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Conference play starts in Lone Star State for Tigers

AUBURN, Ala. - It has been 314 short days since Cadillac Williams made his home debut as a head coach, in an atmosphere that would have been electric for a top ten ranked matchup. Instead, it was a battle of 3-6 conference foes inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

This year, however, writes a new story. With coaches on both staffs looking to re-implement their names into the SEC, the 12th edition of the new rivalry, conference wise, will provide nothing but excitement on Saturday inside Kyle Field. 

Texas A&M has found their identity with a high powered offensive air raid, so it feels as if Auburn has more offensive question marks heading into Saturday’s contest. 

Two questions stick out in this game.

Question One: How good can Payton Thorne be in this game?  

Following the Tigers’ ugly 14-10 win on the west coast, the offense seemingly attempted to force out any wrinkles in the passing game the following week vs Samford, throwing 36 times. Numerous of those attempts came at unnecessary times, three happening on the Samford one-yard line. Thorne finished the game with 282 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

It was at this point, however, where Thorne solidified his starter job and found a major leap in confidence, as well as providing a major wrinkle to the Auburn offense that had heavily gone under the radar.

Thorne rushed for 123 yards on 11 carries and had two rushing scores, and looked very comfortable in RPO situations.

“It was good to get back out there and run again. My body finally feels back to 100 percent,” Thorne said following the Samford game, as much of last year was strictly ‘in the pocket’ due to nagging injuries.

Texas A&M allows only 98.3 rushing yards per game through three games. Even in their 48-33 loss at Miami, the Hurricanes only ran for 77 yards. 

The Hurricanes found success slinging the ball across the yard. With Auburn still having a rush-first mentality, it will be vital for Thorne to have success throwing the ball early, as that could open up the “bread and butter” RPO for the Tigers.

Question Two: How deep is the Auburn defense/Can the front seven help the secondary? 

It would be the furthest thing from a stretch to declare that the defense has been the anchor for the Auburn Tigers throughout the young season. Only allowing 264 yards of total offense and ranking 11th nationally in pass defense, the Tigers have been the heartbeat, injecting life into the offense multiple times. 

But with the injury bug being passed around the defensive secondary, will Auburn be deep enough number wise to account for their talented receivers? And if not, will the front seven be able to win the line of scrimmage and get pressure on A&M dropbacks to shorten decision making time for A&M quarterback Connor Weigman?

Auburn is 4-1 inside Kyle Field, and the Tigers are looking to make it two straight wins over the Aggies in the rebirth of head Coach Hugh Freeze’s SEC career. Kickoff is slated for 11:00 a.m. CT on ESPN. 

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