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GAME PREVIEW: Auburn vs Alabama State

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Week 2 — Warmup: The Sequel!

NCAA Football: Akron at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Auburn should assuredly improve to 2-0 as Alabama State comes to town for a morning kickoff. Dang, it’s going to be what constitutes a pre-fall day on the Plains, with lows in the mid-60s and highs around 85. For a September midday game, it doesn’t get much better than that.

The Auburn Tigers are now a full game into the Bryan Harsin era, and the debut was a success from every angle. Auburn destroyed Akron 60-10, basically every facet of the team looked great, and the gameday atmosphere was fantastic with a full stadium and the students staying until the end.

Improvements across the board were noted. Bo Nix produced a stat line that would turn out a perfect passer rating in the NFL, Tank Bigsby got Auburn fans on their feet with his sheer excitement, the defense went stark raving mad on the poor Zips, and we had a lot of fun watching the backups’ debuts as well. The 1-0 mentality was in effect, and it turned out a downright fun result.

Now, Auburn has another opportunity to better itself. We won’t pretend to extend platitudes on Alabama State. There’s little of any consequence to discuss in terms of the X’s and O’s, and so we shan’t spend much time on it. The Hornets have nothing that will fool Auburn or deter the Tigers, no matter what kind of strategy they employ. This is a practice for the Tigers that will count on the record books.

These kinds of days are few and far in between. You watch Auburn demolish someone, feel great about it, and go enjoy everyone else putting it on the line. The SEC slate isn’t great, but there are still afternoon and night games where others risk everything while the Tigers will be sitting at 2-0.

As far as these types of opponents go, Auburn has never shied away from inviting instate teams to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s great exposure for an instate team to come and play in a huge SEC stadium. Alabama State’s making its second trip here in the last five years, while during the last ten seasons Auburn has also hosted Samford thrice, Alabama A&M twice, Jacksonville State once (shudder). Admittedly, these are easy wins, but if you’re going to pay someone hundreds of thousands of dollars to come play you, why not keep that money in state? Alabama doesn’t do it, and the last time they played an instate team not named Auburn was 1944. Sounds like they’re scared of the UABs, JSUs, Samfords, etc. of the world...

SERIES HISTORY: The only meeting between these two teams that live right down the road from each other came three seasons ago in 2018. Auburn began that year by beating Washington in Atlanta, and then opened the home slate with the Hornets in a 63-9 victory. I remember thinking that it looked a little bit sloppy, and we weren’t getting the greatest push up front against a completely overmatched team. That said, you can see how bad the score was, and that indicates that even an Auburn team that wasn’t very gelled yet had absolutely no trouble against Alabama State.

LAST WEEK: Fans on the orange and blue side of this game are optimistic, after the deadly efficient manner in which Auburn dispatched Akron last week, and they’re expecting more today. The Tigers throttled the Zips 60-10, with Bo Nix going 20-22 for 275 yards and 3 touchdown (more scores than incompletions!) and the running game averaging better than 10 yards per carry. Defensively, the front seven looked terrifying, and the new faces were all up in the quarterback’s business from the start. The first team pitched a near perfect game, scoring every time they had the ball and holding Akron scoreless until the subs came in. The only blip on Auburn’s radar from that group was the missed extra point by Anders Carlson on the game’s first touchdown.

Meanwhile, Alabama State opened its season against Miles College and barely escaped with a 14-13 overtime thriller in Montgomery. Miles scored first in overtime, but the extra point was blocked, and the Hornets got the walk-off win in the bottom half of overtime when they scored and nailed the extra point.

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. Don’t get anyone hurt. Are we recycling keys from last week? Why, yes we are. Heading into Happy Valley and a battle with Penn State next Saturday night, we need the full complement of players and can’t be troubled to have any significant injuries this week. That’s why we’ll need to get in, build the lead, and get out. No heroics from Bo Nix, either. If it’s not there, just toss the ball away. If you’re going to get sacked, maybe just go down and live to fight the next play. I can’t imagine we put him in any situation where he’d be in real danger anyway.
  2. Run the dang ball. Wait a second, this is the same as last week too! It’s still relevant. That’s what makes these first two games so great... we get to roll back these keys for a second time. Auburn ran for 316 yards on only 32 carries last week. Right about 10 yards per pop. I believe that average may go up today against a Hornet team that would probably get blasted by Akron. This is the game where we see a ton of Jarquez Hunter and Sean Jackson, and let those guys absolutely feast in the second half. With the way Hunter ran the ball last week, he may be a key cog in the offense for Penn State. To the original point, Auburn only ran 59 offensive plays last week, and it was a game that lasted barely three hours. Do it again today and make it fast.
  3. Keep the fun rolling. Whether or not the joy of watching Auburn do what it was supposed to do last week will last when we’re locked in our first tough ballgame, one thing was sure. Auburn fans had a great time last week with a team that looked absolutely, 100% prepared to play football. We weren’t looking ahead (hey, can’t be 1-0 everyday when you look ahead), and the team played completely focused on Akron. We didn’t see that under Gus. Plenty of times the team had to dig its way out of a tight ballgame against a completely overmatched opponent. It looked like we knew what we were doing when Akron came in! Great to see. If we see the same today, you can bet that the fans will be in attendance a little longer than they normally would for a noon FCS win. The student section stayed until the end against Akron! Unheard of.

BURNING QUESTIONS:

  1. Does Bo Nix look as poised as he did last week? This is an equally bad opponent, and so I can only hope that Bo has a similar stat line. More touchdowns than incompletions would be a wild number to attain through two games against any opponent, and if he does that then I think we’ll have a sense of exactly what he’s learning from Bryan Harsin (the 1-0 mentality, baby).
  2. Which new players get their first looks or stand out this week? Jarquez Hunter and Sean Jackson at tailback were fun to watch against Akron, but the receiver group was nearly brand new and they played very well. Ja’Varrius Johnson and Demetris Robertson got their first catches, and Shedrick Jackson broke out as Bo’s favorite target, while John Samuel Shenker set a new standard for tight ends in the 2020s at Auburn. Defensively, the front seven had some new guys in their first snaps as Tigers, and they were great. Marcus Harris and Marquis Burks each got sacks on the defensive line, and T.D. Moultry finally looked the part of a five-star product. Which new names will we be acquainted with today?
  3. What do we learn about Auburn that we didn’t already know? Going against ASU, there may not be much to glean, especially if we didn’t already learn it last week. Honestly, we may not be able to find out anything new until there’s adversity, and we definitely don’t want/shouldn’t see anything close to that today.

RELEVANT LINKAGE

The Leak: Alabama State Week

How to Watch and Listen: Auburn vs Alabama State