AUBURN, Ala. – Look, I don’t mean to brag, but … last week was kind of a big deal.
Notre Dame stormin’ Norman? Georgia chomping the Gators? Ole Miss, which had lost 16 straight in conference until the Auburn win, hitting the road and cooling off Arkansas? Predicting Iowa State would score 35 and Oklahoma State would put up 36 in victory … and hitting both figures right on the money? Going 14-2 on the week?
That’s what we call a zone, boys and girls. Rarely does anyone – especially me – get that white-hot with picks. So, naturally, I expect to crash back down to earth this week.
But first, let’s break down the X-Factors in both your game of interest, and a pretty good game elsewhere in the SEC down on the Bayou. Gameday picks will be out first thing Saturday morning.
Five X-Factors when the Aggies have the ball
#4 Austin Franklin, 6-2, 175, so., WR, NM State. It’s not clear what type of coverages he sees in the Western Athletic Conference, but whatever he’s doing, it’s working. Not many receivers in any league average 120 yards a game.
#7 Cayle Chapman-Brown, 6-5, 230, jr., P, NM State. I bring him up for two reasons: a) he’s a punter from Sydney, Australia, and b) he’s a punter that’s 6-5, 230. That’s a big bloke, mates.
#55 Corey Lemonier, 6-4, 246, jr., DE, Auburn. Time’s running out to show NFL scouts he’s the real deal. Best to take advantage of gimmes like this matchup. Lemonier’s nearly the same size as New Mexico State’s left tackle, with presumably a large advantage in the quickness department.
#90 Gabe Wright, 6-3, 299, so., DT, Auburn. His wasn’t as publicized as Sammie Coates’ rant, but Wright’s been just as outspoken about the direction of this program. He’s been given two straight starts in Jeffrey Whitaker’s absence, yet he hasn’t left his mark the way you’d think. At least not yet.
#30 Cassanova McKinzy, 6-3, 243, fr., MLB, Auburn. Coaches have got to stop toying with this position. It’s time to pass the torch, no matter what tempo the Aggies choose (though they’re not a no-huddle outfit like Texas A&M.)
Five X-Factors when the Tigers have the ball
#12 Jonathan Wallace, 6-2, 197, fr., QB, Auburn. Scot Loeffler was asked if Jonathan Wallace has to avoid the urge to be Superman out there. “He can’t do that. We can’t expect him to do that. What he needs to do is get in there and do his job.” He’s right. Wallace has to play within himself and the gameplan. That said, no reason he can’t flirt with or even surpass 300 total yards. In which case antsy Tigers fans might fit him for a cape.
#5 Ricardo Louis, 6-2, 210, fr., WR, Auburn. Could step into Wallace’s former Wildcat role. Or could take over slot receiver or punt returner. Or all of the above. Speaking of which, Maino’s hit has to be more lively than it was last week to open the fourth quarter.
#51 Patrick Miller, 6-7, 288, fr., RT, Auburn. He’s looked lost against SEC defensive ends. New Mexico State does not have SEC-caliber pass-rushers. Time to show us on Saturday what he’s been showing the coaches the rest of the week.
#2 Trashaun Nixon, 6-1, 225, jr., WLB, NM State. Does a little bit of everything. He tackles, he tackles for loss, he rushes the quarterback, he breaks up passes, he makes plays and forces turnovers. A glue guy, you could say.
#1 Jeremy Harris, 6-2, 185, sr., CB, NM State. Breaks up a lot of passes.
Three players you should watch since I can’t be at every game Saturday
#4 T.J. Yeldon, 6-2, 216, fr., RB, Alabama. Here’s a silver lining, Tigers fans; yes, Yeldon would look nice in orange and blue. But tailback is the least of Auburn’s problems. Mostly against 8-man stacked boxes, here’s Tre Mason’s yards per carry the past three games: 4.6, 5.3, 6.7. And that’s along with four touchdowns. He’s a potential top-5 SEC rusher next year. But so is Yeldon, who looks to wear down the LSU Tigers by moving the chains and winning the time-of-possession battle on the road.
#28 Dee Milliner, 6-1, 199, jr., DB, Alabama. A couple of picks and 13 pass breakups leads the SEC. Really, there’s nothing one particular individual does to make this top-flight defense go. It’s a team effort.
#3 Odell Beckham Jr., 6-0, 187, so., WR, LSU. The Tigers aren’t strong enough offensively to depend on extended touchdown drives. It’ll require a game-breaking play or two, which is Beckham’s claim to fame.
#99 Sam Montgomery, 6-5, 260, jr., DE, LSU. He’s a man among boys out there. LSU might be content with another 9-6 type game like last year’s regular season tussle.