It’s been an interesting week to be an Auburn fan. We got to revel in the comeback victory (largest since the Camback in 2010) over Oregon, and we got to celebrate the in-game maturation of Bo Nix as he led the Tigers down the field for the winning touchdown.
It’s also been a week in which we (naturally) nitpicked many of the things that happened in Arlington.
“Bo Nix was only good for a little bit.”
“What about the two picks?”
“Where’s the offensive line improvement?”
“Our defense got gashed!”
“Special teams SUCKED.”
These are all complaints that we heard from opposing fanbases and our own these past several days as attention turned toward Tulane. The most Auburn of us (myself included) immediately got worried about the Green Wave after they eviscerated FIU in Week One... and they get an extra two days to prep for us? Not good.
However, there are reasons to be optimistic. Obviously, Auburn is more talented than Tulane. That’s a given, but we’ve seen Group of Five teams come into Jordan-Hare Stadium before and play with our emotions. Louisiana Tech in 2001, USF in 2007, Louisiana-Monroe in 2012... heck, even FCS opponents in Jacksonville State and Mercer have given us fits early in the season.
What’s the correlation?
We need to learn to forget those moments. You think us struggling against JSU four years ago has anything to do with how Bo Nix’s growth will go today? It doesn’t. It’s just for the fans. Nothing more.
What is true is that we are facing a pretty good football team tonight. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to get much of a calming effect with Tulane coming to visit. I’d love for it to be 21-0 after the first quarter, but this team’s defense is pretty solid, and they rolled up 350 yards on the ground in their opening win. It’s nothing to sneeze at, and no matter what Auburn says, an emotional letdown after Oregon is a real threat.
So what are we looking for from Auburn?
Improvement in several key areas and consistency throughout. The first quarter wasn’t good for anyone, as Oregon rolled up nearly 200 yards of offense as the Auburn attack sputtered. Afterward, however, the defense really settled in and went 11-12 in stopping drives in the final 45 minutes. The offense took a little longer to wake up, but 21 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes is a nice thing on which to end the day.
From that standpoint, the offense has to have a quicker start today. Bo Nix’s nerves shouldn’t be anywhere near what they were last week. To be fair, he didn’t show those nerves except on a couple key overthrows of open receivers, and perhaps on those picks as well. He needs to learn to take what’s given him, as there were lanes for him to scamper into when protection broke down. That’ll come with time. If he gets a little more help up front from his line, then I expect the Auburn offense to go wild tonight.
With the skill positions, we need to see an earlier impact from the receivers for sure. Seth Williams’ absence for 55 minutes last week can’t happen again, and getting back Will Hastings/Anthony Schwartz/Shedrick Jackson should help in all areas, including the run-blocking game.
Boobee Whitlow had maybe his best game last week, but we’d like to see more of a rotation evolve, starting today. One of the killers of the 2017 season was Kerryon Johnson’s injury in the Iron Bowl, which severely hampered the offense the next week in Atlanta. Auburn can’t afford to depend on one back like that again. Thankfully this game (and next week’s) should be sufficient to help us rest a few guys and establish that rotation before SEC play begins.
One final area that may end up being a killer comes in the return game. There were rumors that Arryn Sipposs’ punts weren’t as good as they were in the past because of Jerry Jones’ giant video board. Maybe he’ll feel more at home tonight, but the punt coverage took a few hits last week.
A satisfied Saturday night will result from a few things for me:
- 40+ points from the offense
- Bo Nix >60% completion percentage and no turnovers
- Fewer than 2 sacks allowed by the offensive line and another 200+ yard rushing performance
- No secondary busts by the defense
- 2 touchdowns or less allowed by the defense (in non-garbage time)
- No big returns from Tulane on special teams.
Maybe that’s wishing too much against a good team, but Auburn’s improvement and hope for a solid 2019 has to start tonight. Kent State next week will be little more than a tune-up before SEC play, so the real work has to start tonight. Wear white, y’all.