It Finally Begins!
Auburn Must Shut Down Dual Threat Terry Wilson
War Eagle, everybody! At long last, SEC opening-game week is here! It may be a shorter season, there may be fewer fans in the stands, and we certainly can’t predict what the future holds. However, SEC football is back, and we are certainly glad. On Saturday morning, September 26, Auburn opens the season hosting the Kentucky Wildcats. The game kicks off at 11:00 AM Central Daylight Time and will be televised on the SEC Network.
Usually, my summer and fall camps are spent previewing Auburn’s football opponents. I go through each spring game as well as camp news and various speculation. I’ve really had nothing to work with this year due to the pandemic and shutdowns. Coaches have taken the opportunity afforded by lockdowns and quarantines to restrict outgoing information more than ever before. Rather than spout frustration over the situation, I took a wait-and-see attitude about this season.
Kentucky has been a trendy pick this month as a team that could give Auburn much trouble, and I’ve seen several respected prognosticators pick Kentucky to win outright. The truth is that Kentucky returns veteran offensive and defensive lines, while Auburn has to replace 7 starters out of 9 on the lines. However, I would point out that since defensive line coach Rodney Garner returned to Auburn, the Tigers have mainly reloaded on the defensive line rather than rebuild. Likewise, Auburn has had the talent up front on offense as well, landing multiple players in the NFL in recent years. The talent hasn’t been the issue. Scheme and to a lesser extent technique have led to Auburn offensive woes the past couple of seasons.
I’ve watched chunks of quite a few of the September games thus far this fall. We have seen a good bit of sloppy play, and games have turned on mistakes and big plays given up. Auburn will not beat Kentucky without some big gainers on offense and some havoc plays on defense. Conversely, the same thing could be said about Kentucky. Auburn and Kentucky are both coming off seasons with similar records, at first glance. Kentucky finished 8–5, while Auburn finished 9–4. Both had quarterback issues. Due to injuries, Kentucky had to move receiver Lynn Bowden to quarterback and ran a zone-read-heavy offense. Auburn had true freshman Bo Nix, thrown into the SEC fire right away.
Similarities diverge after that. The two teams only had 4 common opponents. Kentucky lost to Florida in Lexington, 29–21, while Auburn lost to Florida in Gainesville 24–13. That’s similar results. Then, Kentucky was flushed 28–13 in Starkville against Mississippi State. The very next week, Auburn blew the Bullies’ doors off, 56–23. At home against Arkansas, Kentucky eked out a 24–20 win. The next week, Auburn torched Arkansas in Fayetteville 51–10. The last common opponent was Georgia. Kentucky lost 21–0, while Auburn lost to the Bulldogs 21–14.
In conference play, Kentucky lost to South Carolina (finished 4–8) and Tennessee (8–5). Meanwhile, all 4 Auburn losses were against teams that won at least 11 games. The Tigers fell to LSU (15–0), and Minnesota (11–2). In nonconference games, Kentucky was 5–0, beating Toledo (6–6), Eastern Michigan (6–7), UT Martin (7–5), Louisville (8–5) and Virginia Tech (8–5). Auburn was 4–1 out of conference, with the above-mentioned Minnesota loss. Auburn beat Oregon (12–2 PAC 12 Champion), Tulane (7–6), Kent State (7–6) and Samford (5–7).
It is worth noting that Kentucky also did not face LSU or Alabama. The teams compiled similar records, but Auburn did it against a more difficult schedule.
My wish for this year’s Auburn offense is for it to be more diverse. So much of the past couple of years, we’ve watched Auburn trot 3 or 4 wide receivers out there and then try to run the ball up the middle. If there were 4 receivers, most likely it was either a screen to Eli Stove or a throw down the sideline to Seth Williams. Anyone else out there, the other team really didn’t have to cover them. If Auburn had a tight end or H-back in the game, those guys didn’t have to be covered, either. To me, if you are willing to put receivers on the field, you need to be willing to throw to them.
Here at TrackEmTigers.com, we’ll have our usual open thread up and running Saturday morning, and I plan to do my usual play by play during the game. This should be a fantastic morning for football! War Eagle, and let’s cage those Wildcats!
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