I expect that Auburn will really work on the running game
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s week two of the Auburn football season, and the Tigers will host the Alabama State Hornets. The game will kick off at 6:30 PM Central time and will be televised by the SEC Network. My guess is that the game will end up on the SEC Alternate channel as the SEC Network is also scheduled to carry the Kentucky vs. Florida tilt during that time period. I would think SEC vs. SEC would be a bigger draw. The weather should be a typical summer evening with only a slight chance of a shower. We will have our usual TrackEmTigers.com open thread up and running with a play by play.
I believe the key focus for the offense this week will be running the ball. Since coach Gus Malzahn became an Auburn coach, the running game has defined whether the season is successful. If the team averages over 200 yards per game, good things tend to happen, overall. In the years below 200 rushing yards per game, Auburn has struggled.
In 2011, Auburn only managed 182 yards per game and suffered blowout losses to Clemson, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. The 2015 season only produced 173 yards per game, the lowest of the Malzahn Era. Auburn finished 6–6, barely making a bowl game. When Auburn has over 200 yards per game rushing, it’s in the championship hunt.
Defensively, Auburn should work on the secondary, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to tell if they have improved or not. Alabama State is more of a spread-option team and doesn’t do a lot of passing. Quarterback D. J. Pearson can scramble around and make folks miss on running plays, but the team did not ask him to throw all that often last season. However, I expect that Pearson will have to attempt a few more passes this game. Auburn excels at shutting running games down and likely will have another dominant performance in that aspect.
In early SEC games this week, the intriguing matchup is Mississippi State visiting Kansas State. The Wildcats had to score 2 touchdowns late to escape from South Dakota, 27–24. Mississippi State looked good in a home blowout of Stephen F. Austin, but I imagine that Kansas State will match up a lot better.
Also in the 11:00 slot, Vanderbilt will host Nevada. Last season, Nevada could move the ball and score points in the Mountain West Conference, but it had trouble stopping anybody and finished the season 3–9. Vanderbilt should play good enough defense to slow Nevada down, and it should be a good chance to work on an on-again, off-again offense.
Alabama will host Arkansas State Saturday at 2:30 PM. I expect that Alabama will empty the bench in that one.
The SEC game of the week also kicks off at 2:30 with Georgia visiting South Carolina. Both teams trounced undermatched cupcakes last weekend. This game will decide whom the front-runner for the SEC Eastern Division will be.
At 3:00 PM, we have Tennessee hosting East Tennessee State, and Ole Miss hosting Southern Illinois. Neither of those games should be tough for the home team.
We have an interesting matchup at 6:00 PM when Texas A&M hosts the Clemson Tigers. It will be interesting to see if coach Jimbo Fisher’s first Aggie team can stay with Clemson. The Tigers have a ferocious front seven and will be hard to move the ball on. Clemson did have a bit of a sluggish start last week against Furman, but eventually rolled, 48–7.
LSU will host Southeastern Louisiana at 6:00 PM. This might be the most lopsided game on the SEC slate this week.
Also at 6:00 PM, Missouri hosts Wyoming. The Cowboys hosted Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars last week and got shelled, 41–19. I expect that Missouri QB Drew Lock will do similar, if not worse, damage in this game.
At 6:30, alongside the Auburn/ASU tilt, Kentucky travels to the Swamp to play Florida. Last season, Kentucky dominated Florida for most of the game, only to give up a late score to lose, 28–27. Kentucky has not beaten Florida since 1986.
Arkansas will travel to Colorado State, to take on the Rams, coached by former Georgia player/coach Mike Bobo. CSU has started this season 0–2 and has already given up 98 points in those losses. I think the Chad Morris attack will get in some good work against this bunch.