The SEC Game of the Week highlighting the college football action this weekend features two teams still with hopes of winning the SEC West. No. 13 Auburn goes on the road to square off with No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday for a battle between the nation's highest-ranked two-loss teams. It will be the Aggies' toughest test since their stunning upset of then-No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9. For Auburn, it will be the fourth straight game against an SEC foe ranked inside the top 20.
The Tigers (6-2, 3-1 SEC) have a one-spot edge in the College Football Playoff rankings, but the Aggies (6-2, 3-2) are coming off a bye week and playing at home. Auburn, meanwhile, is coming in following a big 31-20 home win over No. 16 Ole Miss, which marks first-year coach Bryan Harsin's best victory to date.
Texas A&M ended a three-game Auburn winning streak last season with a 31-20 victory highlighted by a team total of 313 yards rushing behind big games from backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane. Both players are back and among the SEC's premier running backs. But the Tigers slowed down Ole Miss' prolific rushing attack last week and shouldn't be too concerned about Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada beating them through the air in what appears to be a mostly even matchup.
Follow along on Saturday with updates from Auburn vs. Texas A&M in our live blog at this link here.
Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Need to know
Auburn's path to Atlanta: Auburn and Texas A&M are both still in the hunt for the SEC West crown, but Auburn still has some room for error. The Tigers could lose one of their next three games against Texas A&M, Mississippi State and South Carolina before playing Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 27 and still potentially reach the SEC title game if they beat the Crimson Tide. Texas A&M, on the other hand, needs to win its last three league games against Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU, and Alabama must pick up a second conference loss. In short, Auburn will still have a shot at reaching the league title game even if it loses Saturday, but Texas A&M will needs a victory to stay in the mix.
QB edge for Auburn: When Texas A&M beat Auburn last season, the Aggies had the edge in quarterback play, as then-senior Kellen Mond completed 18-of-23 passes, threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for another. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix wasn't bad in that game, but he wasn't great, either, finishing 15 of 23 for 144 yards. Nix did run for two touchdowns in the game, but the Tigers were out-gained 509-340 in total yards as the Aggies finished with 29 first downs to 16 for Auburn. But if Nix's recent play is any indication, Auburn may have the QB edge this time. Now a junior, the former five-star prospect is playing some of the best football of his career, having completed 76.8% of his passes the last two games. Calzada enjoyed a breakout performance in the win over Alabama, but has just been OK since, completing 51% of his passes against Missouri and South Carolina.
Texas A&M's rushing advantage: The Texas A&M run defense has been stout the past two games against Missouri and South Carolina, limiting both foes to under 100 yards rushing. The Aggies, meanwhile, rushed for 283 yards and 290 yards, respectively, in those games. How well that success in the run game translates against Auburn could be the determining factor in the outcome. Auburn ran for 207 yards on 46 attempts against Ole Miss last week and limited the Rebels to four yards per carry. But replicating that against the Aggies won't be easy, as indicated by the prolific outing from Spiller and Achane in last year's meeting. Nix is finding his stride as a passer, but getting Tank Bigsby going on the ground is a prerequisite for Auburn's success.
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Auburn vs. Texas A&M prediction, picks
With the Aggies coming off a bye and playing at home, they are well-positioned to keep rolling. If Calzada can complete a few downfield throws to keep the Auburn defense honest, the run game will open up for Achane and Spiller, which will lead to an A&M victory. Prediction: Texas A&M (-4.5)
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