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Monday, Dec 11, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Plainsman Picks: Texas A&M

<p>Brian Battie storms ahead through a tackle during Auburn vs Samford</p>

Brian Battie storms ahead through a tackle during Auburn vs Samford

Ahead of Auburn's SEC opener at Texas A&M, here's what some of our staff has to say about the game, complete with score predictions and analysis.

Jacob Waters, Sports Editor: Texas A&M 27-20

"This is Auburn's first big test of the season as the Tigers open conference play on the road. Texas A&M's secondary was dreadful against Miami just a couple weeks ago, and Payton Thorne is coming off his best game in an Auburn uniform. This should bode well for Auburn, but I still have my doubts about the offense. With the running backs having a tough time moving the ball, Thorne looking prone to a couple mistakes each game and the bad offensive performance against Cal a couple weeks ago, I'm not overly confident that Auburn can score enough against the Aggies.

Another important note is the fact that Auburn's secondary is banged up with Keionte Scott undergoing ankle surgery. Nehemiah Pritchett and Donovan Kaufman have been practicing, but they are likely not 100% if I had to guess. I'm really high on A&M quarterback Conner Weigman, and think he will hurt Auburn's secondary more than Thorne will hurt the Aggies' secondary. If this game was later in the season, I'd probably lean Auburn, but I just don't like where this game falls on the schedule for the Tigers. Therefore, I'm picking Texas A&M in a close game."

Matthew Wallace, Assistant Sports Editor: Texas A&M 28-20

"Auburn does not have a running back that averages over 45 yards per game and Texas A&M only gives up 98.3 yards per game on the ground, so the Auburn pass game will likely play a big part in the outcome. Fortunately for the Tigers, the Aggies’ pass defense was rough in its only Power Five test, allowing Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke to throw for 374 yards and five touchdowns. 

Defense travels and the Auburn defense has played well enough to keep the Tigers in any game, but on the road in the SEC, the margin for error is thin. The Tigers have lost seven turnovers — more than every other SEC team but Vanderbilt. If that trend continues, Auburn will have a hard time overcoming the mistakes."

Grace Heim, Sports Reporter: Texas A&M 33-28

"Opening SEC play on the road is never easy, and Auburn is heading to take on Texas A&M just as the Aggies are starting to look like the football team everyone has suggested they were. While the Aggies struggled defensively in their week two loss to Miami, their offense looked consistent, and I do not think the Tigers can put up enough points to keep up with the Texas A&M offense. 

Texas A&M’s passing game has looked strong under offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, and with Keionte Scott out with an ankle injury, Auburn’s secondary is going to have to step it up. Offensively, the Tigers are going to have to look to pass the ball more against the Aggies who have a solid run defense that is third in the nation in third-down stops. I do not think the Tigers’ passing offense is where it needs to be in order to defeat the Aggies, so I’m picking Texas A&M to defeat Auburn.”

Patrick Bingham, Sports Writer: Auburn 25-24

"This is when we learn where this Auburn team, in Hugh Freeze’s first season, stands within the confines of the southeastern conference. Despite all the work that’s been done by the new staff in Auburn through the transfer portal and recruiting, Freeze was quick to mention in his Monday press conference the talent mismatch still between Auburn’s next three opponents and the current roster on the plains. 

If the Tigers can prevent turnovers and Payton Thorne’s decision-making continues to improve, Auburn can walk out of Kyle Field with a statement victory. If not, Jimbo Fisher could get a big win in an inflection point type of season for his tenure in Bryan-College Station. 

I like Auburn in this one, with a running attack that could break open a really successful Aggie line that limited opponents to under 100 yards rushing in the first two weeks of the season."

Caitlyn Griffin, Sports Writer: Auburn 24-21 

"Going 3-0 in nonconference, Hugh Freeze and his Tigers will discover where they belong in the Southeastern Conference. Payton Thorne has proved to be a dual threat in passing and rushing, and Auburn’s defense has been effective, especially in defensive third down conversions percentage. However, Texas A&M’s defense is third in this metric with 20.6%, while Auburn is fourth with 24.4%. So, whoever’s offense is able to capitalize on third-down conversions will be the team to seal the win. 

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This game will, no doubt, be a nail-biter between two talented teams, but I believe the Tigers have more to prove in this game as they continue to make a name for themself in SEC play with a new coach at the helm."

Eva Bianco, Sports Writer: Auburn 24-20

"Though the Tigers took the victory against Samford last week, there are so many factors that can impact their play against A&M. The first is obvious: injuries. Auburn has lost some key players like Keionte Scott, Austin Keys and Nehemiah Pritchett which makes them more vulnerable to A&M's offense. 

Secondly, a pattern after UMass, Cal and Samford, is that Auburn needs a little time to get momentum. In conference play, this delayed momentum can put the Tigers at a disadvantage. A&M is eager to bounce back against their first SEC opponent of the year, especially after a loss to Miami two weeks ago. Since joining the SEC, A&M is 1-4 against Auburn at Kyle Field, with its only win being in 2021. 

A win for either team would be huge in propelling them into SEC play. Both teams head into this game with something to prove. At the end of the day, it comes down to who can play better SEC football."

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