Football Bowl Subdivision
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          === Auburn visits Texas A&M in clash of ranked SEC foes ===
 
 College Station, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - A marquee matchup in the SEC is on
 tap for Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field, as the seventh-ranked Texas A&M
 Aggies play host to the 24th-ranked Auburn Tigers.
 
 Just a year removed from a 3-9 season and a winless campaign in the SEC,
 Auburn has experienced a complete turnaround under new head coach Gus Malzahn,
 as it sits at 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference. The Tigers dismantled Western
 Carolina in their homecoming game last weekend, 62-3, and were able to make
 their season debut in the AP Top-25. It's the first time they've been ranked
 since October of 2011.
 
 "All I can say is we have gotten better each week and that's been the name of
 the game throughout the season," Malzahn said. "I like where our team's at now
 and I like the fact of us getting better."
 
 Texas A&M's 2013 resume' has a small blemish on it, as it dropped a classic
 shootout versus No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 14 (49-42), but other than that its
 season has been a rousing success at 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the league. The
 Aggies endured a tough, back-and-forth battle at Ole Miss last weekend, but
 they kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired to capture the 41-38
 triumph.
 
 "Surprisingly enough, I really wasn't that nervous," said A&M kicker Josh
 Lambo of the 33-yard game-winner. "It feels so great, not to kick the game-
 winning field goal, but to do something to help my teammates and reward their
 effort."
 
 Texas A&M has beaten Auburn in all three previous meetings, including on the
 road in October of 2012, 63-21.
 
 Auburn's offense has been clicking this season to the tune of 34.3 ppg and
 474.2 ypg, thanks in large part to a rushing attack that ranks seventh in the
 nation (287.0 ypg). The unit is fresh off a school-record 712 total yards
 against WCU in which it scored nine touchdowns.
 
 "Our line did a good job up front," Malzahn said. "Our backs broke some
 tackles. We have some explosive plays in the passing game and we've talked
 about that for the past two weeks. We talked about being more balanced, so I'm
 proud of our offense."
 
 Tre Mason has been the most productive offensive player with 515 yards and
 seven touchdowns, although Cameron Artis-Payne (389 yards, three TDs) and
 Corey Grant (331 yards, three TDs) have also been explosive out of the
 backfield. Artis-Payne averages 7.2 yards per carry, and Grant nets an
 incredible 10 yards per touch.
 
 Jeremy Johnson earned his first start under center last week and shined by
 completing 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards with four touchdowns and just one
 interception. Despite Johnson's outstanding debut, the team expects Nick
 Marshall (902 passing yards, 288 rushing yards, six TDs) to be ready to start
 this contest after missing time with a knee injury.
 
 Although no AU player has more than 15 receptions, Sammie Coates has been a
 big play waiting to happen out wide, turning his 13 catches into 319 yards and
 a score. His 24.5 yards per catch ranks third in the nation.
 
 The Tigers have stepped up their play defensively as well this season, as they
 rank third in the conference in allowing just 18.8 ppg while holding opponents
 to just 33 percent success on third-down conversion attempts.
 
 Robenson Therezie has a team-high 28 tackles and he has three of the team's
 seven interceptions. Dee Ford (4.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks), Carl Lawson (4.0 TFL, 2.0
 sacks) and Gabe Wright (6.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) have excelled at forcing pressure
 in the backfield.
 
 Unsurprisingly, Texas A&M's offense has kept up the incredible pass it set
 last season during Johnny Manziel's freshman season. The Aggies lead the SEC
 in both scoring (47.8 ppg) and yardage (586.5 ypg), with both numbers ranking
 in the top-four nationally.
 
 The offense runs through Manziel, and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is
 piecing together another historic campaign with 1,835 passing yards (.735
 completion percentage), 427 rushing yards and 19 total touchdown. The standout
 signal caller suffered a scare early in the Ole Miss game when he temporarily
 went out with what appeared to be a knee injury, but he returned in short
 order to post 459 total yards in the win.
 
 "Just like any other player that goes down, I am concerned about them," A&M
 head coach Kevin Sumlin said of Manziel going down. "...But we communicated
 about it and he said he was ready to go back in."
 
 Manziel's chemistry with Mike Evans has been undeniable, which has resulted in
 an outstanding season from the 6-foot-5 receiver. Evans has 37 receptions for
 737 yards (third in FBS) and five scores, while Malcome Kennedy (331 yards,
 four TDs) and Derel Walker (336 yards) also benefit from Manziel's accuracy
 and playmaking ability.
 
 Ben Malena has been great out of the backfield with 375 yards and eight
 touchdowns (one receiving). Tra Carson (237 yards, four TDs) and Trey Williams
 (172 yards, three TDs) also figure in the mix.
 
 While the offense has soared, the defense has struggled, and without
 significant improvement, it will be difficult for the Aggies to make claim as
 one of the nation's elite teams. The unit surrenders 32.0 ppg and 474.3 ypg,
 the latter ranking last in the SEC.
 
 Howard Matthews leads the way with 38 tackles, while Deshazor Everett and
 Tommy Sanders have two interceptions apiece. The Aggies have struggled to get
 pressure on opposing quarterbacks, racking up just five sacks through six
 games.
 
 
 
 10/16 10:43:40 ET