Auburn fights for bowl eligibility as Texas A&M visits Jordan-Hare

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AUBURN – Just under two years ago, it was hard to imagine that a primetime kickoff between Auburn (3-6, 1-5 SEC) and Texas A&M (3-6, 1-5) on a Saturday in November would decide the final place team in the SEC West. Auburn made a coaching staff change to return to competition at the top of the conference, while Texas A&M renewed Jimbo Fisher to a 10-year contract after leading the team to a 9-1 All-SEC regular season.

Now Fisher is fighting for bowl eligibility as he will face Auburn’s third other head coach since his time at Aggieland.

For the Auburn defense, this will be the worst offense since Missouri. The Aggies are No. 102 on offense and the team has only surpassed 30 points once this season, in a 31-0 win over Sam Houston. The Aggies are No. 61 in passing yards per game, with three different quarterbacks getting significant playing time this season, most notably Haynes King, who has been the starter in the last four games.

Combined with an average passing attack, the running game ranks No. 100 in the nation, led by just one running back, Devon Achane. Achane has been good for A&M, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 887 total yards, but he’s also the only running back on offense and the only one with 100+ rushing yards.

That simplifies game planning for Jeff Schmedding, as his defensive front doesn’t have to worry about smoke and mirrors at the running back position and makes for a rush defense that had their best performance of the season against Mississippi State, Derrick Hall & Co. are certainly trying on it build up.

The challenge for Auburn, like so many weeks before, will be on the offensive side of the ball. The Tigers face a talented defense that has been exceptional in passing, an area where Robby Ashford and company struggled last week.

“It will be much better for us offensively,” said interim head coach Cadillac Williams. “We can have some time without apologizing, really have a full week to really see Texas A&M and come up with a plan.”

Ashford finished the game with 75 yards and seven completions on 22 attempts.

The A&M defense, which is No. 47 in rating, has an elite passing defense that gives up 173.6 yards per game, No. 11 in the nation, and they have a 57.6% opposing completion rate.

The weakness for defense lies in the trenches, as the Aggies are the worst in the SEC and No. 124 in the nation, giving up 215 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.

Now that the fight for last place is getting closer, something about this game is different. Cadillac Williams has reinvigorated the program in ways few would have believed possible, but players are feeling it.

“I think Coach Lac did a really good job, along with the other coaches, taking their roles and doing the things that they have to do,” said offensive lineman Kameron Stutts. “The players have done a really good job adjusting to this and continuing to work.”

Now, for the third time this year, Jordan-Hare Stadium has sold out, and not after a win or before a one-off meeting. Instead, Auburn sold out their home stadium on a five-game losing streak, with a bowl-game berth in the balance.

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