I'm currently sitting in my Houston hotel room just pondering on how to handle this weekly preview. Should it be positive and upbeat, or should I be real with all of you and give you my actual take? Growing up, I've always told my mother that I wanted to work for ESPN, but lately, ESPN has really dropped the ball from a reporting standpoint. "I don't know about ESPN anymore, mom. I don't think I could ever be co-workers with personalities like Joe Schad, Chris Berman, and now...Paul Finebaum." She responded with, "Cole, if you don't like the way people are doing things, don't complain about it...go in and change things so that one day, they will be better." So, taking my mother's advice, I'm going to shoot you straight on this site with every single article I type up, and no emotional padding will ever be incorporated. So, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, Barners...it's nothing personal.
I predicted before the season that this game, along with LSU, would be the "blowout" of the year. I'll admit it, I was wrong, and I regret classifying this game as a "sure loss". No, I am not saying we will win, but instead I'm saying we've got a fighting chance, that's for sure. Texas A&M's defense is flat out TERRIBLE! Giving up about 200 yards on the ground per game, good enough for 13th in the SEC, Gus Malzahn and our Tigers will have a field day against the nation's 113th best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) rush defense. The biggest question mark for Saturday is Nick Marshall's knee. After suffering a tweak of some kind in the Ole Miss game, Nick Marshall took a week off against FCS "juggernaut", Western Carolina. The highly-touted, true-freshman, Jeremy Johnson, stepped in his place to lead the Tigers to a 63-3 rout against the Catamounts. We should expect to see a, loosely based, two-quarterback system in College Station tomorrow with Nick Marshall taking the heavy load with the run game, while Johnson will step in to generate an alternative angle through the air.
On offense, the goal is simple. Run fast, run hard, and milk that clock. The beauty of our offense is the fact that we have three solid backs in Tre Mason (Superman), Corey Grant (Flash), and Cameron Artis-Payne (Hulk). Imagine how impressive and over-powering this offense would be if Nick Marshall could get his accuracy in check. I mean, seriously...does Nick Marshall not frustrate the heck out of anyone else? The kid can pull off incredible 85-yard drives in clutch situations, but is incapable of throwing a 10-15 yard pass in the other three quarters. Why the consistent inconsistency from Nick Marshall? Does it stem from a mental aspect, because we all know that it sure doesn't come from a physical standpoint. Nobody questions the man's natural ability, but what we do question is his ability to execute for four whole quarters.
On defense, Ellis Johnson has his work cut out for him. Friday night rumors are telling me that CB/S Josh Holsey never made the trip to Texas due to an ACL injury, and I also read elsewhere that LB Jake Holland is a bit banged up and will have limited playing time on Saturday. Say what you will about the kid, but Auburn cannot afford personnel, especially linebackers, going down this close to gametime against a team by the likes of A&M and QB Johnny Manziel. The key to stopping the un-stoppable will be the defensive end's containment and linebacker's ability to make the correct angles and execute solid tackling. Will it be enough to just focus on Manziel's running ability? No, no it will not, but at least it's a start.
Despite our anticipated defensive struggles, Auburn does have one factor on its side. History. Auburn, throughout the history of its program, is 298-4 when scoring 30+ points in a game, so against this Aggie defense, we should be able to do just that. Also in our favor is the fact that Auburn has won 81 games in a row when scoring the same thirty points or more. So, the magic number? You guessed it...30.
There is no doubt in my mind that we will score 30 points, but will that be enough to outscore the nation's third best offense? The answer is no. Flashes of Johnny Football running literal circles around our defense appeared in my dreams last night, and I expect to see my visions become a reality today against what will be a gased Auburn defense down the stretch. The over/under on this game is a whopping 72 points, and guess what? I expect more than 72 points between the two squads, but the result? You're surely not going to like it.
Prediction: Auburn L 35-38