Five Keys to Success - Auburn

When the schedule came out last year, the Auburn game looked like a cakewalk given the Tigers' 0-8 SEC record. But Gus Malzahn has turned their fortunes around and bring a ranked team into Kyle Field. Here are the five keys to success.

1) Stop the Auburn Run Game First

Football is a pretty simple game, even in today's high-powered passing offenses. If you are on offense and can run the ball successfully, you run it. If you are on defense, you do whatever it takes to stop the run and deal with the consequences in other areas. Look no further than A&M's grind it out approach against Arkansas in the second half. A defense that can't stop the run loses its will to play. It's a helpless feeling knowing that you can't stop the other team running the ball and eating up clock. Specifically for A&M, if the defense doesn't stop the run, then the Aggies' two biggest weapons, Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans, will be standing idle on the sidelines. Thus, it is critical to slow down a very formidable Auburn ground game led by JUCO dual-threat QB Nick Marshall and former A&M recruiting target RB Tre Mason.

2) No Major Breakdowns in Coverage

The Aggie defense wasn't all that bad against Ole Miss if you take away the three major breakdowns in coverage that accounted for 21 points and about 150 yards. Auburn will try to lull the safeties to sleep with a lot of running plays and then will take some play action shots downfield, similar to what Alabama did back in September. A&M will need to bring eight men in the box to stop the run, so the Tigers will get shots downfield. The defense can't allow those chances to be easy ones that aren't contested. Whether Snyder tells his corners they are on an island and stick with their man all the way down the field, or the safeties playing with a swivel on their head and are conscious of the deep ball and are able to help over the top, the defense can't let Auburn receivers flash open 10-15 yards outside the coveage for an easy TD like last weekend. Make QB Nick Marshall earn it on deep patterns because he's not known to be the most accurate passer out there.

3) Big Day by Steven Jenkins

To stop the run, the DL will need to hold its gaps and not allow any push down the field while the linebackers come in and finish off the ball carriers. This has been a major deficiency in the first half of the season, and a big part of the disappointment with the linebackers has been the play of veteran Steven Jenkins. Jenkins is the best, most experienced linebacker on the roster. When it's all said and done, the fate of the linebacking corps and the fate of the defensive front seven ‘s ability to stop the run will come down to the play of Jenkins. He missed all of spring practice and he was suspended for the first two games, so there's a reason for his slow start. But, given his performance last year, A&M fans are hoping he'll regain his 2012 form at some point…and today would be a good day for that to happen.

4) Must Score Early and Often

With Auburn's strength coming from the rushing attack, the best defense for the Aggies is a good offense and jumping out to the early lead. That's good news for A&M fans because the Aggies do typically score early and often. If the Aggies can jump out to a 14-17 point lead which has been common in the Sumlin/Manziel era, then that could force Auburn out of its game plan and force them to throw the ball more which puts the advantage in A&M's court.

5) Avoid Turnovers and Mistakes on Special Teams

The Aggies have the edge against the No. 24 Tigers at home. Coming in as 13.5 point favorites, the Aggies should win this game if the contest goes according to plan. However, that's why you play the game. Turnovers and critical mistakes in special teams are neutralizing factors for underdog teams looking for the upset. But let's be clear, the term underdog is a relative term here. The Aggies must play clean game to defeat Auburn at Kyle Field. Auburn has a belief they can win this game, and any early turnovers will only fan the flames and create an atmosphere for an upset. If Texas A&M opens the window of opportunity with mistakes, Auburn is good enough to take advantage and push for the big upset.

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