During the 2018 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short. This week, the panel comments on Auburn vs. Texas A&M:

This past weekend, some of the teams on the west side of the SEC house took a week off. Among them were some bear/sharks, Tigers and some folks to the northwest.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our guys enjoyed a step out of the fray and will have had a full two weeks to get ready for the Aggies from College Station. The A&M group had a bit of a rough time in Starkvegas recently, coming up about 16 points shy of what they needed to avoid getting dog bit. That Fitzgerald guy accounted for 329 yards and four TDs and had their number! The Aggies had no answer to slow him down. A&M QB Mond attempted 46 passes and completed 23. It’s a safe bet he’ll put up a similar number of passes if the A&M run game performance stays at the level it displayed at Davis-Wade last week. 

The Donahue Drive crew better be ready for a good fight this Saturday. The Aggies are a proud bunch and I’m sure they will be seeking to atone for a less than acceptable outcome the last time out. This is especially true since the home team in this series hasn’t won since the Aggies joined the SEC! On another note, I feel I need to offer full disclosure. My dad attended A&M and he was all about being an Aggie. I have to admit that I learned the words to the Texas A&M War Hymn at an early age and (with due regard to my UT friends) was taught from an early age that”varsity” was inferior. Also, did you know that Reveille (mascot) attends class with her handler and if she barks in class, by tradition, the class is dismissed? Anyway, I do have a liking for A&M, but not when it comes to playing AU! I still remember a cold New Years Day in Dallas when they pretty much ran us out of the Cotton Bowl.

I’m for us whipping the Kyle Field crew anytime we line it up. I think our guys will ready for them at breakfast Saturday; Reveille will return home all bark and no bite. AU 24,  TAMU 17.

Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff

The cows, they are a-calling. This week, two of the nation’s top land-grant research universities will meet on the gridiron. Auburn plays No. 25 Texas A&M, matching a pair of two SEC West 5-3 also-rans, both with $50 million dollar coaches. Another similarity between the two is that each may have played its best game in a loss — Auburn, losing by one point to No. 4 LSU on the last play of the game, and A&M, losing by two points to No.2 Clemson in its season-opener.  

While both teams have shown flashes of greatness, the fact that each has three SEC losses at this point in the season points more toward mediocrity.  Another interesting similarity between the two teams is that in the past six years of this rivalry, neither team has a home victory. A&M won here in 2012, 2014, and 2016 while we defeated them at Kyle Field in 2013, 2015, and 2017.

In terms of common opponents, Mississippi State beat both the Tigers and the Aggies by two touchdowns in Starkville, while Arkansas, the runt of the league, was defeated by both Auburn and A&M. Auburn got a 31-point victory at home against the Hogs while A&M, playing in Fayetteville, surged to a 17-point lead early in the second quarter and then hung on for a 24-17 win. Both teams have kickers who are competent with middle range field goals but unimpressive with the long ones.

Against State, the Aggies’ QB Kellen Mond showed that he has a good arm. Had his receivers not dropped so many long passes, the game could have definitely been won. If he’s more accurate at Jordan-Hare, mixing the bomb with the screen pass, it could be a long afternoon for the Tigers. The 34-yard catch and run by Davis was a thing of beauty. Although the Aggies didn’t have an effective running game in Starkville (only 61 rushing yards — sound familiar?), Corbin had a nice run that showed he has the potential to break loose.

Having a week off can be a blessing, allowing players to heal and get some rest, but can also create some sluggishness, especially in the first half. With Auburn and A&M appearing to have many of the same strengths and weaknesses, let’s hope that we won’t appear rusty when the game kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, our third straight abysmal morning time slot.  In fact, if we win the toss, it might be a good idea to opt to receive rather than defer, as teams generally do. I’d like to see us come out extremely aggressive and confident, get off to a fast start, and play like the team we thought we had back in early September. 

The game this Saturday will be played for pride, not for a conference or even a division title, so we will find out which team can muster up the most determination in an otherwise disappointing season.  If Auburn loses, we could easily go 6-6, a repeat of Malzahn’s third season here, which ended in a trip to the Birmingham Bowl. I’m counting on our players and coaches to spare us that humiliation and to break the "home field DIS-advantage" in the lucky seventh game of this series.  Auburn 17, Texas A&M 14.

Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan

I think we all needed the bye week. Players, coaches, and fans needed some time off. The week off will give the players a chance to get over injuries while coaches can recruit and develop new schemes for our game plan. Not so fast my friend — is there any reason to believe that we will be a different team in November?

Auburn surprised many fans at Oxford last week. Ole Miss had a reputation earlier in the year of scoring many points in a game. Our defense did an excellent job in stopping them. Offensively, we found out we could run the ball and we did it very well. Our offensive line played much better. When we can run the ball, it takes pressure off Jarrett Stidham. He is still overthrowing receivers. Our kicker is not ready for the long ones like his brother did. He will get there in time. Punt the ball or go for it on 4th down instead of high-risk, long field goals.

Saturday during the Florida/Georgia game, Gus Malzahn was in the CBS studio with one of his mentors, Houston Nutt. CBS is probably higher on Gus than most Auburn fans. My nephew said he was auditioning for a job.

Since Texas A&M has been in our league, this has been a series where the visiting team wins. Jimbo Fisher won the last meeting with Gus for the National Championship in 2013. Jimbo has the Aggies fired up. I was very surprised when they lost to Mississippi State. They do look like a different team than last year. I know Coach Kevin Steele has studied film and will have our defense ready. Hopefully, our offensive coaches will go through our play book, look at what we do well and throw the rest away.

Not sure how many fans A&M will bring. They have great fans. Hope they bring their band. We can win this game if Jimbo doesn’t outcoach Gus. We have the better talent. I think turnovers and Auburn’s offensive productively will play a big part in the outcome of game.

Texas A&M has never lost at Auburn and Gus has never lost a game after a bye week.

Auburn  28,  Texas A&M- 24.

Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard

I haven’t watched Texas A&M play this year, but I’ve looked at their record. They have won five and lost three games.

The three losses were to Mississippi State, Clemson and Alabama. Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the country and Clemson is No. 2. The thing that stood out is the Alabama and Clemson scores. They lost to Bama 45 to 23 and to Clemson only 28 to 26.

Those scores tell you that Texas A&M can score. That, coupled with Auburn’s poor play this year, will give Texas A&M a huge boost in confidence when they come to town.

Auburn is now at four wins and three losses. The last two games we have scored more points, but that was against weaker teams. If we win, it will be close at 24 to 21.

James Sprayberry, local attorney

and longtime Auburn season ticket holder

SEC divisional foes Texas A&M Aggies and the Auburn Tigers face off this week in another pesky early kickoff.  Both teams enter the game with identical 5-3 records; however, the Aggies’ season doesn’t feel like it is quite the disappointment as that of the Tigers.

Auburn is coming off a bye-week, which was on the heels of a really nice win on the road in Oxford. As I mentioned in my write-up for the Ole Miss game, Auburn could get back on the winning track if they committed to running the football and that is exactly what they did, running 46 times for 269 yards.

The fifth-ranked Aggie rush defense is only giving up 86.5 yards per game, so Auburn could find the going a bit tougher this week, but they must keep at it.

It’s amazing how much better the Auburn defense looks when the offense is toting its share of the load. They held a top-five Ole Miss offense to only 16 points, which was less than half of their average coming in. That is what this team is capable of every week, but the offense has to do its part.

The road team is 6-0 in this series since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. Gus Malzahn is undefeated coming off a bye-week. Something has to give. I believe Gus’ bye-week-magic continues. Run the football, play defense, and Auburn wins 27-20.

Brandon Hughes, Lee County

district attorney

Auburn coaches watching Mississippi State’s 28-13 win over Texas A&M had to like some of the matchups they saw for Saturday’s brunch kickoff at Jordan-Hare with the Aggies.

State’s defense, which is much like Auburn’s, held A&M to less than 300 yards total offense, including only 61 on the ground.

MSU successfully went after the Aggies No. 87-ranked secondary early and often, with constant pressure by its front seven on QB Kellen Mond.

Auburn’s talented front seven must also pressure the inexperienced Aggie offensive line and Mond, who completed just 50 percent of his passes against State and gave up one interception.

The Tigers also will have to check A&M’s running game, which averages 224 yards rushing (No. 48 in the country).

On the offensive side, Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham is nowhere near as mobile as State’s Nick Fitzgerald, but he has a much better arm and a more talented group of receivers.

If Auburn opens up with a pass-first plan, especially in the wee hours of 11 a.m., it might energize the offense and a sleepy crowd, and knock No. 25 A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) back on its feet.

A&M’s weak link on defense may be its secondary, but its strong point is its defensive line, which is No. 5 nationally defending against the run (only 89 yards per game).

For Auburn’s running game to click, running back Ja’Tarvious Whitlow must be 100 percent -— and be able to finish the game.

If Whitlock is healthy and Stidham is on his game, Auburn could find the same kind of success as State. But this game, like most, will be decided by Auburn’s offensive line. It did well against Ole Miss, but there has to be an asterisk there due to the Rebels’ woeful defense.

With a week off, the Tigers should be rested, mostly healed up and ready to break its home field-losing streak against the Aggies. (The road team is 6-0 in the series since the Aggies joined the league in 2012.)

Another streak on the line Saturday will be Coach Gus Malzahn’s 7-0 record in games following a bye-week.

With bowl eligibility already assured, Auburn (5-3, 2-3 SEC) needs this win to ensure a winning regular season. 

Only one streak will be broken Saturday — the road team will finally lose a game in this whacky series.

Auburn 24, Texas A&M 20

Bob Lowry, retired political reporter for United Press International and two daily newspapers

Get ready for another 11 a.m. “tailgate buster” time slot. The game with Texas A&M looked like an uphill battle two weeks ago. The visiting team in this short series has won them all. 

Auburn seemed to have found its offensive groove at Ole Miss. The week off for Auburn was sorely needed. Meanwhile, Texas A&M seemed to have lost its offensive punch last weekend in their loss to Miss. St. 

“Amen corner” as Coach Dye used to call it, is upon us. Being realistic, the only two games that look “winnable” are Texas A&M and Liberty. I still think our team has fight in them as shown at Ole Miss a few weeks ago.  For that reason I’m picking …

Auburn 33, Texas A&M 20 

Barry Mask, Auburn’s first “Friend of Aubie,” director of marketing for River Bank & Trust

 

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