Improved Execution On Offense
Last week Auburn's offense just didn't click with new quarterback Nick Marshall running the show, but it wasn't that far off either. With a few passes dropped and a potential touchdown pass just off the fingers of Ricardo Louis, the Tigers could take some big strides forward in week two against Arkansas State.
It wasn't just the passing game that needed cleaning up though as Auburn's short yardage offense was less than spectacular against Washington State. With Gus Malzahn saying the first game was a great deal about learning for both the coaches and players, don't be surprised if there are some new wrinkles and options for the Tigers in short yardage this time around.
Who Will Step Up On Defense This Week?
Last week it was Robenson Therezie and the secondary that came up big for the Tigers following a slow start.
Getting some help from Ben Bradley and Montravius Adams up front, Auburn was able to shut down the Cougars in the second half, allowing just three points. This time around it will be more of a front seven game and that means more opportunities for the linebackers.
With Cassanova McKinzy on the field more and the Tigers putting six and seven men in the box, look for Jake Holland and Kris Frost to both have a bigger role on defense against the potent running game of Arkansas State. If the front four can get some push for the Tigers and allow the linebackers to make plays it will be a huge step in the right direction for coach Ellis Johnson's group. If that's not the case and Arkansas State can block four with four, then it could be a tough night again for the defense.
Limiting The Big Play
Arkansas State scored 62 points in its season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and four of the scoring drives took less than one minute off the clock. The Red Wolves had nine plays of 20 yards or more in week one, something Auburn's defense must limit Saturday night.
30 Is The Magic Number
For both teams the number 30 has been a big key to success. Auburn has won 78 consecutive games when scoring 30 or more points dating back to a 56-49 overtime loss to Georgia in 1996. Overall the Tigers are 293-4 when scoring at least 30 points. Arkansas State has scored at least 30 points in 19 of its last 24 games dating back to 2011. Last season the Red Wolves scored at least 30 points 10 times, the most for the program since 1951. The only loss in that group was a 57-34 loss at Oregon to open the season.
Arkansas State is the second of three consecutive home games to start the season for the Tigers. It is the 12th time in school history Auburn will play its first three opponents at home. Only twice in 11 times has Auburn finished the season with a losing record, going 5-6 in both 1980 and 1999. Five of the 11 occurrences the Tigers have won at least nine games including a perfect 11-0 in 1993.
Mason Is Motoring
Auburn junior Tre Mason passed the 2,000-yard mark in all-purpose yardage against Washington State last week and stands at 2,095 for his career following . James Brooks leads the way in Auburn history with 5,596 yards, but Mason is just 1,200 yards behind Mario Fannin for 10th place in Auburn history with still two full seasons to play for the Tigers. Mason is currently 34th on the rushing ranks with 1,236 yards. With Corey Grant's emergence and Cameron Artis-Payne also there to share the load, Mason should be able to stay fresh for the fourth quarter where he's a threat to break the big play.
In The Backfield
Arkansas State's defense recorded 15 tackles for a loss last weekend and six sacks against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. There is nothing more damaging to an offense than negative plays and that will be something to watch come Saturday night. Auburn must avoid long yardage situations and keep grinding out first downs to allow the pace to come. If the Tigers can do that they should be able to wear on the Red Wolves with size and depth. If Arkansas State can get penetration and force the Tigers into long yardage situations then it could be a long night for the Auburn offense.
" Looking For Mr. Dependable
Auburn's offense is one that is predicated on running the football, but also on finding a few dependable receivers to make plays to extend drives that lead to points. The Tigers found Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery in 2009 and both become a huge part of what the Auburn offense was able to do the next two seasons. In 2011 the torch was passed to Emory Blake as he became the guy in the passing game. Now the quest continues for the next guy to step into that role.
In Malzahn's first season at Auburn in 2009, Adams caught 60 passes for 997 yards to finish with one of the best years for a receiver in the history of the program. It didn't happen overnight for him however as he caught just 32 passes for 512 yards in the first nine games that season before finishing with a monster final four games.Who is ready to take that step for the Tigers? We may have a better idea after week two, but Quan Bray and Sammie Coates are two guys to play close attention to.