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What to watch: Auburn vs. Texas A&M

The Auburn Tigers travel to College Station, TX, to take on the 14th-ranked Texas A&M for a critical SEC West showdown. Auburn will try to build off last week’s win against Ole Miss, while the Aggies are fresh off a bye week.

Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the series between the Aggies and Tigers has seen the away team go 8-1 in the nine-year stretch. Auburn hopes to push its record at Kyle Field to 5-0 and keep its SEC Western division hopes alive.

The Aggies have had an uneven year so far in 2021. Texas A&M lost its first two SEC contests, only to win its last three matchups, including a big home win versus Alabama.

Both teams in today’s game have a lot to play for the rest of this season if they secure a win today.

Take a look at three things that will determine if Auburn can go on the road and earn its third straight SEC win.

Auburn’s offensive line

Entering the 2021 season, the Auburn offensive line was the group that most observers thought would struggle the most. The line has certainly had some rough spots, but overall, the unit has improved as the year has progressed.

In recent weeks the front five have done a very good job of giving quarterback Bo Nix time and space to operate effectively. However, until last week against Ole Miss, the offensive line had struggled to create running lanes for the Tiger tailbacks.

Today against the Aggies, the Auburn offense will face the toughest defensive front they have seen other than the Georgia Bulldogs. Texas A&M boasts great talent in their front seven, including likely top 10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft DeMarvin Leal.

The Tigers offensive front must be effective enough to generate a threatening rushing attack today in order to beat Texas A&M. If the offensive line can lead the way to at least 150 yards on the ground, then Auburn will have a good chance to score enough to win.

Make Calzada beat you

It was mentioned earlier that the Aggies have had a bit of an up and down year. The reason for that is directly tied to their quarterback Zach Calzada.

Calzada is a talented player but unexpectedly became the Texas A&M quarterback earlier this year when the original starting quarterback was injured.

The young quarterback struggled to find his footing early on and has actually turned the ball over against every Power 5 opponent he has faced.

However, Calzada did play the game of his life against Alabama and led the Aggies to a 41-38 victory over the Crimson Tide.

His performance against Alabama was outstanding. But, it is worth noting that game is the only contest that Calzada has accounted for more than two touchdowns or completed over 60% of his pass attempts.

Auburn must do what it takes to slow down the Aggies rushing attack and force Zach Calzada to make good decisions and accurate throws over and over. If the Tigers can make Texas A&M throw the ball more than 30 times, Auburn will have a great chance to slow down the Aggies.

Special teams

Last week against Ole Miss, the Auburn special teams unit had a very bad night. There was a laundry list of errors for the Tigers against the Rebels. Auburn missed a field goal, fumbled a punt, and was called for a penalty on nearly every kick off return.

If Auburn’s special teams are not much better today against the Aggies, the Tigers will not be in a position to earn a victory.

The Aggies have the best punt returner in the SEC, a kick returner that changed the game against Alabama with a touchdown, an experienced senior placekicker and a punter that is second in the SEC.

It is a tall task for Auburn, but the Tigers’ special teams must play the Aggies to at least a draw in order to get a win in College Station.

Special teams have the chance to change the entire trajectory of a game. Auburn must make sure that if that happens today, it is in the Tigers’ favor.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.

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