Right now there is a gap between the top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings and everyone else, but there are three teams on the outside ready to pounce should an upset happen over the next two weekends.
Texas A&M is one of those teams, and the Aggies have just two more potential stumbling blocks between an 8-1 finish (9-1 if they can reschedule a game on Dec. 19) and a chance to back door their way into the College Football Playoff.
The game this weekend against Auburn could be a resume builder, or an elimination game for the Aggies. Auburn had been playing quality football before being dismantled last weekend by Alabama, something Texas A&M knows a little something about.
Can the Tigers knock off the Aggies and knock them out of the playoff hunt, while also salvaging their own season? Or, will the Aggies handle business and add to their potential playoff resume.
The Irish Breakdown staff has broken down the game and is making its predictions.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Auburn 24, Texas A&M 20
Texas A&M is a really hard team to figure out, at least offensively. Just when it looks like quarterback Kellen Mond and the Aggie offense is ready to take off it takes a step back. I get that time off left Texas A&M rusty, but we've seen this up-and-down nature all season.
When A&M is on they can move the ball and score, which we saw when they hung an average of 45 points on Arkansas and South Carolina. That was followed by scoring just 20 and going for less than 300 yards against what has been a pretty poor LSU defense.
Auburn has had its own bouts of inconsistency on offense. It went through a four-game stretch in which it averaged 473.8 yards per game, which culminated with a 48-point, 506-yard performance in a win over LSU. That was followed by back-to-back poor performances against Tennessee and Alabama.
Texas A&M has been better on defense this season, but I have a feeling that beleaguered quarterback Bo Nix is going to be at his best in this game. He'll hit some big shots early, which will open up a little bit of running room for running back Tank Bigsby. The Auburn offense will get a score on either a turnover or special teams mistake, which will prove to be the difference in the game.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Texas A&M 28, Auburn 21
This one should be very interesting. There honestly are not a lot of intriguing games at the top of the College Football rankings, but this one certainly is.
QB Bo Nix and the Auburn offense have played much better in the last few games than they did early on in the season. The problem for the Tigers is their defense can't stop anyone. They are giving up over 50% of third downs on the season. You are not going to win too many games with that stat staring you in the face. A&M quarterback Kellen Mond and the Aggie offense should have their way with the Tigers defense. The big question will be what can Nix and the offense do against Mike Elko's defense?
I think Nix can keep it close but I do not see the upset happening. Aggies win this one in the 4th quarter to stay at #5 in the rankings.
BRIAN SMITH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 27, Auburn 16
The Aggies continue to improve their defense, and that will be the difference when they take on Auburn. Quarterback Bo Nix has not shown the ability to be a consistently accurate quarterback, and it will cost Auburn as the Aggies will force two interceptions while harassing Nix for much of the game.
Texas A&M's rushing attack will be the biggest difference between the two teams. The Aggies offensive line will open holes for running back Isaiah Spiller to the tune of 120 yards rushing and two scores. That will allow quarterback Kellen Mond to rebound from a subpar game against LSU with 200 yards passing and a touchdown.
NATHAN ATKINS, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 27, Auburn 14
This game will be close. Neither team can pressure the quarterback, but the Aggies excel at taking the ball away with 13 turnovers (10 interceptions and three forced fumbles). Auburn quarterback Bo Nix will have a clean pocket and probably a nice stat line on the box score, but his turnovers will lose the game for the Tigers.
Texas A&M will win this game on the ground, giving Jimbo Fisher his first win over Auburn since coming to College Station. Isaiah Spiller is one of the best running backs in the country, and he's leading the Aggies despite the mercurial play of quarterback Kellen Mond.
JP SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Texas A&M 41, Auburn 21
I think the Aggies still feel like they’ve got an outside shot at cracking the College Football Playoff, so they’ll be locked in for this one. On the other side of the field, you’ve got an Auburn team licking its wounds and ready to wrap up the season after the beatdown they took in the Iron Bowl. Look for Kellen Mond and the Aggies to turn this into a track meet in which the Tigers can’t keep up.
RYAN PALMERI, IB CON TRIBUTOR
Prediction: Auburn 21, Texas A&M 20
Auburn isn't a great team but they play solid defense. Quarterback Bo Nix is also average at best, but the sophomore has had flashes of being great. Texas A&M is sitting in a great spot to make the playoff, but this team still feels like a fraud. From the blowout loss to Alabama to struggling against average teams. I think this is the week Auburn catches them slipping and knocks them out of the playoff discussion.
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