Auburn plays an American football game in, ehhhhh.... like four hours. It’s the first morning game for the Tigers since playing Arkansas about a month ago, and the first morning game at home since Tennessee last year.
In the olden times, also known as the Tuberville Years, Auburn fans may have shuddered at the thought of an early game at home. There’s never any energy, and today is going to be a special case of low testosterone. Thanksgiving break has started, so a bunch of the students will be gone until the Iron Bowl. It’s going to be rainier than hell (even though hell isn’t rainy), so anyone that does stay will be dedicated and/or crazy. Also, it’s Samford. It’s cupcake weekend. It’s the one weekend out of the year when teams from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac 12 get to look at the SEC and call them out for playing FCS opponents late in the season. Nevermind the fact that Auburn’s playing this game between two playoff contenders, but that’s their problem.
As for the game itself, like most of the other games this year have been, it’s about Auburn. It’s about what Auburn does or doesn’t do. The bottom line is that this has to be an efficient evisceration of the Bulldogs so that we can get a little more rest for the guys that matter most ahead of the Iron Bowl.
If we could build a big lead, and then maybe get some sort of a running clock to get the heck out of Dodge, I don’t think anyone would protest. So, how do we go about doing just that?
WHEN AUBURN HAS THE BALL
Last week, Bo Nix threw the ball 50 times. Auburn nearly erased a 21-0 hole and came back against Georgia, but fell in yet another frustrating loss. All three of the Tigers’ losses have been games wherein the offense could have performed 10% better and the end result changes. Today’s an opportunity to work on the things that are ailing the attack.
First of all, it’s going to be wet, so if Bo is throwing 50 times, there has to be a full reexamination of the offense. When you play Samford, you have to assert dominance and roll their defense down the hill. Anything less than 300 rushing yards will be questionable. Samford allows 230 rushing yards per game against FCS competition, so Auburn ought to be coming close to that number by the time the third quarter ends.
We really touched on the main point of this ballgame in our Staff Picks — keeping the main cogs injury free. Without Joey Gatewood, Auburn can’t afford to lose Bo Nix. As much as Alabama is hampered without Tua, I don’t think the Tigers can make things happen with Cord Sandberg under center. Build the 21 or 28 point lead late in the first half and get Bo out and under a nice rain coat. Get Cord more snaps than he’s ever had, and let him run two-plus quarters of work depending on the lead. Let him throw the ball a few times! If all else fails, Auburn ought to be able to shove the ball down the field whenever they want.
WHEN SAMFORD HAS THE BALL
Uh, this won’t go well for the Bulldogs. Samford’s offense only holds the ball for about 24 minutes per game, and while the offense posts about 430 yards per game, they’re just 5-6 on the year. By some of the better teams they’ve played they were limited in the scoring column, and they’ve given up about a turnover and a half per game.
I can’t with any honesty say that the offense is the reason they’ve lost any games, but they’re also not really carrying the water for the team. While they do have a receiver by the familiar name of Chris Shelling, he’s not going to be the one leading the way for a seven touchdown upset.
Auburn’s defense is still likely the best unit in the SEC (don’t care what anyone says about Georgia), and they’ll get a chance to really show what they can do in the final home game next week. There’s not much to say here, except that the Tigers should be able to control the line of scrimmage, track down any receivers, and stuff the run. Samford’s only hope is to hit a big play, but this may be the game when Kevin Steele’s unit finally gets some of those big turnovers, and maybe we even see a special teams explosion today. It’s about time.
Aside from the obvious, we just need to escape with a confidence boosting victory. While you might not see the value in attending a game like this one, and sitting in the rain, and possibly contracting pneumonia in cold rain, just remember that we get 7-8 chances to watch Auburn football at Jordan-Hare Stadium. This year, the Tigers get to finish with the big game, but don’t you know how it feels when you spend most of the big games away from home? It sucks. Don’t take for granted the ability to spend the morning watching Auburn play football in a low-stress atmosphere. While the game might be a dud, there’s likely going to be a dad taking his kid to his first game because these were the tickets that were available. That kid’s going to remember this forever, and his Auburn fandom will grow.
We have two home games left, and while you may be on the fence after what you saw last week against Georgia, just ask if you’d rather live in a world with Auburn football that doesn’t meet high expectations every year or a world with no Auburn football.
Let’s enjoy today, get a win, and enjoy Thanksgiving as best as we can leading up to the most stressful game of the year. We need this kind of a game. Relish it. War Eagle.