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AUBURN — Just under two years ago, it was hard to imagine that a primetime kickoff between Auburn (3-6, 1-5 SEC) and Texas A&M (3-6, 1-5) on a Saturday in November would decide the last place team in the SEC West. Auburn made a change in the coaching staff, looking to get back into competition at the top of the conference, while Texas A&M extended Jimbo Fisher to a 10-year contract after he led the team to a 9-1 all-SEC regular season.
Now, Fisher is fighting for bowl eligibility as he will be facing the third different Auburn head coach since he has been in Aggieland.
For the Auburn defense, this will be the worst offense it has played since Missouri. The Aggies are No. 102 in scoring offense, and the team has managed over 30 points just one time this season, in a 31-0 victory over Sam Houston. The Aggies are No. 61 in passing yards per game with three different quarterbacks getting significant playing time this season, primarily Haynes King who has been the starter in the last four games.
Combined with an average passing attack, the running game is No. 100 in the nation, led by only one running back, Devon Achane. Achane has been good for A&M, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 887 total yards, but he is also the only running back featured in the offense, and the only one with over 100 yards rushing.
This simplifies the game planning for Jeff Schmedding, as his defensive front will not have to worry about smoke and mirrors at the running back position, and for a rush defense that had its best performance of the season against Mississippi State, Derrick Hall and company are certainly looking to build off of that.
The challenge for Auburn, like so many weeks before, will be on the offensive side of the ball. The Tigers are facing a talented defense that has been exceptional in the passing game, an area where Robby Ashford and company struggled last week.
“Offensively, for us, it's gonna be a lot better,” said interim head coach Cadillac Williams. “We can have some time to, not making excuses, truly have a whole week to really watch Texas A&M and come up with a plan.”
Ashford finished the game with 75 yards and seven completions on 22 attempts.
The A&M defense, which is No. 47 in scoring, has an elite pass defense, giving up 173.6 yards per game, No. 11 in the nation, and they have an opponent completion percentage of 57.6%.
The weakness for the defense is in the trenches, as the Aggies are the worst in the SEC and No. 124 in the nation, giving up 215 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.
Now as the battle for last place draws near, there is something different about this game. Cadillac Williams has reinvigorated the program in a way few thought possible, but the players feel it.
“I think Coach Lac has done a really good job along with the other coaches stepping up into their roles and doing the things that they have to do,” said offensive lineman Kameron Stutts. “The players have done a really good job adapting to it and continuing to work.”
Now, for the third time this year, Jordan-Hare Stadium is sold out, and not following a win or ahead of a once-in-a-lifetime meeting. Instead, Auburn has sold out its home stadium on a five-game losing streak with a bowl game berth hanging in the balance.
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