Freshman quarterback Bo Nix faces his first true road test when No. 8 Auburn opens SEC play Saturday at No. 17 Texas A&M.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn hopes the experience Nix gained in a season-opening neutral-site win over Oregon prepared him for what he will experience at a packed Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
“Although we had more fans than Oregon, it was still an exciting atmosphere and a big game,” Malzahn said of the Aug. 31 win in Arlington, Texas. “He has that in his back pocket as far as experience on the road.
“What we are going to see is us truly on the road at one of the loudest places in our league, so we are going to do a good job preparing for the crowd noise, and we have done that the last three weeks, even when playing at home.”
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said Nix’s background could play in his favor. Nix is the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix and also the grandson of a former coach.
“I’ve known Bo for a long time,” Fisher said. “Again, his father played for me and was one heck of a football player. Not only that, as a competitor and as a football mind, he’s one of the best I’ve ever been associated with.
“His dad’s a winner. I mean he’s a great coach — he’s coached in college, coached in high school — so he’ll have a lot of intangibles in his blood that some other freshmen may not, just from the experiences of being around those things.”
Nix has completed only 52.4 percent of his passes, but he had his most efficient outing last week when he completed 12 of 16 attempts for 161 yards and a touchdown against Kent State. And that was without his top deep threat, receiver Seth Williams.
Backup quarterback Joey Gatewood was one of three players who ran for more than 100 yards against Kent State. Gatewood gained 102 on 12 carries.
Williams (shoulder) and two other starters, left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho (leg) and defensive tackle Derrick Brown (upper-body contusion), could return. Williams, who made the catch for the deciding TD in the opening win over Oregon, and Wanogho missed last week’s home win. Brown was injured on the opening drive and sat out the rest of that game.
“We’ll see how they’re doing,” Malzahn said. “I’m not ready to say — it’s still day-to-day — but they’ll be out there, and we’ll be evaluating.”
The game between the Tigers (3-0) and Aggies (2-1), whose lone loss came at No. 1 Clemson, could decide who joins LSU as a challenger to SEC West Division favorite Alabama, although Fisher downplayed any “do-or-die” aspect to the matchup.
“Well, I mean, you set a tone, but you got to reset that tone each and every week,” Fisher said of the game’s potential impact. “I mean, that’s the thing about it. It doesn’t matter. It’s just one game at a time. It’s a conference game, so it’s an important game, and it’s an intra-division game, so it’s an important game.
“It puts you in a great position if you can have success.”
Texas A&M is led offensively by quarterback Kellen Mond, who has completed 63 of 97 passes for 747 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked five times in last season’s 28-24 loss to Auburn, which got the winning touchdown on a pass to Williams in the final two minutes.
—Field Level Media