Texas A&M will play host to Auburn on Saturday as the SEC West foes kickoff conference play for the 2023 college football season. Both the Aggies and Tigers come in with some momentum after rolling over nonconference opponents at home in Week 3. Texas A&M defeated ULM while Auburn took care of business against Samford. Now, two teams that finished at the bottom of the division a year ago will go head to head as they each look to garner some momentum early within the conference slate.
For Auburn, 2023 brings a new frontier as the program navigates its first season under coach Hugh Freeze. A proven winner in the SEC during his tenure at Ole Miss from 2012-16, Freeze finds himself looking to reinvigorate a Tigers program coming out of a tumultuous stretch under former coach Bryan Harsin, who was fired last October after less than two seasons on the job. The opening three games of the Freeze era included a 14-10 win at Cal that was far from pretty, but Auburn nonetheless sits 3-0 and is already halfway to bowl eligibility after going 5-7 overall last year with a 2-6 mark in SEC play.
As for Texas A&M, which finished 2022 with those exact same respective records, patience doesn't exactly abound given the results that coach Jimbo Fisher has overseen into his sixth season. The Aggies once again already have a loss within the first month of the season after falling on the road to Miami in Week 2. Failing to get past a rebuilding Auburn team at home would do nothing to cool a seat that, despite a mammoth contract featuring a $75 million buyout, has only become warmer and warmer for Fisher of late.
Let's go a bit deeper on the matchup in College Station, Texas, as the schools prepare for this much-anticipated SEC meeting.
Texas A&M vs. Auburn: Need to know
Tigers finding their identity: Saturday's game should provide more clarity on where Auburn is headed in its first season under Freeze. Through three contests, the Tigers have limited opponents to just 155 passing yards and 12.33 points per contest, both top-20 marks in the FBS, but containing Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman and the rest of the Aggies' new-look offense under coordinator Bobby Petrino will be the biggest test yet. Offensively, Auburn's rushing attack has been its strength. The Tigers rank 18th among FBS teams, averaging 215.7 rushing yards. On the other hand, a passing attack centered around Michigan State transfer quarterback Payton Thorne has struggled to get going. The Tigers rank 89th, averaging 212.3 yards through the air with only five touchdowns to show.
Aggies defense under a microscope: For all the talent on Texas A&M's roster, the Aggies defense, namely the secondary, could be a liability. That much was clear during Texas A&M's Week 2 loss at Miami in which the Hurricanes torched the Aggies for 374 yards and five touchdowns through the air. That Texas A&M struggled to establish any consistent pass rush in that defeat didn't alleviate defensive concerns either. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin's unit caught a breather in Week 3 against ULM, but the jury is still out regarding how Texas A&M will fare come SEC play. If the Aggies find themselves struggling to contain an Auburn passing offense that ranks in the bottom half of the FBS, it may sound more alarm bells among the 12th Man.
Jimbo feeling the pressure: Auburn might not be a "must-win" game for Fisher, but losing the SEC opener as a touchdown favorite at home would do him zero favors. Through 63 games as Texas A&M's coach, Fisher's 41-22 mark is essentially a wash compared to his predecessor, Kevin Sumlin, who was 44-19 on that same timeline before he was fired after a 7-5 finish in Year 6. It's now Year 6 for Fisher and Texas A&M has still started 2-0 just once (2021) under his watch. The Fisher era has frequently seen the Aggies play some marquee opponents early, but more is expected under a coach with a contract exceeding $90 million. In a year where Texas A&M's offense looks much improved and the SEC West appears fairly wide open, the Aggies need to make the most of every opportunity.
How to watch Texas A&M vs. Auburn live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 23 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Kyle Field -- College Station, Texas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (Try for free)
Texas A&M vs. Auburn prediction, pick
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Of the 11 SEC meetings to date between the Aggies and Tigers, the only true blowout was the first in 2012 when a Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M squad hung 63 points on Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Five of the matchups have been decided by a touchdown or less, including the Tigers' 13-10 home win last year. It's a bit tricky to forecast the tune of this game, but Texas A&M owns the clear-cut edge in the passing game with Weigman. If the Aggies can sufficiently protect their quarterback, they can be happy about their chances. Auburn keeps this one generally competitive, but Texas A&M ultimately wins -- and narrowly covers -- to move to 3-1. Pick: Texas A&M -7.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 4, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $2,500 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons -- and find out.