During the 2019 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.
Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' SEC opener on the road against Texas A&M:
Let me start by saying that Auburn is finally making headway with improvements in all areas of the game. But it still takes them a quarter or so to adjust both the offense and defense to the other team's game plan. It looks like our game plan is to not have one, and see what we can change once we play 10 or 15 minutes. And our “hurry-up” offense doesn’t appear to be in a hurry.
We chewed up 467 yards of rushing and finished with three runners getting over 100 yards rushing each. First time that has happened since 1983 when Bo Jackson was here. But there looked like some communication problems between coaches and players caused some of our coaches to get upset. That needs to be corrected.
I was glad to see Kam Martin and Shaun Shivers both getting to play a good bit. Both add some much-needed speed to the Tiger backfield. Whitlow is a tough and rugged pound-it-out type of back who generates good yardage but probably averages only three or four yards/carry.
This week the game will be different as we will be playing in the A & M stadium , with probably 90,000 of their fans and 10,000 Auburn people.
It will be worse and more hostile than playing in Tuscaloosa. And A&M is no push over. They have beat unknowns Texas State and Lamar, and lost only to Clemson 10 to 24. That game was played in Clemson. Auburn must come out more organized and confident in the first quarter, as they can’t afford to play “catch-up” with A&M at home. Might not happen. Look at Clemson–A&M score again. As good as Clemson is, Clemson only scored 24 points and A&M scored 10.
If Auburn plays a much improved game, they will win 17 to 10.
James Sprayberry, local attorney
and longtime Auburn season ticket holder
Unlike last Saturday when we played Kent State, a team with an undistinguished football history, this Saturday we travel to College Station, Texas to play a team with one of the most storied histories in all of college football. We’ve all heard of their “12th Man,” an A&M tradition for nearly a century, which results in the entire student body standing up for the entire game, apparently ready to take to the field if necessary should the team run out of players.
Their Noble Men of Kyle, 400-plus strong, is the world’s largest military band, which is taken from their corps of cadets. Their five Yell Leaders, who are elected by the student body, are thrown in the Fish Pond by freshman cadets following a football victory.
In all, our land-grant university Texas counterpart, which has the largest stadium in the SEC and third-largest in the country, is a school where football is important and where their administrators put their “money where their mouth is” — $75 million in all — to lure Jimbo Fisher to “go West, young man” for a minimum of 10 years and rebuild their program.
The Aggies claimed their three national titles before 1940, including the one in 1919 when they not only went undefeated but also, incredibly, had no points scored against them, going 275-0 for the season. A&M established national football prominence early on, but its last of eight conference title was in 1998 when it was a member of the Big 12.
Last year, playing at home, Auburn had to rally from 10 down in the 4th quarter to secure the 28-24 win. This year we won’t have home field advantage and can count on the highly partisan Aggie crowd to make it tough for our players to hear the calls on the field. So far A&M has notched two wins against inferior opponents and has one loss against the defending national champion, top-rated Clemson Tigers. That game indicated that they shared some similarities with our Tigers: a good defense but an erratic offense.
Although Jashaun Corbin, A&M’s top running back, is out for the season, they have plenty of others, especially true freshman Isaiah Spiller, ready to take his place. Mond’s passing is improving as he went 20 of 28 on Saturday. Their pass defense even had Clemson’s Lawrence scrambling around, and I expect our Bo Njx will have to do the same.
Not only the eyes of Texas but the eyes of SEC Nation will be upon both teams when they take the field Saturday afternoon. It’s the first SEC game for both and each is eager to return to national prominence. Whichever team wins Saturday will be headed in that direction.
Since A&M is 3-1 when SEC Nation comes to town, losing only to Bama in 2015, Auburn will be bucking the odds to get the win and the Vegas experts agree, giving them a 4-point advantage even though No.8 Auburn is nine spots ahead of them in the current AP poll.
It should be a tight game but if Auburn’s injured players can return to action and the entire team can play a solid game beginning with the opening kick-off, Reveille IX, A&M’s pure bred Rough Collie, may be tucking her tail and heading to the doghouse when the game ends. Auburn 24, Texas A&M 21.
Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan
The tune-up games are over. As fans were leaving Jordan-Hare Saturday night, many were wondering about our defense. We were picked by many to have the best in the land. It’s difficult for our team to stay focused when we are playing teams like we have for the last two weeks. Against Kent State, I was pleased with the way we ran the ball and using Gatewood more. He is such a great athlete, he needs to be in the game more. The group of officials that we had Saturday night was some of the worse we have had. If we have this group for the UGA or Bama game, we will get no calls our way. We know who they want in Atlanta.
Auburn is now 3-0. The next three games are Texas A&M, Miss State, and Florida. Will we be 3-3, 4-2, 5-1, or 6-0 at mid-season? I think A&M will be the toughest game of the three. Anything less than 5-1 makes it very difficult for Auburn with what we have on schedule for the last half of the season. The A&M game is important to us because it is the next game and our first SEC game. We have never lost at College Station. Jimbo hasn’t forgotten the game at Jordan-Hare last year. They had us beat and let it get away. He wanted to pile on more points and forgot about using the clock, thus shortening the game. The loser of this game may struggle to finish with a 8-4 record since both are playing LSU, UGA, and Bama. The early line is A&M by 4. If you are a betting man, I think I would take Auburn since they have covered in all three games.
For some of you who didn’t know, Jimbo was the QB coach at Auburn when Pat Nix played QB at Auburn. I’m sure he will bring this up before the game during his press conference. Jimbo left a mess at Florida State for a pile of money at A&M. He had lost control of the team. He wanted to leave and the powers at State wanted him gone. Texas A&M has hired many good coaches who have not turned out well. I can remember when they brought in Jackie Sherrill in 1982 as the highest-paid college football coach in the land. There has been many others but they couldn’t win a championship. Not sure Jimbo can either.
Auburn is a beat-up team. We lost one of our back-up offensive lineman Saturday night for six weeks who was filling in for another injured lineman. We also need Brown, Hall, and Williams back for A&M game. If we can stop the run like Clemson did, we have a chance. We have to play fast, no turnovers, and score early. A&M will score some points. Auburn 31, Texas A&M 24.
Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard
The preseason is over for the Auburn football team.
The Tigers’ second trip to the Lone Star State will go a long ways toward determining whether they later play for a championship or settle for some forgettable bowl game.
A win in Aggieland would help the Tigers ease into its daunting SEC schedule. A loss would seriously marginalize their goals.
A&M has two walkover wins against weak competition (Texas State and Lamar) and a 24-10 loss at No. 1 Clemson in a game that might have been more competitive if not for some untimely Aggie errors.
A key statistic in that game for Auburn is that the Clemson defense limited the Aggies to just 53 yards rushing. Auburn has a defense that could replicate that
A&M lost its starting running back for the year to injury, but the replacement, freshman Isaiah Spiller, has proved able.
The spark plugs in the Aggie offense are quarterback Kellen Mond (who picked A&M over Auburn), wide receiver Quartney Davis (who sat out the Lamar game with a minor injury) and Spiller (who has two 100-yard rushing games this fall).
Mond can be spectacular at times, but ordinary if he’s pressured. A key for Auburn will be to consistently be in his face.
On defense, the Aggies returned just six starters, but talent abounds across the roster, especially on the line and in the secondary.
In a rout of Kent State, the Tigers finally got their running game with 467 yards, but that number must be tempered considering the competition.
Bo Nix, showing off a new dimension with his rushing against Kent, will have to be more consistent with his passing for Auburn to beat the Aggies. The Tigers are dead last in the SEC in pass offense and pass efficiency.
Though there is no quarterback controversy, it was disappointing that backup Joey Gatewood wasn’t given more pass plays after he relieved Nix.
And while JaTarvious Whitlow is firmly settled at running back, it might help the ground game if senior Kam Martin got more carries.
Auburn will go into College Station as a slight underdog, which usually favors the Tigers. It would be big if Derrick Brown and Seth Williams return.
It’s a tough pick, but this game has the feel of 2013 when Auburn went to Kyle Field and stunned the Aggies and Johnny Manziel, 45-41, en route to a berth in the national championship game.
Auburn will run its record at Kyle to 4-0.
AUBURN 31, Texas A&M 27
Bob Lowry, a retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers
The game against Kent State was a good tune-up. Still, I have an uneasy feeling. Texas A& M has always been a very physical team. For Auburn, it all has to come together this weekend.
This is big-boy SEC play, and an away game in a very loud and hostile environment. Texas A&M is looking for redemption after their poor showing against Clemson. And we all remember how Jimbo Fisher got the best of Gus in the 2013 National Championship game vs. Florida State .
For this game I am hoping we return the favor.
Auburn 27, TAMU 23
Barry Mask, Auburn’s first “Friend of Aubie,” director of marketing for River Bank & Trust
Last week’s game against MAC foe Kent State was just what the doctor ordered headed into the SEC opener against Texas A&M. The Tigers’ running game got cranked up in a big way, racking up 467 yards at a gaudy 7.5 yards per carry, which is a great springboard into this week’s matchup.
Someone commented to me after the last game how much better the play-calling was against Kent State. Play-calling gets a lot easier when your offense wins on first down and stays ahead of the chains. Against Tulane, Nix threw 29 passes in the first half, which cannot happen in College Station or the Tigers will get run out of Kyle Field on a rail. Contrast that with last week’s game where he only threw 12 first half passes (6 of those came on the final drive of the half). The Auburn offense needs to rely on its senior-laden offensive line and veteran running backs to shoulder the load and keep the pressure off the true freshman signal-caller.
Clemson held the Texas A&M ground game to 53 yards on 27 carries; Kevin Steele’s defense is more than capable of doing the same. Running the football and stopping the run is a time-honored recipe for success. Auburn will make running the football difficult for the Aggies and QB Kellen Mond will have to beat the Tigers with his arm.
Since Texas A&M entered the conference in 2012, the road team in this series is 6-1. The only home team to win? Auburn, last season at Jordan-Hare. Auburn already has one win in Texas this season. Saturday will make it two as they upend the Aggies 27-20.
Brandon Hughes, Lee County
Last weekend went pretty much according to plan for our guys, with the AU run game dominating the contest. The Golden Flashes fizzled as the Tigers ran around, through and over an out-manned Kent State squad.
Things are going to be a tad bit different this Saturday as the Donahue Drive Crew travels to Brazos county for a visit with the 12th Man and a bunch of his friends.
If you like dogs, you’ve gotta like the A&M Corp of Cadets. The highest ranking member of the Corps is their mascot collie named Reveille. She is authorized to wear five silver diamonds of insignia. She attends class with her human cadet escort and tradition requires that if she barks in class the professor is to end the session because she is bored!
OK, back to the subject at hand. The Aggies would really like to gig Auburn for coming back on them last year on the Plains, and you can bet Ol’ Jimbo will do everything he can to send us home with a "L."
QB Kellen Mond has had a rough start this year and has thrown some passes to the wrong guys in the first three games. He’ll be looking to fix that problem against AU. The Aggies have favored throwing more than running so far this year and will probably test the Tiger secondary often. When they do run, they like RB Isaiah Spiller to handle it, and he is averaging 8.8 yards when he gets a chance to tote.
Hopefully, we’ll have a few of our guys having lots of chances to tote. It would be nice to duplicate last Saturday’s performance with three of the good guys going over 100 yards again.
Much depends on our run-stopper guys having a good afternoon and visiting the A&M backfield for chats with Mond along with our pass defender dudes getting to be really close friends with their opponents. If they do, then things should be fine for the Tigers in Aggie Land.
Regardless, this one is going to be a tough outing facing a good Texas A&M team with nearly 100,000 Aggie faithful packing Kyle field. Folks, we are going to need to be mistake free in College Station or this one is going to make for a long trip back to the farm.
No matter what, this event will see the going get narrow. Stay close to an AED — it may come in handy! AU 23, TAMU 21.
Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff
Editor's note: Check back in next week's Villager to see the panel's take on the Tigers' SEC home-opener against Mississippi State and find the Panel of Wanna-Be Experts online at auburnvillager.com.