Auburn vs. Texas A&M: 10 Things We Learned in Tigers' Win

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2013

Auburn vs. Texas A&M: 10 Things We Learned in Tigers' Win

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    The Auburn Tigers scored their biggest win of their season with a 45-41 upset over Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies. 

    The win was arguably their most important since their national title in 2010; it solidified the revitalization that new head coach Gus Malzahn has put in place at Auburn. 

    Take a deeper look at what we learned about the 2013 Auburn Tigers from their win over the Aggies. 

Gus Malzahn Was the Right Hire

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    Coming off a three-win season in 2012, the Auburn Tigers fired Gene Chizik and rested their hopes on Gus Malzahn to turn the program around. 

    Well, Saturday's win over Texas A&M proves that Auburn made the right choice in selecting Malzahn. He has the Tigers poised to make a run at an SEC title.

    With the win, the Tigers are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC, with their only loss coming to LSU. Auburn is tied for second place in the SEC West with LSU, with Alabama topping those standings. 

    But overall, with a great rushing attack and a stout defense, Malzahn has turned Auburn back into a contender. 

Auburn's Rushing Attack Is Excellent

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    Against the Aggies, two players eclipsed the century mark on the ground. Running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall ran for 178 and 100 yards, respectively. 

    Mason, who scored the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute remaining with his stretch to the goal line, ran for over 100 yards in a game for the third time in 2013, with the other two coming against LSU and Western Carolina. 

    This was also the second game in a row that Marshall ran for over 100 yards after he racked up 140 against Ole Miss (he did not play against Western Carolina). 

    The Tigers were able to control the pace of the game with their rushing attack, and that will surely play a huge role as the SEC season enters its dog days. 

Nick Marshall Is a Great Game Manager

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    Nick Marshall went toe-to-toe with Johnny Manziel on Saturday. And at the end of the day, it was Marshall's play that led his team to the huge win. 

    While he completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 236 yards and two scores, Marshall wasn't picked off once and executed his team's game plan flawlessly. He also accounted for four touchdowns against the Aggies. 

    Marshall came into Saturday with just four touchdown passes and four interceptions. But his performance against Texas A&M proved that he is the man for the job. 

The Auburn Pass Rush Is Deadly

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    Johnny Manziel was sacked three times on Saturday, including twice on the last drive of the game. 

    Ultimately, it was Auburn's pass rush that turned the momentum late in the game. The Aggies were driving for the game-winning touchdown and had advanced all the way to Auburn's 18-yard line. 

    But two sacks ended up killing Manziel's chances at adding another Heisman moment to his resume. 

    The Tigers went into Saturday ranked No. 23 in the nation in sacks with 16 on the season. Dee Ford leads the team with five sacks, including both on that last drive. 

    If Auburn's pass rush can rattle Manziel, it can rattle anybody. And you've got to think that the Tigers will continue to blitz hard as they advance through the SEC. 

The Tigers Are a Legitimate SEC Title Contender

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    If LSU loses to Alabama on Nov. 9, Auburn will control its own destiny to a berth in the SEC title game. 

    Currently, Auburn and LSU are tied for second place in the SEC West behind Alabama. Auburn faces Alabama on Nov. 30 at Auburn in a game that will be each team's season finale. 

    Auburn has shown it is the real deal so far in 2013. But an upset win in the last week of the year could put the Tigers in line not just for an SEC title, but a national championship berth. 

This Team Can Make Momentum-Changing Plays

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    Two interceptions by the Auburn Tigers on Saturday turned into 10 points on Saturday as the Tigers proved that they can change the momentum in crucial moments. 

    Manziel's first interception with just over 10 minutes to go in the first quarter allowed the Tigers to take a 10-7 lead, while his second one inside the red zone allowed Auburn to go on a 12-play, 96-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-14 lead in the second quarter. 

    Auburn may have allowed Manziel to rack up over 500 yards of total offense, but the Tigers' playmaking ability proved too much to overcome.

The Tigers Aren't Afraid of Anybody

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    For the third time in four weeks, the Auburn Tigers faced a ranked opponent. Auburn is 2-1 in those games, with the only loss coming to LSU on Sept. 21. 

    The Tigers have been put through a gauntlet in the early goings of the SEC season, but they've come out a better team with hopes higher than ever. 

    Auburn's first signature win came against then-No. 24 Ole Miss, which almost upended Texas A&M last week. The Tigers beat the Rebels 30-22 on Oct. 5. 

    Then on Saturday, the Tigers grabbed their second upset of the year with their win over Texas A&M.

    That ability will be huge down the stretch, as Auburn hosts Georgia and Alabama to end the season. 

Tre Mason Is Becoming the Feature Back

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    After piling up 178 yards against Texas A&M, it's apparent that Tre Mason is becoming the primary running back for the Auburn Tigers. 

    His showing against the Aggies was his second straight game and third game of the season with over 100 yards. 

    The Tigers had attacked the ground on four fronts this year with Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Nick Marshall all racking up over 280 yards on the ground this season. 

    But Saturday proved that Mason will be the main back for the season, while Marshall will be his complement. 

The Tigers' Offensive Line Is One of the Best in the SEC

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    The Auburn Tigers' offensive line won the battle of the trenches on Saturday, helping Auburn to 615 total yards and 379 rushing yards while only allowing two sacks. 

    Going into Saturday, the Tigers ranked fourth in the nation and first in the SEC in fewest sacks allowed with just three. 

    A team's offensive successes absolutely start with its offensive line. Auburn's talent in the trenches this season is a marker of sustainable success.

Auburn Is Back

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    The Auburn Tigers declared to the country on Saturday with their win over Texas A&M that they are back among the elite in the SEC and in the country. 

    It certainly wasn't easy for Tigers fans to see their team only win two games against ranked opponents in the two seasons after a national title. But with two wins in the last three weeks against ranked opponents, it's clear that the Tigers mean business in 2013. 

    According to ESPN, the Tigers are seventh in the nation in rushing and 20th in points allowed. That's a far cry from last year, when Auburn ranked 78th in rushing and 79th in total defense.

    Gus Malzahn has turned this team around. Auburn has a real chance at an SEC title in 2013.