Sean White (13) and Kerryon Johnson are key players for the AU offense.
Game 2: Arkansas State at Auburn
Series Record: Auburn leads 3-0-0
Last Meeting: (2013) Auburn 38-9
About the teams:
*Coach Blake Anderson is 16-11 during three seasons as the head coach of Arkansas State. Gus Malzahn is 36-17 all-time and 27-14 at Auburn.
*The last time out Auburn lost to No. 2 Clemson, 19-13, and Arkansas State fell by a 21-10 score to Toledo.
*Arkansas State returned 13 starters from 2015 with six on offense and seven on defense. Auburn returned 11 starters with six on offense and five on defense.
*Arkansas State is 2-56-3 against teams from the Southeastern Conference. The Red Wolves defeated Texas A&M during 2008 before the Aggies joined the SEC.
*Auburn is 23-0-0 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt Conference with an average score of 42-13.
*The Red Wolves’ offense is led by senior quarterback Chad Voytik, who has thrown for 17 career touchdowns against eight career interceptions.
*Warren Wand was ASU's second-leading rusher last season with more than 700 yards. He rushed for 77 yards on just 12 carries last week against the Rockets. Wand lacks size but is quick, elusive and fast, which has resulted in a healthy six-plus yards per carry average.
*Sean White was listed as the starter prior to the opener, but Malzahn played three of his quarterbacks against Clemson. White completed 10 passes for 140 yards during the season opener.
*Kerryon Johnson got the bulk of the carries last Saturday for the Tigers with 23 carries for 94 yards.
*During the 19 games against non-FBS competition, Malzahn’s offense at Auburn has averaged 493 yards and 45 points per game.
How they match up...
•Only 16.5 percent of the recruits signed by Arkansas State in the last four classes have been rated as 3-stars or better. In contrast, Auburn has inked 97.9 percent three stars or higher during the same time frame. The Red Wolves failed to sign a single 4-star recruit the past four years.
•The ASU defense surrendered 556 yards and 31 points to Toledo while Auburn’s defense held Clemson to 399 yards and 19 points.
•During the three previous meetings against Arkansas State, Auburn averaged 492 yards and 39 points per game while allowing 322 yards and 12 points per game to the Red Wolves.
•Auburn should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage this week, which should make for a convincing victory for the Tigers.
•Auburn is 201-48-14 against teams from non-major conferences and Arkansas State is 2-88-3 against the major conferences.
Keys to Victory...
Auburn must be focused towards execution this week, cleaning up the mistakes made during the season opener. Unless Auburn implodes with a high number of turnovers, this game should not be competitive for more than a half.
Auburn allowed 14 tackles for loss last week against Clemson. It was the most tackles for loss allowed since the 1999 Ole Miss game. Auburn needs to improve its blocking assignments this week, especially against an inferior opponent.
Auburn under Malzahn has been a run first offense, something the Tigers struggled with against Clemson. After being held to only 87 yards rushing, the Tigers need to improve in this area to prevent the game from being closer than it should be.
Generating explosive plays was a major problem in 2015 and it carried over to the season opener this year. If Auburn cannot achieve plus-8 in this category against the Red Wolves there are serious problems with the offense.
What to Watch...
*Look for Auburn to concentrate on its running game in preparation for conference play.
*Arkansas State surrendered 11 impact plays to Toledo during its season opener. Look for Auburn’s offense to have a high number of explosive plays this week. Auburn produced seven against Clemson.
Kerryon Johnson scores Auburn's first touchdown of the season vs. Clemson.
*Will the players lose some focus based on the level of competition? There is always the chance, but with so many young players seeing action the desire to make plays should still be very strong.
*Bringing in a wildcat package for situation play is understandable, but this week needs to be about developing the base offense under White. If he is the starter as scheduled, the majority of the offense needs to be designed around his strengths.
*Arkansas State should be a great stage to introduce running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kameron Martin into the offensive rotation.
After last week's merry-go-round of players taking snaps from the quarterback position, it will be interesting to see if Malzahn lets White take the vast majority of snaps. For the long term success of the offense, settling in with a primary starter at the quarterback position would be beneficial. Establishing continuity and consistency on offense will be virtually impossible when plugging various offensive packages in and out every third play.
A player like John Franklin should be given a package of plays, especially during situational play, but the base offense needs to be centered around the starting quarterback. If an offense doesn't have an identity, it will stunt the growth of the group. White needs the opportunity to grow into his starting role, which includes working his way out of a slow start if necessary.
Despite all the issues on offense against Clemson, Auburn was still in position to win the game late in the fourth quarter. This window of opportunity was primarily due to an excellent defensive performance, but the offense did manage to move the ball more consistently during the second half. After being stifled to just 38 yards and three first downs during the first half, the Auburn gained 224 yards and 14 first downs during the second half.
The Tigers missed out on a wide-open Marcus Davis for a long touchdown pass, which was intercepted because of a poorly thrown ball early in the third period. Later in the fourth period Auburn missed on another easy touchdown pass inside the Clemson 10-yard line. Those two plays alone could have salvaged a poor first-half performance by the offense and secured an upset over the No. 2 ranked team in the country.
The key this week will be more about Auburn improving its execution than facing off against a quality opponent. Auburn should win this game based on advantages in talent and depth. The scoreboard alone won’t reflect if Auburn improved from week one to week two. Improvement will be found in Auburn’s overall execution in every phase of the game.
Will Auburn block better and protect the quarterback? Will the receivers run precise patterns and fight for the ball when it comes their way? Will the quarterbacks deliver in crucial moments of the game? Will the defensive line make penetration in the opposing backfield without the need of blitzing?
The Arkansas State game needs to be about overall execution before the Tigers move into conference play. Talented teams almost always beat inferior opponents, but fundamentally-sound teams with talent have a chance to beat anyone, which is what the 2016 Tigers need to strive to become. Auburn 41, Arkansas State 13
Around the Southeastern Conference:
Georgia over Nicholls State
Texas A&M over Prairie View A&M
Alabama over Western Kentucky
Florida over Kentucky
Ole Miss over Wofford
Vanderbilt over Middle Tennessee
Arkansas over TCU
Mississippi State over South Carolina
LSU over Jacksonville State
Missouri over Eastern Michigan
Virginia Tech over Tennessee
Season Record: 10-3