AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn is looking for its first SEC home win since the second half of the 2014 season. Texas A&M is looking to prove its hot start to 2016 is for real. But, first, they’ve got to go through their final preparation.
We’re now under an hour away from tonight’s SEC opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium between Auburn and No. 17 Texas A&M. The host Tigers will look to be the first home team to record a victory in this series, which has featured some memorable contests and a couple of eye-opening big wins.
Auburn has taken the field for its pregame warmups. Here’s what you need to know as we inch closer to kickoff for this Saturday night showdown.
Starting linebacker duo
Auburn is tweaking its defensive starting lineup for tonight’s game. At linebacker, sophomore Deshaun Davis and junior Tre’ Williams will start. Sophomore Darrell Williams started the last two games with Davis, but the Tigers are electing to start the older Williams for tonight’s game.
While Tre’ Williams has been one of the best defensive players on the team when it comes to stopping the run, he had a couple of notable missteps in pass coverage last week against Arkansas State that turned into huge plays for the Red Wolves. Keep an eye on how that develops for Auburn’s defense in the early goings.
Transfer linebacker is active
Speaking of linebackers, Illinois transfer T.J. Neal is dressed out for Saturday’s game and is going through warmups. Last week, Gus Malzahn didn’t let Neal suit up for the contest against Arkansas State.
Neal didn’t play outside of a few special teams snaps in Week 1 against Clemson and sent out several frustrated tweets after the game. The senior later apologized, but he received his punishment from Malzahn last week.
He’ll be available if the Tigers need him against Texas A&M. He’s listed as a co-starter with Montavious Atkinson at weak-side linebacker, but the Tigers have rarely used more than two linebackers at a time.
The crowd never forgets
One of the more interesting trends to follow in pregame is how the crowd reacts to certain names being called out for the starting lineup. Tonight, Kerryon Johnson and Daniel Carlson got the biggest reaction from the Auburn student section after their highlight-reel plays from last week.
Before that, though, the Texas A&M starting lineup was called out — and the crowd had more than a few boos for Aggie wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones. Last season, Seals-Jones delivered a vicious hit on Auburn cornerback Jeremiah Dinson that left him with a torn ACL and a major shoulder injury. Dinson still hasn’t made his return to action.
Auburn icon in the building
In Week 1, Auburn’s major matchup brought out the stars when Cam Newton and Bo Jackson were seen on the sidelines before the game.
Two weeks later, another Auburn icon is in the house. Jason Campbell, who quarterbacked Auburn to an undefeated SEC championship season in 2004, was spotted on the sidelines by Brandon Marcello of 247Sports:
Jason Campbell is here … (VIP) https://t.co/4CmDK1M5SG
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) September 17, 2016
Be on the lookout for pictures throughout the evening of Campbell, who officially retired in 2015 after eight seasons for four different NFL franchises.