Getting Marshall Settled In Early
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will be making his first Auburn start Saturday night when the Tigers face off against Washington State. Not only will it be his first start, it will be the first time he's played quarterback on the Division I level after playing as a defensive back at Georgia two years ago.
Because of that expect Auburn to run the ball early and often against a defense that struggled against that part of the game in 2012. It will take more than running the football to win, however, and that means getting Marshall off to a good start throwing the football. To make that happen look for the Tigers to use the short passing game to build confidence before taking their shots down the field to try to hit the big play.
Can Auburn pressure the quarterback?
Last season Washington State was one of the most sacked teams in the country while Auburn struggled to get pressure on the quarterback even with junior defensive end Corey Lemonier on the team. Now without the current San Francisco '49er and the injured Dee Ford, the Tigers will turn to senior Craig Sanders and junior LaDarius Owens to get the job done at defensive end.
Both Owens and Sanders are making plays from the edge, but Ford is the best on the team doing that. Auburn's coaches are hoping this could be the coming out party for a pair of freshmen in Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson. Getting plenty of reps in the preseason because of the injury to Ford and with Kenneth Carter and Nosa Eguae both missing practice time, the duo is on the fast track to playing for the Tigers and it may be sooner rather than later on Saturday night.
Which freshman can make the most impact?
Both Daniel and Lawson are good bets to make noise for the Tigers, but the winner may be wide receiver Marcus Davis. He has drawn rave reviews from his coaches and teammates in the preseason and with Auburn still looking for playmakers at wide receiver the former high school quarterback is someone to watch.
Will Washington State attempt 10 true running plays?
Last season the Cougars ran the football just 167 times by non-quarterbacks. The top two running backs combined for just 141 total carries in 12 games. In preseason camp Washington State had a 100-plus play scrimmage that featured just four runs. Because of that Auburn's defense must be prepared to run sideline to sideline chasing the short passing game.
Tempo, Tempo, Tempo
A defense that struggled to slow down up-tempo opponents Oregon and Arizona State last season, Washington State should be improved, but Auburn's pace could be its biggest advantage Saturday night. While heat and humidity had very little impact on teams such as USC in 2003, make no mistake about the situation this time around. If Malzahn can get the pace going early in the running game and build the momentum he's looking for on offense, you will see a very tired Washington State defense in the second half and that should be good news for the Tigers.
This is a game that should be very winnable for the Tigers. While Washington State is expected to be a better football team in year two under Leach, Auburn's offensive line and running game should be the difference in this one. Look for Ellis Johnson's defense to do something the Tigers couldn't do last year, create a turnover or two, to put the offense in easy scoring opportunities. Auburn 34 Washington State 23