As former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville used to say, "Alright, folks. The preseason is over."
The No. 8 Tigers will make their SEC debut with a trip to College Station, Texas, for a date with No. 17 Texas A&M.
Everything from the heat, to the roar of the crowd, to the intensity brought by either team could tip this game in either team's favor. However, none of these factors matter if Auburn’s stout offensive front can't repel the Aggies' stout defensive front.
“Defensively, they are third in our league in total defense,” said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn of Texas A&M. “We're really playing one of the better teams in our league on the road.”
Their 2018 matchup ended with the Tigers defeating A&M, 28-24, in a fourth-quarter comeback win inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Aggies held Auburn to 19 rushing yards and left the Tigers averaging less than a yard per carry.
“Their front seven is really good," said Auburn offensive lineman Marquel Harrell. “They were really good last year and just seem to keep getting better and better.”
Texas A&M’s front seven boasts over 50 tackles and one field goal block on the season. In their last three games the Aggies have given up a total of 251 rushing yards.
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This includes a performance where they held Texas State to 8 yards rushing. Harrell said he's excited to face the talented unit.
“Knowing that were facing a very tough run defense gave us great confidence,” Harrell said. “We just have to establish the run, just go from there.”
This year the Tigers come into this game averaging 282 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry — including 467 yards on the ground against Kent State, the best FBS vs. FBS rushing performance by a team this season.
In an effort to counteract Texas A&M’s fast pass-rushers, Harrell and the rest of the Tigers in the trenches will be mixing up blocking schemes all night. Harrell said the front lines will be swapping between gap and zone to create confusion for the Aggies front seven.
“It gives the defense a lot to concentrate on, eventually a hole will open up that somebody won’t be accountable for and we'll get that open run,” Harrell said.
Regardless of how the Tigers do it, the only goal for Saturday’s game is getting their first SEC win of the season.
“You’ve gotta win on the road, especially if you want to play for a national championship,” Harrell said. “You have to win in hostile environments, so just to go out there and like whatever it takes to win. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Kickoff for the Tigers matchup against the Aggies at Kyle Field will start at 2:30 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on CBS.
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