USA Today/John Reed

Know Your Foe: Five Questions on Auburn Tigers Entering Kentucky Matchup

In this AllWildcats feature, Inside The Auburn Tigers beat writer Jason Caldwell answers five questions about Gus Malzahn's team as it makes its way to Lexington for a Thursday night SEC showdown at Commonwealth Stadium.

1. Auburn has not played to its lofty preseason expectations. What have been some of the primary factors that have led to the disappointing start? Assuming the quarterback play has been a big one. 
No question the play of the quarterbacks has been a big issue, especially that of Jeremy Johnson. He was expected to be a big-time player for the Tigers this season after showing glimpses of being really good the last two years, but it wasn't to be early in 2015. Sean White has been solid, but hasn't been asked to do too much in his two starts with Auburn focusing on running the football. In addition to the quarterback play another factor that has kept this team from reaching its potential is a lack of playmaking ability on defense. The loss of Carl Lawson after one half of play in the opener has been a huge blow for Will Muschamp's defense.
2. Gus Malzahn is known for his high-tempo offense and wanting to play at a breakneck pace. Has the quarterback situation prevented him from doing that this year? Has it placed extra stress on the defense?
The lack of consistency at quarterback has been one factor for Auburn's struggles in getting the pace up to speed, but the running game hasn't been as strong in the first half of games and that's where the speed comes from for the Tigers. Too many negative plays on first downs (penalties and lost yardage) have hamstrung this offense so far and been another factor for the disappointing start.
3. Who is the player that needs to have a breakout game Thursday night in order for Auburn to win?
There are about a dozen of those guys on this team at the moment, but I'll pick one on each side of the ball. On offense the quarterback is obvious, but wide receiver Ricardo Louis has to become more involved and is a true big-play threat. Defensively, the guy is Cassanova McKinzy. Moving to the Buck position from linebacker, McKinzy has to bring more pass rush for the Tigers and that's a must for this defense to improve. 
4. What's a matchup that concerns the Tigers?
I think it has to be Patrick Towles. He's a very capable runner in addition to his passing skills and running quarterbacks have been poison for this Auburn defense so far this year. The Tigers have to get pressure up the middle on Towles and try to create negative plays, but too much pressure in the wrong spots could give Towles running room and make for some big plays for the Wildcats. Collapsing the pocket from the inside is the perfect scenario for Auburn, something they haven't done since the first half of the Louisville game.
5. Most teams are dinged up a bit at this time of year. Any major injuries for Auburn right now that could affect this game?
Coming off a bye week actually has this team pretty healthy coming into the game. The Tigers should get linebacker Tre Williams back as well as safety Tim Irvin, two players that have played a whole lot already this season. With Lawson traveling but not expected back just yet the key injury is still in play for this team. 

AllWildcats Top Stories