Arkansas State 4-8/3-5 Sunbelt
2009 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 13th Rush Offense: 76th
Pass Offense: 56th Pass Offense: 86th
Total Offense: 16th Total Offense: 95th
Scoring Offense: 17th Scoring Offense: 90th
Rush Defense: 78th Rush Defense: 30th
Pass Defense: 57th Pass Defense: 60th
Total Defense: 68th Total Defense: 41st
Scoring Defense: 79th Scoring Defense: 45th
About Arkansas State…
Coach Steve Roberts begins his ninth season as the head coach of the Red Wolves of Arkansas State where he has compiled a record of 41-55 since taking over the program in 2002. During the previous eight seasons Arkansas State has finished at least third in the Sunbelt Conference on four occasions.
The Red Wolves struggled on offense last season, facing the daunting task of replacing one of their starting quarterbacks, a starting running back and their leading receiver from an offense that was ranked No. 94 nationally in 2009. Arkansas State returns 16 players who started on offense, including its entire offensive line and 10 players who started multiple games for the defense, which was the strength of the 2009 team.
The Red Wolves have a new offensive coordinator in Hugh Freeze, who is looking to build on the late season start by quarterback Ryan Alpin, who rushed for more than 250 yards while passing for nearly 900 yards in his four starts to conclude the season.
Junior running back Derek Lawson looks to be the top running back with 939 career rushing yards with a 6.1 yards per carry average.
Arkansas State must replace its top four receivers from 2009 with Taylor Stockemer being the top returning receiver with 16 receptions at an impressive 21.7 yards per reception average. Though it appears the Arkansas State offense is retooling its lineup of skill players, the entire starting offensive line returns and looks to be a team strength.
The Red Wolves' defense ranked 30th nationally against the run last season, but of their top 11 tacklers from 2009 only six return in 2010. That defense compiled 67 tackles for losses in 2009, which includes tackle Bryan Hall's nine stops for lost yardage. Coach Roberts believes in a strong run defense and the Red Wolves did not give up more than 176 yards rushing in any game last season.
Starting corner Kelcie McCray returns with 58 tackles and four interceptions in 2009. Linebacker Demario Davis was ASU's leading tackler with 80 stops, including eight for lost yardage. Davis will team up with Javon McKinnon and Nathan Herrold to give the Red Wolves a solid trio at linebacker.
Inside the Numbers…
•Arkansas State and Auburn have met on one other occasion with the Tigers defeating Arkansas State 27-0 in 2006.
•Over the past decade Arkansas State is 1-23 vs. FBS opponents from a BCS conference. The lone victory came against Texas A&M in 2008 when the Red Wolves upset the Aggies 18-14.
•The Red Wolves are 0-11 vs. SEC competition over the past decade, losing by an average score of 40-10. They came close to upsetting Ole Miss during the 2004 season, losing a heartbreaker 28-21.
•During the past decade Auburn compiled an 18-0 record against FBS schools from a non-BCS conference with an average score of 42-13.
Why Auburn should win…
•The Tigers have a huge advantage in talent and depth that an upset appears unlikely.
•The Auburn offense finished ranked No. 16 nationally last year and is looking to improve on that ranking as one of the nation's top offenses this season.
•Auburn should stack up well nationally when it comes to offensive skill players and the Red Wolves would have their hands full stopping Auburn's second team offense with a rebuilding defense.
Why Arkansas State should win…
•Though there are major upsets in college football every year the likelihood of it happening to Auburn on September 4th is remote. The last time Auburn lost to a FBS opponent with a losing record from a non-major conference was against Southern Miss in 1991.
•If there exists a blueprint for a Red Wolves upset, it would include a major implosion on the part of the Tigers along with Arkansas State playing far beyond its ability.
Though the possibility of an upset is slim, don't be surprised if the Red Wolves are competitive during the first half. Expect the Red Wolves' new offense to involve a high number of pass attempts, utilizing quick passes to offset Auburn's pass rush. As long as Auburn tackles well the Tigers should be able to contain Arkansas State and limit the possibility of big plays. With this being the season opener tackling and positioning could be an issue for both teams. Auburn is the heavy favorite in this game, but the coaches are still looking for consistent play from the players with the intent of controlling this game from the outset.
On offense AU coordinator Gus Malzahn will likely rely on the running game while breaking in a new starting quarterback in Cameron Newton. Though there is the strong possibility of two runs to every pass, I expect Newton to take his shots downfield in an attempt to put this game away quickly and efficiently.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof is expecting to see a better run defense in 2010 and fewer big plays allowed. Taking away the Red Wolves' running game will be priority one and establishing depth as the game progresses is also a priority.
With a short week of preparation for game number two when the Tigers travel to Mississippi State next week, Coach Gene Chizik will want to secure this victory as soon as possible. The sooner Auburn can began to empty the bench the better it will be for the high number of freshmen expected to see action this season.
The Auburn coaches have been preaching "good to great" during the spring and fall camps and the players have responded well to the challenge. The scrimmages are history and it's time to see if this Auburn team is prepared to take the next step towards greatness.
The depth charts have been established and the pieces are in place for another grand season of college football. The 2010 Auburn Tigers will have an interesting combination of senior leadership and talented freshmen waiting for their opportunity to make an impact. This team has plenty of potential written all over it, but preparation, execution and effort will decide its destiny.
Auburn 44, Arkansas State 16
Around the SEC:
Alabama over San Jose State by 30
Arkansas over Tennessee Tech by 35
LSU over North Carolina by 6
Mississippi State over Memphis by 13
Ole Miss over Jacksonville by 23
Florida over Miami, Ohio by 35
Georgia over UL-Lafayette by 31
Louisville over Kentucky by 6
South Carolina over Southern Miss by 14
Tennessee over UT-Martin by 24
Northwestern over Vanderbilt by 11