AUBURN, Ala. - You can listen to radio shows. You can watch every college football show on television. You can read every college football story on the Internet. And you won't likely find a mention of Auburn as a contender in the Southeastern Conference West. You won't even find many mentions of a dramatic turnaround from 1-5 at this time last season to 5-1.
If the No. 24 Tigers of first-year head coach Gus Malzahn are good enough, they can change all that on Saturday against No. 7 Texas A&M at Kyle Field. The nation will be watching on CBS.
The reality is this: If Auburn can pull an upset, it will need wins over Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia and an Alabama win over LSU to make the Iron Bowl a winner-take-all game in the West. Likely? No. Possible? Absolutely. But it won't be possible without a victory on Saturday.
The Aggies are last in the SEC in total defense and scoring defense. They have given up 42 points, 33 points and 38 points in three SEC games. And they've won two of them, the only loss a 49-42 shootout with No. 1 Alabama. They are ranked No. 7 nationally.
Scoring against Texas A&M is not a major issue. Even Rice scored 31 and Sam Houston State 28. Scoring enough to overcome superstar quarterback Johnny Manziel's dashing and darting and throwing is a very big issue.
If Auburn's defense can figure out a way to contain Manziel and his wide receivers and running backs or if Auburn's offense can outscore them, the Tigers will make a statement that will be heard around the college football world. They'll get the national respect that faded with five lopsided losses in 2012 and vanished in 2013 with the worst Auburn season in 60 years, one that included a 63-21 embarrassment against Texas A&M.
Junior tailback Tre Mason, for one, believes the Tigers can do it.
"We've been underdogs all year," Mason said. "We bought into Coach Malzahn and his message. When he said we were going to have the biggest turnaround in college football, we bought into that. ... We have high confidence going into every game. We think we can be the best in the country."
Auburn has a playmaking quarterback of its own. Nick Marshall sat out last Saturday's 62-3 romp past Western Carolina with a banged up knee, but a week earlier, he rushed for 140 yards in a 30-22 victory over Ole Miss.
"He still has the same mindset," Mason said. "He just wants to win out, win every game from here to the end of the season. He's a great leader. We really needed him to heal up. He's a great athlete. He's somebody we need going into this game to make his plays and get this W."
Auburn has a plan. It is, no doubt, a good plan. Will it be enough?
We'll find out at Kyle Field on Saturday afternoon.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: