Thursday, October 25, 2012
Five storylines: Texas A&M at Auburn
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- After a tough, close loss to perennial SEC power LSU, Texas A&M (5-2) hits the road this week to take on Auburn (1-6). The Aggies (2-2) are right in the middle of the SEC West and looking to move up, while Auburn is trying to stay afloat in what has turned into a nightmarish year.
Here are some storylines to keep an eye on as the Aggies continue their first SEC season:
1. On the road again The Aggies are unbeaten away from Kyle Field this season, going 3-0. Head coach Kevin Sumlin has a nine-game road winning streak currently going, dating back to his time at Houston where his Cougars won all six road games they played last season. Saturday's game at Auburn will be the first of a tough three-game stretch that will include dates at Mississippi State and Alabama. The tale of the Aggies' season could very well be told in these next three weeks.
2. Taking care of the football In their first four games, the Aggies committed just one turnover and were at the top of the nation in turnover margin. In the last three games, Texas A&M has turned the ball over 13 times and are now tied for 103rd in the category. How the Aggies fare in that category will play a significant role in the result.
3. Battling the wounded animal Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was quick to point out that while Auburn is struggling, the Tigers are talented, and he cited three consecutive years of highly-ranked recruiting classes as evidence. Sumlin also repeated the words he used when Arkansas came to town: "A wounded animal is sometimes the most dangerous." Could that apply this week against Auburn?
4. Bounce-back game for Manziel? Johnny Manziel's start was good against LSU, the finish, not so much. He was held to a season-low in rushing yards (27), threw three interceptions (though at least one wasn't his fault) and had some freshman moments. Look for the redshirt freshman to bounce back when the Aggies take the field against the Tigers.
5. Improving the ground game The Aggies seem to be running the ball better with their running backs as the season goes on. Last week against LSU, junior Ben Malena averaged 6.8 yards per carry and finished with 82 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He seems to be finding his groove and the same can be said for the offensive line, which had to adjust to run blocking out of a two-point stance in the Aggies' new offense. It seems to be coming together, so it'll be interesting to see if the ground game continues to get better on Saturday.