A Trip to Texas.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Trip to Texas.

Aggie Week

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. Before Auburn returns home for the rest of the month, the Texas A&M Aggies await.

     Texas A&M has been a difficult team to read, this season, and one that performs well at times, and terrible 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, then at Florida Texas A&M won 19-17. We were beginning to think that the Aggies were pretty decent, then 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, the two teams both Auburn and Texas A&M have played are Arkansas and Mississippi State. The Aggies topped Arkansas in overtime, while a couple of weeks ago Auburn blasted Arkansas at their place, 52-20. Last Aggie game was a 35-14 loss at home against Mississippi State, while Auburn spanked the Bulldogs 49-10. On paper, this game should heavily favor the visiting Tigers.

     The fact of the matter is that 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 agains MSU and Arkansas. With the SEC West Title still within reach for Auburn, the last thing these Tigers need is a letdown in Texas.

     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 quite 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 they Commodores 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. They 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, then they finish the season hosting Louisville. If Kentucky wins those three SEC games, they could be in Atlanta to represent the East.

     Like Kentucky, South Carolina sits at 6-2 this season, but they would need 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, then hosts Florida. The Gamecocks finish the season at home vs. Wofford, then 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 it, this month, starting with a home date against South Carolina this week. The Bulldogs then visit Auburn, host Kentucky, then 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 their remaining 4 games to get to a bowl. They host Southern Miss this week, in the only SEC night game. A trip to Mizzou follows, then the Vols finish at home against LSU and Vanderbilt.

     Likewise, 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, then 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 they could come up with a win in Tuscaloosa, their first win there since 2011. It’s not likely. LSU finishes November hosting Arkansas, visiting Tennessee, then 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, then hosting 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, then Alabama. Mississippi finishes the month at Arkansas, then they host 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 this week, to be named the 2nd best team in the Playoff standings, behind Georgia. That should provide the Tide will all the motivation they need to take care of business this week, as LSU visits. Alabama then visits Mississippi State, hosts Mercer, then finishes the regular season in Auburn. We will find out in November if any team in the SEC can seriously challenge this bunch.

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