Outside of debuting the new massive jumbotron, there's plenty to watch for this weekend as Auburn hosts Jacksonville State from the FCS. Auburn's finish to the season opener left much to be desired, and as a trip to Baton Rouge looms, this weekend's game is the only opportunity for true game reps to address some of the issues that came up.
First of all, however, it should be noted that Jacksonville State only lost one regular season game last year - to Michigan State. So they are a strong FCS program. There are numerous former D-1 football players who have found themselves playing for the Gamecocks.
That being said, Auburn should win the game somewhat easily. The talent differential is substantial. One potential upside to the way things finished in the Georgia Dome is that coaches and players should be hungry to get back on the field Saturday morning.
But this game won't be about how big a blowout Auburn can produce or how many points are put on the board. It will be about general execution on offense, continuing the progression on defense, staying healthy, and finding improvement across the board at all positions.
Jeremy Johnson will naturally garner the most attention after his disappointing afternoon against Louisville. He needs to stay within the offense and not pre-determine reads in the run game or the pass game. Can he and the entire offensive unit build momentum going into the conference opener?
The other thing in the headlines this week has been injuries. According to Gus, all those who were nicked up or out last week (Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson, Kerryon Johnson, Josh Holsey, Tray Matthews, Carl Lawson) are available. But is Gus downplaying injuries? Even if available, which of those will play? We will have to wait and see on Saturday.
The defense sure did look a lot different with Lawson and Matthews off the field. Whether they play or not, I'm curious to see who can continue to step up on this new defense. Dontavius Russell, Justin Garrett, and Tim Irvin were guys who caught my attention last week. I look for a couple others to get their names out there this week.
Turnovers and penalties kept Auburn from a blowout win against Louisville. Those will be major points of emphasis for the coaches this week, and the game against Jacksonville State will provide the players a chance to take those concepts to the field.
The Gamecocks came from behind last week to defeat Chattanooga on the road. They won their conference last year and lost in the second round of the playoffs to Sam Houston State. A few players you may recognize are defensive lineman Devaunte Sigler (former AU dismissed in 2013), defensive end LaMichael Fanning (former Alabama player) and defensive end Chris Landrum (former AU linebacker). You may also remember they beat Ole Miss in Oxford in 2010.
I'll say Auburn 45, JSU 17. Hope the Tigers can build some momentum heading to LSU next week. Your thoughts?