A year ago, when I saw this game sitting on our schedule....I thought it was gonna be a heckuva lot more intriguing to watch. Gus was coaching there, along with Dyer in the backfield, and the duo's return to Jordan-Hare. It's funny how much can change in such little time. Dyer was kicked off of his second collegiate team and, well...you know the rest.
Last week was a little shaky for the Tigers, as it seemed like we were working out all of the kinks on offense...so I'm thrilled that we have another tune-up game before playing Mississippi State next week.
The Red Wolves have had a rough offseason, particularly with the mass exodus of coaching staff after Malzahn's departure. Only one coach has returned for the 2013 football season, and it's the special teams coordinator. After Malzahn's departure, former Boise State/Texas offensive coordinator, Bryan Harsin, was called upon to take the reins of the program. After two previous hires of offensive geniuses (Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn), the Red Wolves decided to stick with the norm and hire Harsin who helped lead the 2006 Boise team to an undefeated season and Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. If track records go to show...this guy should have a head coaching job in a few years.
Harsin got off to a great start behind the wheel, as his squad rolled over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, 62-11. The score isn't nearly the most impressive stat to their credit though, as the Red Wolves ran wild with 4 backs gaining 100+ yards for a total of 509 yards on the ground, as well as another 163 yards through the air. It's nearly impossible to get a good grasp of these statistics and the overall performance of the team....I mean, it was Arkansas Pine-Bluff...the Golden Lions. However, no matter who the opponent is, 672 yards of total offense is not a shabby feat.
The biggest key to the game will be Auburn's defensive line. It's crucial for this unit to create enough of a push to bust through and make some stops behind the line. With Dee Ford still on the sidelines with a knee injury, the true-freshmen, Elijah Daniels and Carl Lawson, will be forced to step up in his place to take on the high-octane rushing attack. The defensive end position is still very much in the air, as seniors, Nosa Eguae and Craig Sanders, simply couldn't get the job done last week, as they both struggled to shed blocks against an offensive line that consisted of 3 walkons. Another young talent to look out for is big-boy Montravious Adams. The true-freshman had a spectacular début last week, and you can expect him to get solid playing time, if not start, tomorrow.
While the defense will be key for a victory tomorrow, we'll still need to put up points...and a lot of them. As awkward as the offense looked in the first half last week, the second brought new life for the Tigers and QB Nick Marshall as he transformed a 2 for 8 performance in the first half into a much more respectable 8 for 11 second. The versatile run game will once again bring a significant edge to the offense as we have a speed back in Corey Grant, a power back in Cameron Artis-Payne (CAP), and an all-purpose back in Tre Mason. All three guys will need to continue their energetic and high-level of play this week to put up points on offense.
The key to a W? Win the battles at the line...offense and defense. With the talent we have, this should be no problem...however, due to inconsistency and injuries to star players on the defensive line, things could get a bit dicey throughout this ball game. Expect an abundance of points, and a whole lot of yards on the ground from both squads.
Prediction: Auburn wins this one in the second half, as we finally find our "Malzahn rhythm" to eventually wear out the Red Wolves' defense. On the other side of the ball, we give up about 400 yards of total offense with 300 of those coming on the ground.
Score: Auburn W 41-28