By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's Gus Malzahn said he doesn’t want to give "all our secrets away" for Texas A&M, but, yes, Nick Marshall figures to be the starting quarterback, Jeremy Johnson figures to play some and the Tigers will try to figure out a way to stop Johnny Manziel.
Hey, that's no secret.
Everybody has been trying to stop Manziel. Hardly anybody has done it. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner is lighting up defenses again, and it'll be Auburn's turn to try to slow him in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at Texas A&M.
How good has Manziel been? Malzahn said he's the best player in college football, and compared him to Cam Newton. That's how good.
"Probably two of the best that ever played the game," he said.
What will Auburn try to do to try to keep up? Malzahn said Marshall, who missed the last game with a knee injury, is on track to start against the Aggies.
"He was locked in last week. He practiced Sunday and looked good."
And Johnson, who threw four touchdown passes in relief last week, will have a role Saturday.
"We'll try to have different packages to help us be successful," Malzahn said.
And so Auburn returns to the practice field today preparing for the most prolific offense in the SEC as well as the worst defense in the SEC, or at least on the SEC stat sheet. That puts Marshall and Johnson and Manziel in play this week.
Malzahn, like everybody else, would like to keep the scrambling Manziel in check.
"That's something that each defense tries to scheme up. He finds a way to be effective no matter how you play him," Malzahn said. "He's the best offensive player in college football. He's very good within their system but he's probably even better once things break down. He's a great backyard player. He makes very good decisions and puts a lot of pressure on the defense.
"It's almost like watching a video game sometimes with the stuff he does. The human side, his competitiveness, his toughness, that's what really stands out to me. He's an extremely mentally and physically tough individual and he plays with that edge.
"When you've got a special player, you can call anything and it usually works. They get you out of bad plays and they can make stuff right that's not right. Special ones can do that."
And Malzahn wasn't even around to see Manziel lead the Aggies to six straight touchdowns to open the game in last year's 63-21 win. Texas A&M gained 671 yards, the most Auburn has ever allowed.
"The only thing that we've talked about, the only thing on our mind, is this year," Malzahn said. "It's a huge game for us this year. It's a completely different deal than it was last year.
"It's a huge challenge for us. It's another measuring stick for our program and where we're at this year."