With Auburn sophomore Kiehl Frazier struggling so far early in his career as a starter and ULM junior Kolton Browning coming into the Saturday morning start as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country, this is one position that will tell the tale for the 0-2 Tigers.
Last week while Frazier turned the ball over five times with three interceptions and two fumbles, Browning was putting on a show to remember as the Warhawks defeated Arkansas in Little Rock. Completing 42-67 passes for an impressive 412 yards and three touchdowns and one interception, the left-hander did it all for ULM as he added 69 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown gallop on fourth down in overtime.
After playing mostly as a runner last season for the Tigers, Frazier has been thrown into the fire in 2012 and it hasn't gone well so far for the highly-recruited quarterback from Arkansas. Completing just 24-49 passes for 319 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions, Frazier has struggled in the face of pressure and last Saturday against Mississippi State that was evident for everyone to see.
Frazier looks for a receiver against the Bulldogs
The good news for Frazier and the Tigers is that the youngster responded and threw the ball well in the fourth quarter when he had time to throw. That shows that he has got the ability to get the job done and mechanics that have improved dramatically since last season. Now the the part of his game that must come along is his decision making and taking what the defense gives him.
If Frazier can do those things and get into a rhythm, he has the talent to turn things around in the passing game in a hurry. However, if he continues to struggle throwing the football the Auburn offense could be in for another long day against a ULM defense that brings pressure and speed from all angles.
Using a 3-3-5 alignment that can confuse even the most veteran of offensive lines, Auburn's young group will have its hands full to give Frazier the time he needs to get the passing game untracked.
On the other side of the coin, Auburn's defensive line has to get in the face of Browning and make him uncomfortable from start to finish in Saturday's game. If given time to throw he has shown that he can get the job done in a big way. Fourth all-time in completions at ULM with 520, Browning has 34 career touchdown passes and will enter Saturday's game leading the nation in total offense at 481 yards per game.
While it won't be the only position that is important on Saturday, the play of the two quarterbacks will go a long way towards deciding the outcome. Even though Auburn is likely going to be dependent on the running game against the smaller Warhawks, if Frazier can make plays in the passing game it could be not only a winning combination on Saturday, but also a huge confidence builder heading into the heart of the 2012 schedule.