Texas A&M football defending Auburn’s passing attack
Given that we can presume in all likelihood that the Auburn staff has indeed watched the tape from Texas A&M football vs. Miami, I would expect no shortage downfield shots from this Auburn offense. The tall senior, Shane Hooks, cuts an intimidating figure as a downfield target, but a younger guy in Jay Fair out of Rockwall may be the one to really keep your eye on there. Fair, though much shorter than Hooks, is emerging as one of the more reliable targets in the Auburn passing game—especially on passing downs, where he has a 14% usage rate according to collegefootballdata.com—tied with Robby Ashford for second on the team behind Thorne (which makes sense, as Thorne is usually throwing the ball on such downs). Rivaldo Fairweather, a FIU transfer, is a big target at tight end who will likely also be targeted down the seam once or twice.
The man at the controls of the offense is Freeze, as he has been the primary play caller since he’s been a coach. The OC for the Tigers is Phil Montgomery, formerly of Tulsa, who is from the Briles coaching tree—in fact, he served as either the co-OC or OC for Art Briles from 2003-2014 at both Houston and Baylor. His schematic background is very similar to the one that gave Texas A&M football fits down in Coral Gables; however, we can hope that Durkin and the defensive staff have learned from their own schematic mistakes in that game and try to stay multiple on the back end. If you can confuse Thorne and make him hold the ball, the Aggie DL should have time to get home.
Third downs on both sides of the ball will be a big point of emphasis here as well. The Tigers rank 39th in the nation in third down conversion rate at 47%, but the Aggies only allow about a 21% conversion rate on third down, good for 3rd in the nation. Even against Miami, the Aggies only allowed a 33% conversion rate on third downs. The upshot is this: the Aggies will need to keep Auburn off-balance and off-schedule defensively. Their overall success rate drops from 59% to 40% when you compare standard downs to passing downs, so if you force them into obvious passing situations, this defense for Texas A&M football can take advantage. Even in short yardage, though the Tigers have had struggles from time to time—they failed to convert on 4th and 1 against FCS Samford in their previous game. This is a talented Aggie front, as we all know, so I anticipate an edge for the Ags there.