The next four weeks are a big deal for Auburn football. San Jose St, a bye week, at Kentucky, at Arkansas. Before the season, many viewed this stretch as a warm up for the gauntlet at the end of the season. But now, Auburn needs to find some wins and momentum to salvage this season.
It all starts this Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium as the San Jose State Spartans come to town. They have same the same record as Auburn, with losses on the road against Air Force and Oregon State. They beat down Fresno State last weekend.
Last year, Auburn beat this team 59-13 in Week 2 of the season. However, this Auburn team finds itself in a very different position. The last non-conference game at home probably should have been a loss to Jacksonville State, even though the Tigers found a way to win in overtime. San Jose State can certainly provide a similar scare on Saturday.
Despite the loss last week to Mississippi State, Auburn found some things to build on. Some new starters performed well on defense, as the unit held the Bulldog rushing attack in check and held the State offense to 17 points. Overall, the team tackled better and kept the team in the game all night.
On offense, red zone failures were colossal. But Sean White looked comfortable and capable in his first start and gave Auburn arguably their most consistent offensive performance of the season. There were slight signs of life and tempo in both the run and pass game.
Can Auburn continue the progress and continue to correct their weaknesses on Saturday? That's really the question. Former Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges directs the Spartans' offensive attack and will surely be looking to score points and keep the game interesting. On paper, Auburn has the personnel to break out of their offensive rut, but am I the only one who feels like I have to see it to believe it?
It felt at many times last weekend that we simply couldn't stay out of our own way. Giving up numerous third down and long conversions and making crucial mistakes in the red zone (again) will keep San Jose State in this game. I hope this game provides and opportunity for Gus to really work out some kinks and find an offensive identity for this team moving forward. Some keys to a non-embarrassing victory:
1. Protect Sean White from the blitz - Mississippi State did a great job of changing their defensive looks and putting pressure on White in the second half. The offensive line had a few penalties and busted assignments that killed drives. Though White is more mobile than some thought, he's still a pocket passer that needs time to go through his reads.
2. Defensive Line Pressure - If we can't get pressure on the quarterback of San Jose State with our four linemen, it's going to be a long season. I don't even care if we have to blitz. I hope we don't utilize the same kind of vanilla defensive gameplan that we did against Jacksonville State. Let's use our athletes to dictate the dynamic of the game.
3. Guys Taking Advantage of Opportunities - Who on both sides of the ball will take advantage of the opportunity to play? Sean White, Tre Williams, Kerryon Johnson, and others have been ready when their numbers have been called. I want to see who will take advantage of playing time this week and be productive.
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