No. 16 Auburn begins big month with visit to Texas A&M
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
Nov. 03, 2017
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — No. 16 Auburn has a big November ahead with games against top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Georgia coming up.
Before they host two of the best teams in football, the Tigers make a trip to Texas A&M this weekend to face a team looking to bounce back after a tough loss to Mississippi State.
"It's very exciting," safety Tray Matthews said. "This is where all the fun starts. You get remembered in November. We wouldn't have it any other way. We play the No. 1 team, the No. 2 team at our house."
"I mean, it doesn't get more exciting than that," he said. "That's what we live for. That's what we came to Auburn to do. It's show time now."
A win against the Aggies on Saturday would help keep Auburn (6-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) in contention for the SEC West title. A victory for Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2) would make the team bowl-eligible for the ninth straight season, which would extend a school record.
The Tigers were off last week after trouncing Arkansas 52-20. While Auburn is certainly thinking about their matchups with Alabama and Georgia, the team is also careful not to look past the Aggies this week.
"I'm always going to be honest with our team. They do understand the big picture, but more importantly, they do understand the current picture, and all that matters is A&M," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "They do understand that, and I think we have a veteran-enough team with leaders that will make sure there's no overlooking this bunch. It would be crazy to overlook Texas A&M, and we're not going to do that."
The Aggies will stick with Kellen Mond this week after the freshman quarterback was replaced by Nick Starkel in the fourth quarter of their 35-14 loss to Mississippi State after taking a big hit. Mond became the team's quarterback midway through its opener when Starkel broke his ankle.
"I thought Nick came in in a cold-weather situation with those circumstances and did some good things," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "But there were also some issues. The situation will remain where it is. He made a couple of mistakes ... so there's a little rust on him too right now. As we continue to work on down the road the situation will remain the same."
Some things to know about the Auburn-Texas A&M game:
With tailback Kamryn Pettway out with a fractured shoulder blade, even more of the load will fall on Auburn's Kerryon Johnson. Johnson leads the SEC in yards rushing per game and is second nationally with 14 touchdowns on the ground despite missing two games with a hamstring injury. He's averaging 26 carries over the last four games.
Texas A&M linebacker Tyrel Dodson needs four tackles to reach 100 for his career. ... Receiver Christian Kirk needs three receptions to become the third player in A&M history with 200 or more catches. ... Landis Durham and Otaro Alaka have five sacks each in SEC play, leaving them three sacks away from tying Damontre Moore's school record of eight sacks against conference opponents in 2012. ... With Saturday's 11 a.m. CT kickoff, the Aggies will look to extend their winning streak in home games that begin before noon to eight games. Their last loss in a morning game at Kyle Field came against LSU in 2012.
ROAD TEAM ADVANTAGE
The road team has won every meeting in this series since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, and Malzahn has no explanation for why. "I know that we've lost some tough ones here at home against these guys, and we played good football when we went there," he said.
Auburn's special teams face a huge challenge against Texas A&M return man Kirk. The Tigers allowed a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown to Arkansas' De'Vion Warren in their last game.
"I think he is probably the biggest weapon in the country in special teams, so we will have to do a super job with him," Malzahn said.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed to this report.
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