015) Auburn 26-10

About the teams:

Coach Kevin Sumlin is 73-33-0 overall and 38-16 at Texas A&M. Gus Malzahn is 37-17 all-time and 28-14 as head coach at Auburn. 

The last time out Auburn defeated Arkansas State 51-14 and the Aggies blasted Prairie View, 67-0.

Texas A&M returns 13 starters from 2015 with six on offense and seven on defense. Auburn returns 11 starters with six on offense and five on defense.

Auburn defeated TAMU 26-10 last year at Kyle Field.

The Aggie offense is led by senior quarterback Trevor Knight, who has thrown 291 yards per game this season. He has a quarterback rating of 128.1, which is the ninth-best in the conference.

Keith Ford leads TAMU in rushing with 127 yards on 22 attempts this season. The Aggies are currently averaging 240 yards rushing per game.

Christian Kirk leads TAMU with in receptions with 13 on the season along with two touchdown receptions.

CHRISTIAN KIRK (PHOTO BY US PRESSWIRE)

Christian Kirk is a talented receiver and returner for the Aggies.

Auburn sophomore Sean White is the No. 4 rated passer in the conference with a rating of 152.6. Marcus Davis is White’s leading receiver with seven catches through two games.

Kerryon Johnson is No. 4 in the SEC in rushing yards per game, averaging 109.0. Kamryn Pettway had a big game last Saturday with 152 yards on 15 rush attempts.

Auburn and Texas A&M are tied for No. 14 in the nation in producing plays of 20 yards or more.

The Aggie defense has surrendered seven plays of 20 yards or more and Auburn has allowed 10.

Auburn under Malzahn has averaged 547 yards and 36 points per game during three meetings against the Aggies.

How they match up...

•Both teams have played one quality opponent and one opponent they handled with ease. Both dominated their weaker opponent last Saturday. Auburn lost a close game to Clemson and TAMU won a close game against UCLA in the season openers.

•TAMU has the current No. 1 ranked offense in the conference and will face an Auburn team ranked No. 8 in total defense. Auburn has the No. 3 ranked offense in the conference and will face an Aggie defense ranked No. 5.

•Auburn is currently No. 1 in the SEC for run offense and will face the No. 4 run defense in the conference.

•Auburn is No. 8 in the conference in pass efficiency and Texas A&M is ranked No. 11. The Aggies are No. 3 in pass efficiency defense while Auburn is ranked No. 10.

•Texas A&M has recorded 16 tackles for loss and Auburn has 11 through two games. The Aggies have allowed only eight tackles for loss while Auburn’s offense has surrendered 19 tackles for loss.

Keys to Victory...

Of Auburn’s 19 tackles for loss allowed 14 came against Clemson. Auburn’s offensive line must play well against a stout Aggie front four.

Auburn has rushed for more than 300 yards against the Aggies during the last three meetings. Auburn needs to have success on the ground to keep its offense balanced.

KERRYON JOHNSON (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Kerryon Johnson is Auburn's leading rusher.

Auburn gave up only 15 plays of 30 yards or more during the entire 2015 season. Through two games Auburn has already allowed five such plays, something the Tigers cannot afford against Texas A&M. 

Auburn has lost the “turnover battle” during five of its last six games, including both outings this season. The Tigers won the turnover battle against the Aggies during their victories in 2013 and 2015, but lost the turnover battle during the 2014 contest.

Malzahn’s offense is currently 69-8 in collegiate games with 150 yards rushing or more and a pass efficiency of at least 130. This includes a record of 40-4 while at Auburn.

What to Watch...

*Look for Gus Malzahn to continue his "attacking" approach on offense with a potent mixture of the pass and run on first down.

*Look for Auburn to slow down the Aggie's defensive ends by running right at them.

*Look for the Auburn running backs to be more involved in the pass offense against Texas A&M.

*Expect Texas A&M to attempt to establish their running game early to take the pressure off their quarterback. Like Auburn, Aggie offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will want to establish the run to set up his play-action passing game.

*Look for special teams to play a major role in what should be a closely contested game.

*Auburn is built more efficient to run the ball than Texas A&M. From 1990-2015, Auburn has won 85 percent of their conference games, when they finish the game with more rushing yards and rushing attempts.  

Final Word...

Through two games Auburn has not been consistent offensively, though game-planning might have hampered the Tigers against Clemson. Since halftime of the opening game the offense has gained 926 yards and scored 61 points during six quarters of play.

The majority of this offensive success came from the Arkansas State game, but Auburn did record 224 yards and 14 first downs during the second-half of the Clemson game. With White firmly in control of the starting quarterback position, Auburn appears to be much closer to its offensive identity coming into game three.

The key on offense will be Malzahn’s approach to play calling, especially on first down. During the first half of the Arkansas State game Auburn passed the ball more than 30 percent of the time on first down. Auburn’s continued success on first down will likely hang in the balance of the play-selection on their initial down.

The Auburn defense appears to be in better shape than the version that held TAMU to 303 yards and 10 points last year. Worth noting, Texas A&M averaged 431 yards per game coming into its game against Auburn last year compared to the 557 yards it is averaging in 2016. 

Auburn’s lack of a pass rush without blitzing could become a primary concern in particular against an Aggie offense which thrives on a short passing game. Through two games the Texas A&M wide receivers are averaging only 13 yards per reception. The Aggie pass offense is currently No. 6 in the conference in yards per completion and No. 7 in generating pass plays of 15 yards or more.

Limiting the TAMU running game will be essential as Auburn has allowed 199 yards rushing during its last 41 conference games. The Tigers have held only two SEC opponents to less than 100 yards rushing during their last 41 conference games and only 11 to under 150 yards rushing. During the last 41 conference games, Auburn’s opponent has rushed for more than 170 yards on 25 occasions and Auburn is 7-18 during those games.

SEAN WHITE (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Sean White is a redshirt sophomore who has started eight games for the Tigers.

Even after the disappointing loss to Clemson, Malzahn publicly stated his team has the potential to be a successful one. The talent level is good based on Auburn's recruiting efforts over the past three to four seasons. The defense appears to be playing at a higher level than 2015 and the new-found identity on offense might be what is needed to complete this team.

Good coaches find a way to create opportunities for their personnel and the Arkansas State game was a prime example of this on the offensive side of the football. Auburn is very young on offensively with more than 77 percent of the total yardage gained last Saturday night coming from freshman and sophomores. Through two games nearly 75 percent of Auburn’s total yardage has come from underclassman.

The youth movement on offense has created excitement for the players and the coaching staff appears to be comfortable with the transition. Look for the Auburn offense to continue its improvement and for the Tigers to record their first conference victory of the year. Auburn 31, Texas A&M 23

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Tennessee over Ohio

Georgia Tech over Vanderbilt

Alabama over Ole Miss

East Carolina over South Carolina

Kentucky over New Mexico State

LSU over Mississippi State

Georgia over Missouri

Florida over North Texas

Arkansas over Texas State

Record: 21-4


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