Senior Day is set to occur on Saturday for Auburn football as the Tigers take on No. 5 Texas A&M in the 2020 Jordan-Hare Stadium finale. Here are some players from both sides to keep an eye on and keys to victory for each team.
Kellen Mond (QB) - The senior quarterback out of San Antonio is having a career year taking snaps for the Aggies. His decision-making ability has never been better, he has a career-low two interceptions this year. Mond gets the ball out quick, he doesn’t spend much time in the pocket and loves to target receivers in the middle of the field. Not only this, he’s led this Aggie team to a 6-1 record and has them sitting just outside the door of the College Football Playoff.
Isaiah Spiller (RB) - One of the premier rushers in the league, Spiller ranks third among SEC running backs in rushing yards. Only twice this season has the sophomore been held to under 100 rushing yards in a game. He’s hit the triple-digit mark five times on his way to racking up 784 rushing yards this season. Look for Texas A&M to use him in the running game and capitalize against an Auburn defense that's allowing 4.1 yards per carry this season.
Buddy Johnson (LB) and DeMarvin Leal (DL) - It’s difficult to pick one Aggie player on defense after the week these two had against LSU last Saturday. Johnson was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Leal was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Johnson found himself near the ball often against the Bayou Bengals, recording nine tackles and his first interception of the season. Leal tied his career-high of seven tackles in the game as well.
“DeMarvin’s got the ability to go in and out,” Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He has the size for the inside guys and the athleticism for the outside guys. He’s a very unique player.”
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Big Kat Bryant (DE) - Saturday may be the final time Bryant puts on the navy top and trots onto Pat Dye Field in an Auburn uniform if he decides not to return for the extra year of eligibility. In his 31 career games where he’s made an appearance, he’s recorded 51 tackles, nine sacks and one memorable interception against LSU this season. Recently he’s been the most active he has been all season, recording seven tackles in the past two games. Look for the veteran defensive end to lead the defensive line against one of the best offensive lines in the SEC.
Seth Williams (WR) - The junior receiver has had success against Texas A&M in his career, he’s caught three touchdown passes against the Aggies. This includes an 11-yard touchdown reception in the final two minutes to give Auburn the lead the last time Texas A&M was in town. As Bo Nix’s favorite target in this game a year ago, look for Williams to play a big role this Saturday.
Zakoby McClain (LB) - While it was not an ideal showing for the Auburn offense last week in the Iron Bowl, McClain continued to showcase his career year on the defensive side. Against Alabama, he recorded a team-leading nine tackles to add to his team-leading 77 tackles on the season. This season, McClain has recorded double-digit tackles in three games.
Keys to Victory
The Aggies have a lethal combination: a strong offensive line and a quarterback who gets the ball out quickly while making smart decisions. Mond has been sacked a total of three times this season, two of which came in the season opener against Vanderbilt. Taking advantage of an Auburn team who was blown out last week by the same type of combo is certainly a path to victory for Texas A&M. It doesn’t hurt to get Spiller involved and wear the Tiger defense down early, either.
Defeating a Top 5 team is never easy, but Auburn has seen success in the past against Top 5 opponents in Jordan-Hare Stadium. To play spoiler against the Aggies and their hopes for a run at the College Football Playoffs, it starts with slowing down Spiller and finding ways to get pressure on Mond. If Auburn and Texas A&M find themselves in a shootout, the Aggies hold the advantage. Auburn’s defense needs to find ways to limit the scoring to keep its offense in the game.
Offensively, one thing Auburn was unable to do in the Iron Bowl was to get a run game going. It’s unclear as to if Tank Bigsby will be a go for Auburn, as he remains questionable, so the Tigers will need their other backs to step up and find the holes. If the run game can go for the Tigers, the passing game will open up and allow the offense to settle into a rhythm.
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