Texas A&M will host Auburn on Saturday in a critical game for both teams, as the victor will pick up a quality win while the loser falls out of the SEC West race.
Auburn (6-2) ranks No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings, while Texas A&M (6-2) sits right behind them in 14th.
Harsin: Everybody cares about CFP rankings
That puts both schools within range of a New Year’s Six bowl game, with some hope of reaching even more lofty goals.
“I think everybody pays attention to it,” Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said of the initial CFP rankings. “You do it just to see kind of where they started, and then really after that it’s just a matter of getting right back into focusing on your season. There’s still a lot of games to play. There’s still a lot of things that are going to happen.”
Both teams still retain some hope of making it into the SEC Championship Game as well. Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) still leads the West division of the conference. But Auburn also has one loss and a game coming up with the Crimson Tide. Meanwhile, Texas A&M already has a win over Alabama, but also has two SEC losses.
Coaches praise Auburn defense, A&M offense
That means both schools are still in the race, but can’t afford any more losses. Both coaches are showing respect for the other team ahead of the matchup.
“I think they’re being very opportunistic in what they’re trying to do,” Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said of the Auburn defense. “But also they’re making adjustments during the game, and they start to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. And Auburn always competes very hard. They do a great job of competing hard, playing well, and they’re extremely well-coached.”
Meanwhile, Harsin says that the Texas A&M offense is a match for his defense.
“Offensively, they’re very good at scheming,” Harsin told reporters. “Coach Fisher does a great job of putting together a game plan…and they’re very talented.”
Texas A&M enters the game as a 4.5-point home favorite over Auburn. The Aggies possess more talent, and are playing at home, making them a -215 pick on the moneyline as well. But the Tigers are heading to College Station expecting to win and improve their positioning down the stretch of the SEC season and beyond.
“We’re focused on winning the next game,” Auburn center Nick Brahms told reporters. “After this week, we’re focused on finishing the next week. We’re focused on our opponents, and just doing everything we can to win the game. Everything else will take care of itself. We’re going to put ourselves in that situation at the end of the season, hopefully.”