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Nine Days Away

By on August 23rd, 2018 in Football 16 Comments »

Tigers are preparing for Washington
(Photo by Acid Reign)

     War Eagle, everybody! A long, hot summer is nearly over, and college football is on the way. Auburn this week officially ended fall camp and has gone on to work on a difficult opening game against the Washington Huskies. It may surprise some folks to hear that Auburn is actively preparing for an opponent more than a week in advance, but the Huskies are clearly the sort of team for which extra preparation is needed.

     On offense, Washington will run a LOT of power plays right at the Auburn defense. Auburn’s depth and determination in the front seven on the defense will be tested early and often. The Huskies like to load up extra linemen and tight ends, and they’ll use some unbalanced lines. Auburn will have to play assignment football and avoid getting blown off the ball. It is also critical for the Tigers to tackle well. Washington runner Myles Gaskin is an elusive, fast runner that tends to break a lot of tackles. Auburn loses 4 of its top ten tacklers from last season, including Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts, Tré Williams and Jeff Holland.

     Auburn cannot afford to launch the 2018 season with a clueless offensive performance and stay in the national title hunt. I’ve heard it opined that Auburn has little to lose in a nonconference opener, but I think that notion is bunk. Auburn has an opportunity to open the season with a bang, and a win over the PAC-12 title favorite is needed if Auburn is to remain seriously in early playoff discussions. In the past 5 seasons, the only fast start for the Tigers was in 2014 with a 45-21 pasting of Arkansas. In other action, Auburn struggled in beating Mike Leach’s first Washington State team then had to hold off Louisville in Atlanta in 2015. The Tigers looked pretty lost early against Clemson the past 2 seasons, and even a terrible Georgia Southern team had its moments last season in the opener.

     I look for Washington to open with a mix of cover-two and quarters coverage and to commit seven guys in the box to challenge Auburn’s running game. The Tigers will not be able to stubbornly give it up the gut on first and second down then drop back on third and long. I would also look for the Washington cornerbacks to press and not allow Auburn the easy quick-flip screens to the outside. Auburn will have to run some medium-range slants, square ins and button hooks early to loosen up the pressure.

     I’ve heard a lot of talk about a stellar group of freshman receivers and runners this fall, but I worry that those guys will be marginalized in the opener. Typically with young players, the Malzahn offense develops a small package of plays for such guys. Last season, we knew that if freshman Devan Barrett came into the game, he was going to get a pitch sweep to the outside. Every time. I expect someone on the Washington staff to be watching for this sort of thing, and Auburn will have to be less predictable or risk getting stuffed.

     Auburn had a big offensive year last season, but it was an up-and-down narrative. When the Tigers were balanced between the run and the pass, the points piled up. Auburn managed 40 or more points against Missouri, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Georgia. When teams were able to force Auburn to be one dimensional, ugly losses like the one at LSU or against Georgia in the SEC Title Game happened.

     Defensively from this fall camp, I’m surprised as to the lack of a decision at buck end. Auburn still appears to be rotating Nick Coe, T. D. Moultry and Big Kat Bryant at the position. I’m hoping that this situation is a result of an abundance of ability and is not a sign that Auburn will have trouble getting to the quarterback this season. I had questions about the secondary going into spring drills, but it appears that Auburn will be better than expected there with the rapid development of young talent. Auburn’s biggest defensive question going into the opener is the pass rush.

     I am relieved on the offensive side of the ball that Auburn locked into a starting offensive line group quickly and has worked that group extensively. Various approaches to mixing and matching on the line the past couple of seasons has proved to be disastrous early in the past couple of seasons. Here’s hoping Auburn will be a lot more consistent out of the gate in 2018.

     Special teams are another big question heading into the 2018 season. Auburn will break in new kicker Anders Carlson and likely a new punter in Arryn Siposs. Ryan Davis seems the most likely guy to replace departed punt returner Stephen Roberts, and he does have a few returns under his belt. Where Auburn hopes to dramatically improve is on both coverage units. Auburn gave up a disastrous punt return for a score that basically cost the game at LSU last season. Auburn also gave up kick returns of 100 yards and a score against Arkansas and returns of 72 yards against Texas A&M and 61 yards against Alabama. That has to change this season.


  1. Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

    As week 1 approaches, I find myself more and more anxious regarding our offensive line play.

    It is imperative that we are able to pass block from word ‘go’ in order for our offense to start out on the right foot.

    I hope our young backs know their protection assignments forwards, backwards, and blindfolded.

  2. meathead530 says:

    I just don’t know what to think about this game. I’m excited to see this team in action, but I have this nagging feeling Gus is going to get in the way. I hate being like this, but Gus has let me down so many times with his leadership.

    I’m going to be cheering next Saturday and would love to see a huge win for these tigers.


    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      I would say that’s about the healthiest headspace you can be in at the moment as an Auburn fan. Anyone who says they aren’t worried about those things and is probably just fibbing to you and themselves.

      ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ is the sister chant to War Eagle these days.

  3. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    But, AR, you picked UW earlier already.

  4. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    This first game worries me quite a bit — but, then, I guess they all do. But we will be there cheering on our Tigers to the end.

  5. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    “War Eagle, everybody!” I love it! Thank you , Acid Reign.

    Every game matters. Just listen to the talking heads. Your win/lose record will work for you or against you. Your performance in winning or losing etc. etc. etc.
    Seriously, I do believe every game matters and the head coach is always responsible for the outcome.
    No more Captain Queeg.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..That’s how Jim Fyffe used to start his broadcasts…

      • WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

        Yes, sir. Jim Fyffe is one of the best.
        Anytime that I could not see the game, that was my favorite way to hear the game and, sometimes, even while I was watching on TV.
        Nothing better on a Saturday than hearing “War Eagle, everybody!”

  6. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    I’m a little worried about this game, but I honestly think I’d be more worried if I were a Washington fan. The AU defense is going to be really good, better than what Washington will field. So IMO it all comes down to Stidham not playing rusty out of the gate like he did vs Clemson last year, and good RB play.

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      Based on what we saw in the one full scrimmage we are allowed to witness, this defense is going to be lights out. Yes, I’m still worried about this first game but I also don’t believe the Huskies have experienced a defense like this one. My worries are more on the offense side of things; although they did look pretty good on the field. Just hope this carries over into “real game time”.

  7. Tigerpharm says:

    It always takes Auburn 2-4 games to get their act together, so I’m more than a little worried. I don’t see why SEC schools need to open with tough out of conference games. That’s where the cupcakes should be on the schedule.

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      I think there is more to gain, especially when facing a higher-ranked opponent. Even if the game is a loss the exposure is still there. And, of course, there is the money factor. Auburn isn’t starting the season off with writing a check to entice a team to come to Auburn. I also think of the positive aspect of Auburn being relevant enough to be in the “kickoff” conversations.

  8. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I did pick Auburn to lose this game, due to inexperience on the offensive line and the running backs. I’m hearing really good stuff from Tim Horton and J. B. Grimes this fall, though.

    …..Also, there seems to be an emphasis in the camp to make a decision on who’s going to play, and go with it. I like that Auburn will spend more than a week preparing for Washington.

  9. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    But; but, AR, you picked WASHINGTON !!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    AR, the instant you picked UW to win, it muted all you have written since.
    I am suspending your journalism privileges until Sunday September 2, 2018.
    The proper method would have been for you to withhold the pick until Thursday August 30, 2018. We would better understand your reasoning.

    P. S. The headline should have read 9 days until Auburn loses to Washington.

  11. neonbets says:

    Just caught the 1st half of Pinson v Hoover. That Pickens is impressive! I sure hope he stays committed to Auburn.

    And now for my real reason of posting this here comment: That head coach for Hoover was interviewed before the half and I’m sure he’s a fine coach…but damn if he don’t remind me of Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.