A Trip to Texas
Two teams battling for life in the SEC West
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody. Another Auburn football Saturday is fast approaching. The calendar has ticked over to November, and that means “Amen Corner” is here. This season, Auburn’s November starts with a road trip to College Station, Texas and finishes with three straight games at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Texas A&M has been a difficult team to read this season, one that performs well at times and terribly at times. In the season opener against UCLA, the Aggies blew out to a 44–10 lead in the 3rd quarter, only to give up 5 straight touchdown drives and lose the game, 45–44. The Aggies weren’t very impressive in closer-than-expected wins over Nichols State and Southwest Louisiana. Texas A&M trailed Arkansas for most of that game before winning it in overtime. Three more close games followed: a 24–17 win over South Carolina, a 27–19 loss to Alabama, and at Florida a 19–17 win. We were beginning to think that the Aggies were pretty decent, but they got steam-rolled at home, 35–14, by Mississippi State. The Aggies now stand at 5–3 and are pretty much out of the SEC West race.
As far as common opponents go, both Auburn and Texas A&M have played Arkansas and Mississippi State. The Aggies topped Arkansas in overtime while a couple of weeks ago Auburn blasted Arkansas at its place, 52–20. The last Aggie game was a 35–14 loss at home against Mississippi State while Auburn spanked the Bulldogs 49–10. On paper, the visiting Tigers should be heavily favored.
The fact of the matter is in the SEC West teams had better show up ready to play every week. Previous results don’t matter. Auburn cannot expect Texas A&M to roll over, given the results against MSU and Arkansas. With the SEC West title still within reach, the last thing the Tigers need is a letdown in Texas.
But, honestly, many of the matchups in this game favor the Tigers. While many recent Aggie teams have lined up and slung the ball around, this year’s team has leaned heavily on the running game while trying to protect shaky quarterback play. Auburn has been pretty good at stopping the run and making opposing quarterbacks be patient. Matchups that don’t necessarily favor Auburn include covering Aggie return men and dealing with a dangerous Aggie defensive line. The good news for Auburn is that a trio of injured Auburn offensive linemen should return for this game, and the Tigers should be at full strength. And the kicking game should take care of itself, if it follows one simple rule: don’t kick it to Christian Kirk, who is probably the nation’s leading return man.
The calendar may now say “November,” but Auburn can’t get out the long johns yet. Record warmth is predicted for much of Texas the next few days, and this game may well feature temps around 90 degrees for those attending. This one is another dreaded 11:00 AM Central time kickoff on ESPN and should have no chance of rain.
SEC tidbits after the jump!
In Columbia, Missouri two teams battling to get to bowls meet. The 3–5 Tigers host Florida, and they need to win 3 of their last 4 to get to a bowl game. With Florida and Tennessee visiting and road games against Vanderbilt and Arkansas, it’s possible. Missouri just needs the offense to show up. This team lights up the cupcakes and disappears against SEC competition thus far.
Vanderbilt was expected to be one of the better teams in the SEC East this year after a 3–0 start, but the Commodores since have lost 5 straight games. They get a chance this week to right the ship against Western Kentucky then finish with Kentucky, Missouri and at Tennessee. The Commodores need to win 3 of the remaining 4 games to get back to a bowl.
Kentucky has a surprising 6–2 record this season, and is already bowl eligible. The Cats are still technically in the SEC East race but have a minefield ahead. They visit the dangerous but underperforming Ole Miss Rebels this week and finish at Vanderbilt, at Georgia, and hosting Louisville. If Kentucky wins the three SEC games, it could be in Atlanta to represent the East.
Like Kentucky, South Carolina sits at 6–2 this season, but it needs more help to win the division, having lost a 23–13 decision to the the Cats earlier this year. Elimination games await the next couple of weeks as South Carolina visits Georgia and hosts Florida. The Gamecocks finish the season at home vs. Wofford and Clemson.
These are heady days for the Georgia Bulldogs, who are undefeated and sit atop the college football playoff standings this week. The Bulldogs will have to prove they are worthy this month, starting with a home date against South Carolina this week. The Bulldogs then visit Auburn, host Kentucky, and travel to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech.
Like much of the lower echelon of the SEC East, Tennessee sits at 3–5 and needs to win 3 of its remaining 4 games to get to a bowl. The Vols host Southern Miss this week in the only SEC night game. A trip to Mizzou follows, and the Vols finish at home against LSU and Vanderbilt.
Florida is 3–4 and also needs 3 wins in November. The Gators fired coach Jim McElwain this week and will limp into Missouri this weekend. A road trip to South Carolina follows, then home dates against UAB and Florida State finish the season. The Gators should be able to beat Mizzou, UAB and a slumping FSU team, but will they?
Texas A&M sits at 5–3 and needs another win to go bowling. However, the real trick for head coach Kevin Sumlin is to win enough games in November to keep the Aggie board of trustees at bay. After a blow-out loss to Mississippi State last week, the wolves are again howling. A&M hosts Auburn this week and New Mexico the following week. Road games at Ole Miss and at LSU finish the season.
A lot of heat came down on LSU head coach Ed Orgeron early this season after a blow-out loss at Mississippi State and a homecoming loss to Troy. Since then, LSU has won, sometimes impressively, and sits at 6–2. LSU could likely quiet all critics this week if it could come up with a win in Tuscaloosa where the Tigers have not won since 2011. It’s not likely. LSU finishes November hosting Arkansas, visiting Tennessee, and hosting Texas A&M.
Another coach on the hot seat is Bret Bielema of Arkansas. Word is that the 3–5 Razorbacks need to win 3 of their last 4 games not only to become bowl-eligible but for Bret to keep his job. A date with Coastal Carolina should help this week. Arkansas finishes the month at LSU and then hosts Mississippi State and Missouri.
Mississippi State is already bowl–eligible, sitting at 6–2, and is still technically alive in the SEC West race. How well the rest of the season goes depends upon which Bulldog team shows up each week in November. Do we get the team that dominated LSU, Kentucky and Texas A&M? Or the one that was blown out by Auburn and Georgia? The Bulldogs host UMass this week followed by Alabama. Mississippi finishes the month at Arkansas, then it hosts Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
Ole Miss was eliminated from the bowl picture before the season even started thanks to self-imposed sanctions. The Rebs have moved the ball on everybody but usually find ways to give up points. They currently sit at 3–5. Ole Miss is at Kentucky this week, then hosts Louisiana Lafayette and Texas A&M. A trip to Mississippi State finishes the season.
It had to sting a bit for 8–0 Alabama to be named the 2nd best team in the playoff standings behind Georgia. That should provide the Tide with all the motivation they need to take care of business this week as LSU visits. Alabama then visits Mississippi State, hosts Mercer, and finishes the regular season in Auburn. We will find out in November if any team in the SEC can seriously challenge this bunch.