(CBS DFW) — The college football regular season is nearing the home stretch. CBS and CBS Sports Network will be airing lots of action as conference races start to sort themselves out. The SEC West is up for grabs, with #12 Auburn visiting #13 Texas A&M. Army and Air Force fight it out in Arlington, Texas with the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy hanging in the balance. And Boise State visits #25 Fresno State to determine who will take home the coveted Milk Can. CBS’s Norm Elrod talked to CBS Sports’ Aaron Taylor about the matchups.
#12 Auburn @ #13 Texas A&M, Saturday, November 6, 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Both Auburn and Texas A&M are 6-2 and neck and neck in the rankings. And both teams are coming off of solid wins. Which team has the advantage here?
“I picked Texas A&M to win this game, because of their defensive line, their running game. And their quarterback Zach Calzada is playing at a much higher level of football. The thing that’s going to make the difference in my opinion is Texas A&M’s ability to stop the run. Bo Nix has played masterfully for the Auburn Tigers. You know what they have with the Big Tank there in the backfield and what they’re doing there. But nobody has been able to consistently run the football on Texas A&M. Four of their last six opponents failed to crack 100 yards. So they are a team that doesn’t let you get much.
And I think that’s going to put some pressure on Bo Nix the quarterback, who’s been playing at a lights-out level. He’s almost kind of like a watered-down Johnny Manziel, the famous quarterback that won the Heisman for Texas A&M. But I don’t know if he’s ready yet to win this game with his arm. Another key factor is the fact that Auburn is facing Texas A&M, which is their fourth ranked opponent in a row. That is a murderer’s row, and it takes a tremendous amount of physicality and tests your depth.
Texas A&M, they’re coming off a bye week. So they’re going to be fresh, which also gives them some schematic advantages, because they can throw in some new strategic wrinkles there. You take all that into effect, and I think this is going to be a huge win for Jimbo Fisher’s team that desperately needs it. They’ve already proved that, in beating Alabama, they’ve become a player in the West.”
Both Auburn and Texas A&M have three of their four remaining games in the SEC West. How do you see the season playing out for each?
“It’s really interesting. This game this weekend between Auburn and Texas A&M is really going to decide the potential fates for both of these teams. It’s simple. The Auburn Tigers win this weekend, they have a chance to play their way into the SEC Championship game by facing Alabama at the end of the season.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, they’re a team that has two losses in conference, and that puts them at a little bit of a disadvantage. If they find a way to win this weekend though, it keeps the door open. We know crazy things happen down the stretch. The Aggies wouldn’t certainly hold and control their own destiny, but it gives them a shot to stay alive down the stretch, which at this point of the season is all you can ask for. But the pressure, in my opinion, is really on Auburn. If Auburn can find a way to win this football game, then they absolutely control their own destiny for not only the SEC Championship, potentially a national one as well.”
Army vs. Air Force, Saturday, November 6, 11:30 a.m. ET on CBS
Both Army and Air Force use the triple-option offense. So both teams run the ball a lot and rarely throw it. What makes this sort of offense unique and effective?
“Both Army and Air Force run a version of the triple option which gives them an advantage, because it forces the defenses to be skilled and make good decisions with their eyes. Teams simply can’t do that. Now what’s interesting about a matchup like this is that both of these defenses see this offense all season long. So there are no gimmies, there are no gotchas, there are no surprises. It simply comes down to fundamentals.
These two offenses lead the nation in rush yards per game. Army is a much more traditional triple-option team. Air Force runs a lot of triple-option but they’ve also got speed option. They run trap, they run power, they run toss sweep, they run some traditional run schemes as well. These defenses, Air Force’s top 10 in the country and Army’s is right there as well.
This is going to come down to who can eliminate the bad play. It’s not about making a great play. It’s about eliminating the catastrophe. Air Force wasn’t able to do that in their last outing a couple of weeks ago against San Diego State. It cost them the football game. Army we’ve seen struggle at times, got into that big shootout with Wake Forest, but a couple key costly mistakes cost them that game. You don’t have to make a great play when the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy is on the line. You have to simply execute and eliminate the bad one. The team that does that the best will go down as the winner of this ballgame obviously, but more importantly have a chance to win all or part of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, which with these players that are going to be on the field on Saturday is all that matters.”
What are the differences between these two offenses, and are their respective defenses better prepared to stop it?
“One of the interesting storylines going into this game is that both of these offenses lead the nation in rushing. But they both have quarterback issues. They’ve been rotating, on the Army side three different quarterbacks played in the Wake Forest game. They all have a different skill set that they bring to the table… Keeping an eye on who’s going to be under center is going to be a really key storyline in this game.
Army is a traditional triple-option team. Three options, you have the fullback dive, you have the quarterback keep, and you have a pitch. They do run some toss-sweep stuff, but it’s as traditional of a triple option as you can run. So the linebackers, the safeties, the cornerbacks all have to be able to tackle well in space. Air Force, on the other hand, we’ve mentioned is a little bit before, runs some power and some gap scheme and some trap and some counters, some traditional things that you would see in any offense that isn’t option-based.
So the defense I think that is suited best to handle this is going to be Air Force’s. And the reason why is because when they played Navy earlier this year, they held them to under 70 yards of total offense. And Navy is a triple-option team has had a long history of beating the nation in rushing themselves. This unit that the Falcons bring to the table is as athletic, is as long and as big up front as I’ve ever seen. I think because of that, they’ve certainly got an advantage on that side of the football.”
Boise State @ #25 Fresno State, Saturday, November 6, 7:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
These two Mountain West teams have played each other close in their last few outings. And the Milk Can is on the line. How do you see this game going?
“I’ve been really impressed by a couple things for each of these teams. First and foremost, Jake Haener, the quarterback from Fresno State, has played at an amazing level. I had an opportunity to see them earlier in the year. I had an opportunity to see their backs and the way Mims has stepped up, their offensive line being physical. On the defensive side of the ball, their defensive coordinator, William Inge, has done an amazing job of getting those guys to play at a super high level. We saw what they did on the road to UCLA. We’ve seen them win some big ballgames. Fresno State, to me, has a chance to be the conference champion, if they can continue to execute and not shoot themselves in the foot like they did out there against Hawaii.
On the other side of the ball, I’ve been really impressed with Boise State and what they’ve been able to do. With former player and now first-year head coach Andy Avalos taking over the team, they started out 3-4. But what you cannot deny is that they’ve gotten back to doing two things: executing football but also having fun. I think there was a little bit of pressure that was starting to build internally in that program. They had a bye week, they took that pressure off. And I think the net result is that they have an opportunity now to be back to .500. And I think they’re going to use that momentum to finish the year extremely strong.”