Welcome to the 2017 season opener! Auburn meets Georgia Southern in just a little while inside Jordan-Hare Stadium and there’s a ton of buzz all over the Plains for today’s game and the debut of this season’s Tigers. If you have a need to find out how to watch, check out our post earlier telling you just how you can do that.
As for tonight’s game against the Eagles, what are some keys to victory for the Tigers?
- EFFECTIVE DRIVES ON OFFENSE: It doesn’t matter if Auburn rolls up 500 yards tonight if they can’t put the ball in the end zone. We need to see that the red zone offense is improved over last year, both in playcalling and execution. Auburn struggled in those areas in 2016, although it did give Daniel Carlson plenty of opportunity to kick field goals. We’d like for him to get his fair share of points this season and win the Groza, but let’s do that with timely kicks instead of volume.
Against a triple option team, Auburn’s number of possessions will likely be a bit limited. Georgia Southern will hold the ball for longer than the Tiger defenders are used to, and we as fans need to keep from getting antsy and transferring all that negative vibe to the field if this thing gets close a quarter or so in. If Auburn can score touchdowns early and the defense adjust to the option quickly, then it’ll allow the Tigers to bring in the backups and look ahead to Clemson.
- AVOID INJURIES: This is an obvious one, but the Tigers have been lucky throughout fall camp and everyone’s ready to play tonight if necessary. We’d love to have a quick 35-0 lead where we can take out the starters after one drive in the third quarter, but Gus Malzahn Auburn teams never really start the season that way. We’ll probably have the first string playing into the fourth quarter as they mesh a little more in time for Clemson next week. That’s not to say it’ll be a close game, because this ain’t your daddy’s GSU team, and they’re not expected to be that good, but if the coaches aren’t seeing the right things, important Tigers might play late. It just leaves more room for injury, especially against a team that’ll do its fair share of cut blocking, even from a shotgun-based triple option offense.
- FIND AN OFFENSIVE GROOVE: In watching Malzahn-run offenses, what’s run at the beginning third of a season has been different from the middle third, which is different from the final third. We didn’t start seeing the rushing yardage pile up in 2010 or 2013 until nearly the midway point of the season. The Tigers tried to be more balanced, but the offense wasn’t as effective.
This season, and especially with such a big game early on, Auburn could really use an early lightbulb moment for the offense that reveals what the bread and butter’s going to be. I know we’d love to see Jarrett Stidham come out and light up the opposition, but I’d be surprised if he throws for more than 250 yards unless there are a few big breakaway plays. The run game should plow for 300+ tonight, and hopefully we get to see that offensive line hoe the row.
Overall, I think the Tigers come out and look good tonight, and I think the defense catches onto the option pretty quickly, shutting it down before it gets rolling. I also expect the offense to produce a couple of Wow plays in the passing game, but I’m not expecting us to get much in the way of fanciness. We’ll see more of that next week in Death Valley.
Sit back, relax, grab something cold to drink, and settle in for the best in college football tonight. Try to soak it in as much as possible. In two months, there will be just a handful of games left and you’ll wonder where the time went. We get only twelve guaranteed games a year, and they’re gone before you can blink. College football is back on the Plains, and we couldn’t be more excited. War Eagle!