The Tigers enter the contest at 2-0 while the Orangemen enter 1-2 having setbacks against non-conference Top 10 opponents Georgia Tech and Syracuse. It's a matchup of teams that last squared off in the 1988 Sugar Bowl when the teams tied at 16. Syracuse is still a run-oriented team. Both teams come equipped with solid defenses against the run. If one team can establish the ground game early it could be the decisive factor as to who comes away the winner of this tilt.
If neither team can establish the run, then it will come down to how sophomore quarterback R.J. Anderson for Syracuse and redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Campbell perform in the passing schemes of their respective teams.
Here is what to watch in this battle of the SEC vs. the Big East:
Head coach Tommy Tuberville said earlier this week Campbell is one of the coolest guys in the pocket he has ever coached. The redshirt freshman will need to be calm, cool and collected this Saturday as he will have one of the nation's top pass rushers coming at him from a lot of different spots on the field. Dwight Freeney starts at right defensive end for the Orangemen, but will line up at linebacker and left end as well to try and disrupt the Auburn offense. Freeney, who is a preseason All-America candidate, has 20 sacks in his last 10 games and has six already this season in three games. Tuberville says Campbell is confident in his offensive line and a big reason for that is left tackle Kendall Simmons, who is also a preseason candidate. If Simmons and company can keep Freeney away from their signal caller, the Tigers could have success on offense with short passes and screens.
Stopping The Run
Syracuse runs the option, which is something Auburn faces infrequently in the SEC. The Orangemen will likely try to confuse the Tigers by throwing a lot of option packages at the Tigers. Tailback James Mungro is Syracuse's leading rusher with 247 yards on 57 carries. Anderson, who will be making his first start of the season, has just 11 carries for a net of four yards. His backup, Troy Nunes who will also likely see action, has just 10 yards on 25 carries. The Auburn defense is allowing only 55 yards per game on the ground this season. If the Tigers are able to stop the run early, then the Orangemen might look to exploit the Tigers' secondary early in the contest. Ole Miss found out late in its game with Auburn two weeks ago that the Tigers' secondary is susceptible to the pass. The Rebels took advantage of that a little to late as their comeback attempt fell short.
The Dome Effect
The last time the Tigers played a football game inside they lost to Florida in the SEC Championship game 28-6. The Carrier Dome has no air-conditioning which makes for a hot playing field if the temperatures are warm outside. The Tigers might be catching a break this week as highs in Syracuse are to be in the low 70s around kickoff, which is cooler than usual for this time of year. Syracuse fans are some of the loudest in the country when the dome is at its capacity of 49,550, but the attendance for the Orangemen's last home game was just over 35,000 for Central Florida.
Another item to watch is how playing on artificial turf will increase Auburn's team speed, which is probably as good as any team in the nation. The Tigers went to the dome on Friday when they arrived in Syracuse to test out their shoes for Saturday night's game. Kickoff is set for 6:50 p.m. CDT and will be televised nationally by ESPN. The found a very warm and very humid environment so cramps won't be a big surprise in this game.