Auburn vs. Western Carolina preview: Q-and-A with Keith Jarrett of the Asheville Citizen-Times

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We know nothing about Western Carolina. Thankfully, a sports writer in western North Carolina is familiar with the Catamounts.

With Auburn's Homecoming set for Saturday afternoon, the Tigers are set to host Western Carolina at 1 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Admittedly, we aren't too familiar with the Catamounts, so we chatted with Keith Jarrett, senior sports writer at the Asheville Citizen-Times, to get a little insight into the program.

College and Magnolia: Tell us about Western Carolina's offense. What kind of schemes do the Catamounts use? Is this team going to pass first, or is it more run heavy?

Keith Jarrett: They run the spread formation, but it's not the typical hurry-up, pass-heavy type. They play pretty conservatively' lots of first and second-down runs, short, quick-hit passes, don't throw downfield much. Their line isn't very good, so they have to play like that. Against Virginia Tech, they only threw three passes in the second half despite trailing by a large margin because the pass rush was too much for them to handle.

CaM: What about the defense? What kind of looks can we expect? What will the Catamounts do to try and stop Auburn's offense?

KJ: Defense switched to a 4-3 this year from 3-4, in part to get better against option teams that have run all over them for years. Front four is small and not very good; secondary makes a lot of tackles. Defense has given up 42 or more points in 20 of last 28 games.

CaM: Who are Western Carolina's playmakers on both sides of the ball? Give us a few names Auburn fans will notice on Saturday.

KJ: Quarterback Trey Mitchell is a decent Southern Conference-caliber quarterback, better runner than passer, can elude pressure. Best receiver is Kannoris Benson, only guy that can really be labeled a playmaker among the receivers. Tailback Darius Ramsey is small, quick. Linebacker Courtland Carson had 97 tackles last season and is leading team again; he's pretty active. Safeties Sertonuse Harris and Ace Clark make a lot of hits because front four is small and not very good.

CaM: The Tigers are big favorites, but is there anything Western Carolina does well that could give Auburn some trouble?

KJ: Honestly, no. WCU ranks among the worst FCS teams in the country and really struggles on offense and defense. They have been terrible about getting off to slow starts, and with this being their third FBS game in seven starts, they are pretty beat up physically, and probably emotionally.

CaM: How do you think this one plays out? Will the Catamounts hang around for a while, or will Auburn run away with it early?

KJ: My guess is it will get ugly early, and then it's up to Auburn about how bad it gets. Catamounts trailed Middle Tennessee 28-0 early in second quarter and Va. Tech 35-3 after three quarters, so I would be shocked if this doesn't follow that same trend. I'm sure you are aware of this, but their losing streaks include 31 straight to Division I opponents and 18 straight on the road, dating back to 2010. They have also lost 25 straight in Southern Conference play.

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