The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

and 6 months ago

Crimson Tide makes history, finishes greatest SEC season ever at No. 1

(YHN)

The Alabama Crimson Tide capped the greatest SEC season ever with its win over Florida in Atlanta, and the Tide is now only two games away from completing its submission into the discussion of greatest teams in college football history.

Alabama’s dominance this season can be summarized by the fact that DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones and Najee Harris are deserving of a 1-2-3 finish in the race for the Heisman Trophy.

While the Tide awaits news of its semifinal opponent in the college football playoff, coaches, players and fans of the program can bask in its 11-0 record in SEC play, a feat never before accomplished.

So it is no surprise that Alabama continues its permanent residence at No. 1.

Here is how our experts voted on their ballots.

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Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1) Alabama
2) Clemson
3) Ohio State
4) Texas A&M
5) Notre Dame
6) Cincinnati
7) Oklahoma
8) Florida

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1) Alabama
2) Clemson
3) Texas A&M
4) Ohio State
5) Notre Dame
6) Cincinnati
7) Oklahoma
8) Florida

‘Greatest ever’ describes the biggest news in college football this weekend

(YH)

The Alabama Crimson Tide just completed the greatest regular season in college football history with a first-ever 10-0 record in SEC play. The Tide dominated each of its opponents, and no game seemed even remotely in doubt.

On the offensive side of the ball, Mac Jones has put together the greatest season of any quarterback in the program’s storied history. His go-to target, DeVonta Smith, could end up being regarded as the greatest wide receiver to ever suit up for the Tide.

Alabama now heads to Atlanta, and then the College Football Playoff, looking to complete the greatest season in college football history.

On the other side of the state, Auburn University made the move to fire the greatest coach in its program’s history. In announcing Gus Malzahn’s termination, Auburn let go of a coach who averaged nearly nine wins per season and totaled 39 conference victories in his eight seasons leading the program.

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Malzahn had eight wins against top-10 teams and was the only active head coach in the nation to have three wins over Nick Saban. His offenses at Auburn included five 1,000-yard rushers.

The strength of Auburn’s schedule during his eight years may be the toughest run of games for any single head coach in college football history.

Names of replacements being bandied about in the early stages of the search include Mario Cristobal, Hugh Freeze, Dan Quinn, Billy Napier, Scott Satterfield, Brent Venables, Tony Elliott, Bill O’Brien and Mike Gundy.

Here are our experts’ ballots for this week’s power rankings.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Cincinnati
7. USC
8. Florida

The lowdown: What Alabama is doing under head coach Nick Saban this year is remarkable. Hearing so many other coaches lament the struggles of 2020 (which are very real) and then watching Alabama dismantle opponent after opponent creates a huge dissonance. Even on a day when the Tide’s passing attack was grounded, Alabama returned to their traditional formula of dominant defense, special teams and rushing en route to a seven touchdown conference win. Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State are the only teams in the country that might be able to stay within two scores of Alabama… maybe.

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Cincinnati
7. USC
8. Coastal Carolina

The lowdown: Game cancellations due to COVID-19 made for another weird weekend with just a few games, but that didn’t stop some CFB excitement from unfolding.

Florida’s loss to LSU shook things up this week in the power rankings, knocking the Gators out of the top eight and subsequently making the SEC Championship game less exciting while giving Texas A&M a very legitimate shot to make the final four.

Additionally, Miami fell out of the power rankings after North Carolina smoked them. Coastal Carolina—still undefeated—had a great win against a solid Troy team; therefore, they slide into the No. 8 spot.

Speaking of sliding in, USC also slid into the rankings for the first time after their fifth game and a decisive win against UCLA.

6 months ago

Auburn outlasts Mississippi State, wins 24-10

Auburn Football/Twitter

This game put the idea that “any win is a good win” to the test. The first half of the contest between Auburn and Mississippi State surely gave many fans flashbacks to the 2008 game between the teams that finished in a 3-2 Tigers victory. Neither team was able to put any semblance of consistent offense together early in the game, and it did not improve much by the time the clock hit all zeros on Saturday night.

Surely the respective defenses deserve credit for frustrating the opposing offenses, but it definitely seemed like much of the struggle to score points was offensive self-sabotage for both the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Between Mississippi State’s freshman quarterback forcing two ill-advised interceptions and Auburn’s insistence on passing the ball even though it was almost completely ineffective (when tailback Tank Bigsby averaged over seven yards per carry), points were few and far between.

Eventually the Auburn offense was able to put together two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to pull away from Mississippi State and secure a 24-10 win on the road.

Take a look below at the three things that sealed a much needed win for the Auburn Tigers:

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Anders Carlson splits the uprights
Auburn kicker Anders Carlson has been one of the team’s most consistent and called upon players this season. The junior kicker delivered for the Tigers once again in Starkville, Mississippi. Auburn was unable to score touchdowns on multiple possessions that reached deep into Mississippi State territory in the first half.

Thankfully for the Tigers, Mississippi State was unable to score as well, and Carlson was able to successfully convert each of his three field goal attempts in the game (27, 37 and 45 yards). If Carlson had missed even one of the kicks, especially early in the game, that would have made a rough start for Auburn a potentially disastrous one.

Tank Bigsby shines again
Auburn’s offense has struggled for most of the season, and tonight was no exception. However, just like what we have seen previously, Auburn’s freshman phenom running back Tank Bigsby stole the show again.

Bigsby was the only offensive player able to provide any kind of spark until late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Bo Nix was able to connect with receiver Seth Williams a couple of times for big plays. Had Bigsby not been on the field, it is likely that those big pass plays from Nix to Williams would not have been enough to win the game.

Bigsby has been nursing a hip injury in recent weeks but looked to be close to 100% tonight for the first time in a while, running over, around and through defenders on his way to 192 yards on the ground. The stability that the star tailback provided for the offense through the first three quarters when quite literally nothing else was working is what allowed the team to stay afloat until Nix found Williams for a 32-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Tank Bigsby on The Plains, but I shudder to think what the offense would have looked like this season had he not been in the backfield.

The defense answered the call
Auburn’s defensive performance in the last two games against Alabama and Texas A&M were extremely disappointing. Fair or not, that side of the ball has carried Auburn’s team for the last few years. So, when Alabama hung 42 on the Tigers’ defense (and it easily could have been more), only to be followed up with Texas A&M rushing for more than 300 yards, it was time to see if Auburn’s defense had any fight left.

They answered that question with a resounding “yes.” Mississippi State is not a particularly good offensive football team, and the Tigers’ defense made them look like it. Auburn’s defensive front got more pass rush and pressure tonight on the Bulldogs than in any conference game in recent memory. The defense was able to sack Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers six times and hit him several times more.

Auburn’s ability to make the freshman quarterback uncomfortable also directly led to the two interceptions he threw because of being pressured into bad decisions. The defense arrived in Starkville with the intent to deliver the message that they had not quit on this year and planned on doling out punishment on Bulldog backs and receivers. The Tigers’ defense did just that in a great performance that led to a sixth Auburn win on the year.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

6 months ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Mississippi State edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Auburn Tigers travel to Mississippi State (2-6) to face the Bulldogs for the final game of their 2020 regular season schedule. The Tigers are searching for answers following back to back double-digit losses against Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively. Every conference game is a must-win, but there are lots of murmurs that an Auburn loss today could bring about the end of the Gus Malzahn era on The Plains.

Mississippi State did not have a game last week due to COVID-19 protocols, so the Bulldogs will be back in action for the first time in a couple of weeks. After a shocking (at the time) opening week win over LSU, Mississippi State has managed only one other win in new head coach Mike Leach’s first season.

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The Bulldogs have been set back by COVID-19 more than any other program in the SEC this year, have installed a brand new offense, and have also made a change of starting quarterbacks midway through the campaign. All of those factors have led to a rocky season for the Bulldogs.

Today, we look at three things that will decide which team will break a two-game losing streak and which squad will drop its third straight SEC matchup.

Air Raid
Mississippi State hired coach Mike Leach this offseason to come to Starkville and revamp the Bulldogs’ program. Leach is one of the most well-known practitioners of the Air Raid offense that was popularized by Hal Mumme at Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. In the years since, many Mumme proteges have taken the plan elsewhere to varying degrees of success (Auburn fans will likely remember the brief Tony Franklin experience).

Leach’s gameplan against Auburn will be the same as it is against every other opponent — throw the football … a lot. The Bulldogs do not even pretend to be interested in running the ball in the Air Raid system, averaging only 16 carries per game. Instead, Mississippi State attempts an average of 55 passes each game, many of which are very short, quick throws that take the place of a traditional rushing attack.

Auburn’s defense must be prepared to make one-on-one tackles in space consistently and to be disciplined in coverage all night to limit big plays. If the Tigers can keep the ball in front of them and rally to tackle the ball carriers, making the Bulldogs repeat long drives, they will have a great opportunity to shut down Mississippi State’s offense.

Will Rogers
Mississippi State’s starting quarterback is a freshman named Will Rogers. Rogers did not play at all in the Bulldogs’ first two contests, began getting snaps over games three through five, and has been the starter in their last three matchups. Rogers got off to a slow start upon seeing the field early in the year, which is expected for a freshman quarterback.

However, in his last three games (all starts), Rogers is completing 76% of his passes on 53 attempts per game. Over that same stretch, he has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions. The freshman quarterback has certainly settled into a nice rhythm recently, and Mike Leach is tailoring his approach to Rogers’ strengths. It will be important for Auburn to disrupt the Bulldogs’ timing and make Rogers uncomfortable to snuff out the Mississippi State passing attack.

Auburn on the road
It is no secret that the Tigers have struggled away from the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium under coach Gus Malzahn. Almost every metric points to much worse production and results on the road as compared to home games.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix gets specifically drawn into this narrative, whether fair or not. It seems that a good strategy to settle Nix and the entire team into this road game would be to get the rushing offense rolling, with Nix as a key component of the attack. Channeling Nix’s desire to run as opposed to fleeing pass rushers could be a big factor in Auburn’s offense scoring enough points to win in Starkville.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

6 months ago

Three numbers, two notes, one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. Texas A&M

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

With the loss to Texas A&M, Auburn falls to 5-4 on the season. That is pretty disappointing in itself, but the way that it happened is even tougher to swallow. The Tigers were unable to impede the Aggie offense all day, yet improbably found themselves with a 20-14 lead in the third quarter.

It was the fourth quarter that gave Auburn problems. Texas A&M outscored Auburn 17-0 in the final frame to secure a 31-20 victory on the road to continue their hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. Auburn, on the other hand, lost to another ranked opponent by double digits and assured its seventh consecutive season with at least four losses.

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Take a look below at three numbers, two notes and a quote that shed more light on Texas A&M’s 31-20 defeat of Auburn.

Three numbers

313
The Texas A&M Aggies rushed for 313 yards on 47 carries against Auburn on Saturday. It was clear from the first drive that the Aggies intended to establish the running game, and they did it mercilessly all day. The Tigers defense has struggled all year against talented teams, but watching the Aggies gash Auburn repeatedly for big gains was jarring.

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was unable to throw anything at Texas A&M that made them uncomfortable even a little. The Aggies rolled up over 500 yards of total offense and had the ball for 38 of the 60 minutes. It was a ruthless ground attack from A&M that laid the foundation for their victory.

6.0
Auburn averaged six yards per pass attempt against Texas A&M. For comparison, the Tigers averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the day. Generally, military academies or others committed to the triple option are the only offenses where yards per rush are higher than yards per pass.

It has been the case all year, but the Tigers’ inability to find any consistent passing attack against good opponents is what makes this offense below average. That was certainly the case against Texas A&M. Auburn has thrown just one touchdown, compared to six interceptions combined in their four losses. In an era where the passing game is king, Auburn’s struggles throwing the ball doomed the offense to another low-scoring performance.

3
Texas A&M ran 70 offensive plays against Auburn, and the Tigers managed to force three tackles for loss. This demonstrates even further the degree to which A&M had success. Auburn managed one sack on 23 pass attempts and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage on 47 rushes.

The Tigers’ defensive front was rarely ever able to push A&M backwards and suffered a pummeling as a result. It is tough to play defense right now, and no one expects shutouts against good teams. But, to give yourself a chance on defense, you have to create negative plays for the opponent and Auburn did not do it nearly enough against the Aggies.

Two notes

Bo needs to run
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix’s most consistent contribution to the offense right now is using his legs. Nix has been effective in the rushing attack all year, but the offensive coaches seem hesitant to use him the same way as someone like Nick Marshall in the past.

Nix is not the dynamic athlete that Marshall was, but he is plenty fast and strong enough to make his mark on the game rushing the ball. Against the Aggies, Nix rushed for 49 yards and both Tigers’ touchdowns for the game. It has been confounding why Auburn has not asked Nix to run more this season, but it should be a feature of the offense the rest of the season.

Tough breaks
It has already been addressed repeatedly, but Auburn’s defense had a really tough day. With that being said, if two plays go differently, it may have been a different game. Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain was involved in both, which is no surprise because he is around the ball more frequently than any Auburn player in recent history.

Early in the game, McClain was able to force Texas A&M tailback Isaiah Spiller to fumble the ball. Unfortunately for the Tigers, no other guys in the blue jerseys were near enough to recover the ball. If Auburn had been able to generate a first quarter turnover, it could have set a different tone for the game.

Similarly, in the fourth quarter, McClain had a chance to intercept a pass from A&M quarterback Kellen Mond. Unfortunately for McClain and Auburn, the ball went through his hands and into the waiting arms of Aggie tight end Jalen Wydermeyer for the go-ahead touchdown.

Auburn needed to force turnovers to beat the Aggies and came close a couple of times. However, the inability to seal the deal on either of those takeaways meant that the Texas A&M offense rolled comfortably the whole game.

One quote

“If we’d played well, we could have beat them… They made the plays in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t,” — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn on the Tigers’ loss to Texas A&M.

The game was lost by Auburn in the fourth quarter when Texas A&M had 17 points and Auburn had only about 20 yards of offense in the same timespan. The game was on the line in the fourth quarter, and Auburn was actually in the lead.

However, over the final 15 minutes of play, the Tigers went three and out twice on offense while the Aggies put together back to back 70+ yard touchdown drives to take the lead. After that, A&M actually drove the field again and kicked a field goal to make the margin two scores with just over a minute left to play.

In the critical moments of the contest, the offense completely derailed and the defense allowed scores on all three Aggie possessions. That is how you lose games.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

and 6 months ago

Bama’s march toward the greatest season in college football history continues

(YH)

The Alabama Crimson Tide has won its last four games by a combined score of 201-33.

Yesterday it dismantled the defending national champion LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge 55-17 while putting up 650 total yards of offense. The Tide’s multiple Heisman-worthy offensive players show no signs of letting up.

Nick Saban’s team appears unstoppable and naturally sit atop this week’s Yellowhammer Power Rankings.

Here is how are experts cast their ballots.

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Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas AM
6. Florida
7. Cincinnati
8. Miami

The lowdown: Alabama remains number one after crushing Ed Orgeron’s struggling LSU team, while Notre Dame, Clemson, and Ohio State all remained steady after beating the brakes off their opponents. BYU fell out of the power rankings because of their close loss to a strong Coastal Carolina team, and Texas A&M jumped Florida due to their fourth-quarter smacking of Auburn on the road.

This upcoming week will be pivotal for Cincinnati and Miami, especially their playoff dreams, as they each have their biggest regular season games of the year.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Florida
7. Miami
8. Cincinnati

The lowdown: In an era where football is heavily skewed toward offense, it seems less likely with each passing week that there is a team in college football that can go toe to toe with the Crimson Tide. Alabama’s incredible amount of talent combined with Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s scheme is lighting the college football world on fire. Another Alabama national championship feels inevitable.

7 months ago

Texas A&M wears down Auburn, wins 31-20

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

Texas A&M came to Jordan-Hare Stadium and ended a three game losing streak against Auburn, prevailing today 31-20.

From the first drive of the game, the Aggies set the tone, driving straight down the field and taking a 7-0 lead. Auburn would actually manage to take a lead that got to as many as six points in the third quarter, although that seemed to come completely against the flow of play. The Tigers were up 20-14  with 4:16 left in the third quarter after kicker Anders Carlson made a 24-yard field goal.

However, Texas A&M would outscore Auburn 17-0 in the 4th quarter, which led to the eventual 31-20 victory for the Aggies. The eleven point margin of victory for A&M was actually probably a little bit closer than the contest actually was. The Auburn defense never came close to stopping A&M, and the Tigers’ offense underwhelmed on the day as well. Overall, it was a well-deserved loss for Auburn.

Take a below at the three factors that ultimately led to Texas A&M’s 31-20 win over the Tigers.

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A&M Offensive line dominates
The Texas A&M offense line was by far the best unit on the field today. The Aggies O-Line cleared the way for backs to rush for 313 yards on 6.7 yards per carry and only allowed one sack on 23 pass attempts. There were multiple run plays where Aggie linemen opened tractor-trailer sized holes for backs to exploit.

Auburn’s defensive front did not come close to stalemating the Aggies on many individual plays, much less on the whole for the day. The reality that A&M could line up and run straight over, around, and through the Tigers’ defense gave very little hope for Auburn to earn a win today.

Auburn’s defensive front was expected to take a step back from last year’s stellar group, but they were the limiting factor in Auburn’s loss against the Aggies.

No answer for Jalen Wydermeyer
Aggies’ sophomore tight end Jalen Wydermeyer was a matchup nightmare for Auburn today. The 6-5, 255-pound phenom was an effective blocker in the Aggies’ big day on the ground and was also their primary target in the passing game. Wydermeyer caught a 10-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring for the A&M and also scored on a tipped pass that put the Aggies ahead 21-20 in the fourth quarter.

Even aside from the touchdowns, Wydermeyer was able to consistently get open against linebackers and safeties to pick up critical catches to keep drives alive all day. There is no easy answer for how to defend a man that big and athletic, but Auburn certainly didn’t provide one today until it was too late.

Wydermeyer is a great example of how big a mismatch a good tight end can be, and hopefully the Tigers took some notes for how to use them effectively in the future.

The big break that wasn’t
The Auburn defense struggled to stop Texas A&M all day. It was apparent from the first drive that the Aggies were able to get positive yardage every time they ran the ball and were planning on giving quarterback Kellen Mond easy, low-risk pass attempts. That plan and formula were extremely effective all day.

That is why what happened with 13:31 remaining in the fourth quarter was so painful. Following a third down conversion for A&M down to the Auburn 20 yard-line (which may have actually been an incompletion but was never reviewed), Kellen Mond finally made the bad decision that Auburn was looking for all day.

Mond tried to force a pass down the seam to Jalen Wydermeyer, only for Tigers’ linebacker Zakoby McClain to step right in front of the ball for a surefire interception. Improbably, McClain merely deflected the ball instead of an interception, and it careened straight into the hands of Wydermeyer for a touchdown.

There is no way to know what would have happened had McClain held on for the interception, but it would have taken seven points off the board for the Aggies and could have led to more points for the Tigers.

Everyone who watches football knows that the oblong-shaped ball takes strange bounces, and today it went in the Aggies’ favor with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

7 months ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Texas A&M edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn welcomes the Texas A&M Aggies (6-1) to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the ninth game of their 2020 schedule. The Tigers are looking to bounce back from an uninspiring loss to Alabama, while Texas A&M hopes to continue their impressive season and make their way into the College Football Playoff.

Texas A&M is led by Jimbo Fisher, a former Auburn assistant, in his third season as the head man for the Aggies. Fisher has underwhelmed many in his first two seasons, so the success of the 2020 campaign so far has been much needed. This season the Aggies only loss was to Alabama early in the year, and they boast one of the best wins in the SEC this year, a 41-38 victory over the Florida Gators.

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Take a look at three things which will determine if Auburn can bounce back from a disappointing loss last week or if the Aggies can continue their march toward a top-4 CFP ranking.

Kellen Mond

Texas A&M’s offense is led by senior quarterback Kellen Mond. Although it is only his fourth season, it seems as if Mond has been in College Station for a decade. Over his four seasons as the Aggies’ quarterback, Mond’s performance has been something of a roller coaster ride.

Kellen Mond is certainly talented and capable of making any play that the Aggies’ coaching staff asks of him. However, it has been a lack of consistency from Mond that has put a limit on the Aggies’ ceiling the past few seasons. On days that Mond is locked in, he gives Texas A&M a very good chance to win.

Mond has not set the world on fire this year, completing only about 59% of his passes and throwing for roughly 225 yards per game. But, the big improvement in 2020 has been his ability to avoid turning the ball over, as he has only thrown two interceptions this season. Whether or not Auburn can make Kellen Mond uncomfortable and force him to make costly errors will be a determining factor in today’s matchup.

Auburn O-Line vs. Texas A&M D-Line

Auburn’s offensive line has been a question mark all season. The group had a very rough start to the year (as many expected), but seemed to find their footing and form continuity as the season moved on. However, during the Tennessee game both starting offensive tackles were injured and that has forced reshuffling of some players and an introduction of newcomers.

It is always difficult to make those changes, but the Texas A&M defensive front is not a group that you want to have to try and find answers against. The Aggies are second in the SEC in sacks per game and first in tackles for loss per game. Texas A&M has done a very good job of creating negative plays for opposing offenses all season. The Auburn offensive line must find a way to at least stalemate the the Aggies defensive line in order to have a chance to win the game.

Can Auburn slow down Isaiah Spiller?

Auburn has faced three of the top four rushers in the SEC already this season. Those three backs combined to average 118 yards per game on over 6.5 yards per carry and all scored at least one touchdown. Today, the Tigers face the rusher tied for the lead in rushing yards per game in sophomore standout tailback Isaiah Spiller.

Spiller has proven to be a strong and elusive runner that is capable of making defenders miss and also outracing defenses for breakaway plays. The Auburn defense will have their hands full against Spiller and must bounce back after a tough week against Alabama’s star running back Najee Harris. The Tigers defenders must be up for the challenge and set the tone for the team by stopping Spiller early and often if they want to emerge victorious against Texas A&M.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

7 months ago

Three numbers, two notes, and one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. Alabama

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

When it was all said and done, the final score of the 85th Iron Bowl showed a 42-13 victory for the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, if you watched the game, you know that it wasn’t actually “that close”.

The Auburn offense labored in vain all day, only able to put together a touchdown drive when the score was 42-6 and there were only five minutes left on the clock. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was unable to consistently connect with his receivers and the stable of Tiger tailbacks found there was nowhere to run in the ground game.

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The Tigers defense more than had their hands full trying to slow down the nation’s best offense. Alabama scored 42 points on only 53 offensive plays and were able to get whatever they wanted in the passing game, especially.

Below we take a look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that provide details on what went wrong for the Tigers in their 42-13 defeat against Alabama.

Three numbers

11.6
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones averaged 11.6 yards per pass attempt on Saturday against Auburn. In fairness to the Tigers defense, that number is very close to what Jones averages on the season (which is an incredible number and a testament to how great he and the Alabama offense have been this year). So, in a way, Auburn’s defense “held” Mac Jones and Alabama to their average.

The issue is that if Auburn was going to have any chance at winning, the defense (and especially pass defense) needed to have their best game of the season and slow Alabama down considerably. Instead, Jones threw for over 300 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Alabama’s ability to pick apart Auburn through the air laid the groundwork for the Crimson Tide’s big victory.

0
Alabama attempted zero field goals against Auburn in the 85th Iron Bowl. Yes, one could insert “Bama kicker” joke here, but the point is that there was no need. The Crimson Tide offense marched up and down the field against Auburn, and straight into the endzone repeatedly.

There was no getting bogged down and settling for field goals for Alabama when they faced Auburn. The Crimson Tide struck for touchdowns on multiple big plays and also managed to find the endzone when in the redzone. Auburn needed to force turnovers and field goal attempts from Alabama to have a chance — they were unable to do either.

2.9
Auburn averaged 2.9 yards per rush in the loss to Alabama. That would be a problem for any team, but this Auburn squad must be able to run the ball effectively to have an opportunity to win games. The Tigers’ passing game is not polished enough to carry the team to victory, so the running attack has to be able to ease that burden.

Against Alabama, Auburn was unable to get any rushing game going until they were losing by 36 points with just a few minutes remaining in the game. Prior to the last two (largely meaningless) drives of the game, Auburn averaged even less than 2.9 yards per carry. Just like previously against Georgia this year, Auburn’s offense was unable to make anything happen on the ground, which led to nothing happening on offense period in a rivalry game on the road.

Two notes

There’s no place like home
“There’s no place like home” is most famously attributed to Dorothy, the protagonist from The Wizard of Oz. However, it also has to be what Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn believes. Life has been very difficult for Malzahn away from Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. In the 2020 season Auburn has lost three games, and each of them have been on the road. There have been two blowout losses to rivals and an inexplicable defeat to South Carolina who later fired their coach during the season.

It would be one thing if this year was an anomaly. Unfortunately, Auburn fans know better. In Gus Malzahn’s tenure as head coach, Auburn is now 0-12 combined when playing in Baton Rouge, Athens and Tuscaloosa, and many of those losses have not been competitive. As hard as that is to believe, it has been even harder to watch.

Bama was just better
It would not have mattered where this iteration of the Iron Bowl was played, as Alabama was bound to win easily. The Crimson Tide, led by coach Steve Sarkisian, seemed to have a great plan of attack and executed it well for sure.

But what stood out more was simply that Alabama’s players dominated Auburn. Auburn’s defense had no answer for superstar receiver Devonta Smith and seemingly little desire to get in workhorse tailback Najee Harris’ way. Alabama’s defense completely stymied every Auburn offensive player other than receiver Anthony Schwartz.

This Alabama victory over Auburn was more dominant than any recent matchup in the series aside from the 49-0 drubbing in 2012.

One quote

“You look at the first quarter, and we came out flat. You can’t come out flat against a team like that on the road. “Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on his team’s performance against Alabama.

Malzahn’s assessment of the situation seems accurate. Yet one wonders how it is possible. Surely the Tigers’ players knew what they were up against, but it is very unlike Auburn teams to be anything other than intense, aggressive and prideful. If that was not the case in Tuscaloosa last week against their biggest rival, then that raises questions that only people inside the Auburn athletic complex can answer.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

and 7 months ago

College football power rankings — Tide have little left to prove

(YHN)

The Alabama Crimson Tide proved once again that it is the best team in the country with a dominant win over Auburn.

A rescheduled game against LSU is up next. The trip to Baton Rouge presents the Tide with another opportunity to build its case that it is in the midst of putting together the greatest season in college football history.

Meanwhile, the Auburn Tigers look to rebound against Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare, a game for which the Aggies may very well end up on upset alert.

Here are our experts’ ballots.

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Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. Florida
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas A&M
8. BYU

The lowdown: The world has finally returned to normal now that the Iron Bowl trophy rests in Title Town. Yesterday, Mac Jones flexed his Heisman muscle, throwing for five touchdowns while Gus Malzahn’s hot seat has never been hotter.

The Florida Gators took care of business against Kentucky, and Notre Dame made a strong case for staying at number two with their decisive win on the road at North Carolina. It will be awesome to see how the SEC plays out moving forward, especially between Texas A&M and a Florida team which the Aggies have already beaten.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Florida
6. Texas A&M
7. BYU
8. Miami

The lowdown: Alabama made easy work of Auburn, Notre Dame looked impressive in a win against a quality opponent in North Carolina, Clemson is going to be very hard to beat if Trevor Lawrence is playing, and Ohio State is getting into the dangerous territory of not playing enough games this year. The Buckeyes are a talented team that is going to be under immense pressure to play the rest of the matchups on their schedule in order to be in consideration for the playoffs.

7 months ago

Bama blows out Auburn 42-13 in 2020 Iron Bowl

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

The much better team won by a very big margin in the 85th Iron Bowl. Even though legendary Alabama head coach Nick Saban was unable to be on the sidelines due to COVID-19 protocols, the Crimson Tide dominated the Tigers in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Both teams got off to a slow start as the defenses forced punts from the opposing offenses.

However, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones found superstar wide receiver Devonta Smith behind the Auburn defense for a 66-yard touchdown with five minutes left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead and the Crimson Tide never looked back.

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The Auburn offense was unable to get much of anything going against the Crimson Tide defense and the Alabama offense ran roughshod over the Tigers defense for the entirety of the matchup. Auburn spent the whole day searching for answers that Alabama clearly had.

Take a look at three things that led to Alabama blowing out Auburn 42-13.

Mac vs. Bo
The quarterbacks were never on the field at the same time and certainly didn’t directly compete against one another, but Alabama’s Mac Jones and Auburn’s Bo Nix had wildly different experiences today. Mac Jones was able to continue his stellar play in this 2020 season, completing 18 of 26 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns. Clearly it helps that Jones is surrounded by outstanding talent, but he delivered very accurate passes all over the field against the Tigers defense. It was yet another spectacular performance by Mac Jones.

On the other side of the field, Auburn’s Bo Nix struggled mightily once again on the road. Outside the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium, Nix has been unable to get comfortable, and that continued in Tuscaloosa against the Crimson Tide tonight. Nix had multiple turnovers, few big plays and was unable to lead the offense into the endzone until late in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game had already been decided. Nix did deliver one beautiful, deep ball that should have been a touchdown (was dropped), but that was the only real big-play that Auburn threatened on the day.

Devonta dominates
Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith was the most dominant player on the field during the 2020 Iron Bowl. Alabama has a roster full of future NFL players, but Smith stood out above them all today. Devonta Smith did damage catching screen passes, slants and deep balls. Smith put on a clinic that NFL scouts are sure to love. Auburn was unable to account for Smith even when attempting to double team him.

The Crimson Tide have stand outs at every position group (including other wide receivers), but Devonta Smith may be the player who gets picked by the NFL the earliest, and he showed why in his seven catch, 171-yard performance against Auburn.

Bama’s defense delivers
The Crimson Tide offense understandably gets most of the headlines, but the Alabama defense continued an impressive streak of holding opponents without a touchdown for the third game in a row until Auburn scored in garbage time with Alabama leading 42-6.

The Alabama defense didn’t allow Auburn to have success running the ball until the final five minutes of the game when the result was nowhere near in doubt. Even including those final two drives, Auburn was still held to a paltry 2.9 yards per carry for the contest.

Crimson Tide defenders also managed to intercept two of Bo Nix’s passes, allowed no passing touchdowns and generally just frustrated the Tigers’ quarterback. There were very few easy passes for Nix to complete and the Bama defense dodged the one dangerous bullet when Auburn’s Seth Williams dropped a would-be touchdown pass while behind the Crimson Tide defenders. T

The Crimson Tide defense held up its end of the bargain against the Tigers and helped secure an easy victory for Alabama.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

7 months ago

What to watch: Iron Bowl edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn and Alabama face off for the 85th edition of the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa today. Many things have changed in 2020, including some circumstances around this game, but the Tigers and Crimson Tide will kick off in their traditional Saturday-after-Thanksgiving slot.

Alabama enters the contest 7-0, ranked number one in the country and boasting the most dynamic offense in college football. The Tigers are 5-2 on the season, have recently moved into the Top 25 rankings at No. 22 and are currently on a three game winning streak.

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Alabama is favored by more than three touchdowns at home by those who make odds for a living, and many people will feel comfortable in picking the Tide to win by more than that. Auburn has struggled on the road in general this season and has not won in Tuscaloosa since Cam Newton was taking snaps for the Tigers. The biggest storyline heading into the game is that Alabama head coach Nick Saban will not be able to be on the sideline for the matchup because of a positive COVID-19 test earlier in the week.

Take a look at how Nick Saban’s absence and two other factors may play into the out come of the 85th Iron Bowl today:

Saban gets sidelined

Saban was on track to miss a game due to COVID-19 earlier in the season already against Georgia. However, it was determined that Saban had a false positive test, so he was able to coach for the Crimson Tide that week. This time Saban’s positive test result was apparently correct as he exhibited some “very mild symptoms” to go along with the test result. Thankfully, Saban seems to be doing well and is currently expected to make a full recovery.

Yet, due to COVID-19 protocols, he will not be on the sideline for the game against Auburn. The Alabama staff has been aware of this reality since Wednesday, so that has given them time to make arrangements. Saban would be the first to tell you that he hasn’t made a block or tackle in several decades, so Alabama’s success is all about what the players do on Saturdays with the coaching that they have received during the week.

He is, of course, right about that — but it will no doubt be strange for the team to hear a voice other than Saban’s leading the charge for the Crimson Tide this week. How will the players respond? Will interim head coach Steve Sarkisian be able to manage game situations well and bring out consistent play like Saban? My guess is the Alabama players will respond fine. Sarkisian has been a head coach before, so he won’t be overwhelmed. But, this is definitely something to watch, as someone other than Saban leads the Tide into a game for the first time since 2006.

Can Auburn’s defensive line disrupt Alabama?

Alabama’s offense leads the SEC in scoring at more than 49 points per game. The offense is led by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris (who is likely to leave Alabama as their all-time rushing leader) and wide receiver Devonta Smith, who is the Crimson Tide’s career leader in touchdown receptions.

So, it is sufficient to say that this group is extremely talented and providing historic production. The guys who often get overlooked in this run of domination is the Alabama offensive linemen, who have done a really good job of protecting Jones and opening lanes for Harris and company to work in the running game.

In order for Auburn to have a chance at slowing down the Crimson Tide offense, the Tigers’ defensive front is going to have to play by far its best game of the season. Auburn must be able to generate pressure and make Jones uncomfortable in passing situations in hopes of disrupting Bama’s offense.

This has not been one of Auburn’s strengths on defense this year, so defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will likely have to go deep into his bag of tricks to try and pull out some things that confound Jones and the offensive line if the Tigers are going to hold the Crimson Tide to under 35 points for the first time in over 20 games.

Auburn’s rushing attack

In order for Auburn to be in position to win against Alabama, the Tigers must be able to run the ball with consistency. A strong Auburn ground game would open up the Tigers’ passing attack and help control the game clock, limiting Alabama’s offensive possessions.

The potential trouble with this (in addition to the fact that Alabama is always good) is that we do not know the status of at least three key players in Auburn’s running game. Standout tailback Tank Bigsby and two starting offensive linemen, Alec Jackson and Brodarious Hamm, exited the game against Tennessee with injuries and did not return in the Tigers’ last game.

It is very unlikely that these athletes will be at full strength, if available at all, against Alabama. So, it is critical that the next players on the depth chart are ready to go and that offensive coaches develop a plan that will minimize personnel losses if Auburn is going to compete in this year’s Iron Bowl.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

7 months ago

Three numbers, two notes, one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs Tennessee

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

The Auburn Tigers defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 30-17 to bring their season record to 5-2 through seven games. It was a win that Auburn needed badly and a loss that now means Tennessee has dropped five consecutive games. Although the Tigers won by a comfortable margin, this was far from a dominant performance against the Vols.

Auburn got off to a slow start, which led to Tennessee taking a 10-0 lead. The Tigers did not put any points on the board until a couple of minutes into the second quarter. However, once that happened, things seemingly started breaking for Auburn and away from Tennessee for the remainder of the game.

850

Take a look at three numbers, two notes and a quote that show what happened in Auburn’s 30-17 victory over Tennessee.

Three numbers

15 of 19
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix did not play a perfect game, or even his best game of the season against Tennessee. In fact, he threw his first interception of the season at home while trying to force a throw to receiver Anthony Schwartz in the endzone.

But, following that ill-advised throw, Nix completed 15 of his 19 final pass attempts including at 54-yard touchdown pass to Schwartz. Bo Nix was able to bounce back from a costly error early in the game and manufacture a solid performance that led to a big SEC win. Auburn will need that kind of resiliency from Nix for the rest of the year to win the games left on the schedule.

100
Auburn defensive back Smoke Monday returned an interception thrown by Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano 100 yards for a Tiger touchdown to extend Auburn’s lead to 20-10. This was a huge play for momentum in the game because Tennessee had run the ball every play of the drive and marched straight down the field.

So, when Tennessee chose to put the ball in the air in the redzone, that was a win for the Tigers’ defense by itself. Monday made a great break on the ball, managed to bring in a leaping interception, and sprinted away 100 yards to find paydirt.

This play was at least a 10-point swing since Tennessee lost out on a short field goal opportunity and Auburn scored a touchdown in a matter of about 15 seconds. Once Auburn gained the 10-point lead from the pick six, the Tigers never looked back.

3/3
Auburn’s junior kicker Anders Carlson came up big once again for the Tigers in the win over Tennessee. Carlson was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, including one kick from 50 yards. Carlson’s ability to deliver against the Volunteers shone especially bright in comparison to his Tennessee kicking counterpart Brett Cimaglia.

Cimaglia has been a solid kicker for years on Rocky Top. However, his two missed kicks against Auburn (especially the 37-yard attempt in the 4th quarter) proved costly. The fact that Carlson didn’t miss and Cimaglia was errant twice led to an outcome that could have been very different if the roles were reversed.

Two notes

Big plays made the difference
Tennessee outgained Auburn 464 to 385 in total yardage. Tennessee had fewer penalties and penalty yardage than Auburn. Tennessee had more first downs and time of possession in the contest against Auburn. Both teams had just one turnover in the game, respectively.

So, how did Auburn win by 13 points? Tennessee missed two field goal attempts, while Auburn converted on all three attempts. Both quarterbacks threw interceptions in the redzone, but Tennessee managed a touchback while Auburn scored a touchdown on the play. Tennessee had a lot of successful offensive plays, but none of them gained more than 33 yards. The longest offensive play of the game was Nix to Schwartz for 54 yards for a touchdown.

Long story short — Tennessee was effective, but not explosive against Auburn. Meanwhile, the Tigers were not dominant, but were more successful in high-leverage situations. Those realities led to a 30-17 win for Auburn.

Auburn seemingly dodged COVID, but not injuries
It was encouraging to see that no one missed the game against Tennessee due to COVID-19 tests or procedures. So, everyone who has been a key player this year was able to compete once again.

But, as the game wore on, a number of Auburn players left the game due to injury and did not finish the game. Talented running back Tank Bigsby got banged up and left the game and both starting offensive tackles, Alec Jackson and Brodarious Hamm, exited the contest with injuries as well.

Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, but the Tigers will need all hands on deck for the rest of the season, beginning with Alabama this week.

One quote

“That ain’t my job, guys. My job is to coach. If you want to ask me a football question, ask me a football question.” – Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt in response to questions about the direction of the Tennessee program.

I appreciate the sentiment from Pruitt following the game if he is trying to emphasize that he is not concerned with what people outside of their building think. I also understand that there are no good questions to answer when you have just lost your fifth conference game in a row.

However, as the head coach of an SEC football program, it is very likely that your job is much more about the “direction of the program” than about any one play call or scheme. Today’s coaches in the SEC are much more CEOs than play callers on the whole. That can be a very hard transition to make (Auburn’s head coach knows this as well as anyone), but it is one that Pruitt needs to embrace quickly.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

7 months ago

Crimson Tide continues to widen the gap between them and the field

(YHN)

The longer this season goes, the more difficult it is to see anyone beating this Alabama squad.

Maybe it is poetic that the only thing that remained the same in 2020 is that Nick Saban’s squad is the best you will find in college football. Aside from Alabama, the most interesting thing happening is BYU, Cincinnati, and Coastal Carolina creeping closer and closer to the top 5.

Here are this week’s ballots.

28

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. Florida
6. Texas A&M
7. BYU
8. Oregon

Yellowhammer News staff ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
4. Florida
5. Clemson
6. BYU
7. Texas A&M
8. Oregon

7 months ago

Three takeaways from Auburn’s win over Tennessee

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

Auburn looked like a team that had not played in 21 days. The visiting Tennessee Volunteers managed to jump out to a 10-0 lead in the first half on the road. The Vols were able to run the ball effectively, and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano found Tennessee receivers on short passes that were easy completions with room to run. Much of that did not change over the course of the contest, but the Auburn offense woke up, and the Tigers’ defense tightened in the redzone, which led to a comfortable win for the home team when it was all said and done.

The game was closely contested until Auburn defensive back Smoke Monday intercepted a pass in his own endzone which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. That score put the Tigers ahead 20-10, and Auburn never looked back from that point. Auburn eventually took control of the game and emerged as victors by a final score of 30-17.

Auburn earned a crucial win, and Tennessee dropped their fifth game in a row.

Here are three takeaways from the Tigers’ fifth win of the 2020 season.

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Bend but don’t break approach worked for Auburn’s defense

The Tennessee offense had a very productive day against the Auburn defense. This was especially true running the ball, as the Vols racked up 222 yards on the ground and averaged well over 5 yards per carry. The Volunteers talented running back Eric Gray gained over 170 yards on the ground by himself, and Auburn rarely had an answer for him. The Tigers defense only gave up one big run, but were consistently gashed for positive yardage on the night.

Similarly, Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had a very effective performance and had his team in position to steal a road victory until throwing the costly interception to Monday.

So, how did Tennessee accrue nearly 500 yards of total offense, only punt twice and end up with only 17 points? Because for all of the yardage allowed by Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s group, once the Vols reached Tiger territory, the defense was able to turn Tennessee away with no points on three occasions.

In addition to the huge interception by Smoke Monday, the Tigers defense also forced two field goal attempts that the Volunteers missed. Those three possessions that Tennessee moved the ball deep into Auburn territory, and came away with zero points, are what led to a comfortable Auburn victory.

Schwartz strikes again

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and speedster wide receiver Anthony Schwartz have both been really important factors in the Tigers’ offense the last two seasons. Schwartz has compiled over 80 catches across those two campaigns with all of the throws coming from Nix. So, the two players have clearly been able to connect on a regular basis.

However, an image that Auburn fans may have a difficult time shaking is that of Schwartz running deep down the field (often behind all of the defenders) and the ball thrown by Nix landing somewhere that is uncatchable. Well, against LSU a few weeks ago, Nix found Schwartz on a deep pass that turned into a 91 yard touchdown reception. That was a great sign, but the game was already in hand at the time the play occurred.

On Saturday night, Nix delivered a beautiful deep ball to Schwartz again, this time for a 54-yard score that Auburn desperately needed early in the second quarter. Auburn went on to outscore Tennessee 23-7 for the rest of the game, and the long strike to Schwartz is what set the Tigers on the course for victory against the Volunteers.

If Auburn can continue to get Anthony Schwartz the ball down the field, it will give them a much better chance of putting up points against the remaining opponents on their schedule.

COVID-19 ended up being a non-factor

Entering the game, it was unclear which players, if any, would be held out of the contest between Auburn and Tennessee. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters earlier in the week that the Tigers had no new positive tests this week, but had also said the week before that there had been nine players and three staffers who tested positive.

When the teams kicked off in Jordan-Hare Stadium, every starter (and backup who plays a key role) was dressed out and either on the field or sideline. That was obviously a huge boost for Auburn and allowed the Tigers to field a team that is just better than the Vols right now.

Auburn did suffer a couple of injuries during the game that hopefully will prove to be minor, but dodging the COVID-19 bullet helped pave the way for the Tigers’ much needed 30-17 win over Tennessee.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

7 months ago

What to watch: Auburn vs Tennessee edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Auburn Tigers come off their extended break to face the Tennessee Volunteers today. Auburn’s last game was their best performance of the season, a 48-11 drubbing of LSU. However, that contest was 21 days ago since the Tigers had a scheduled bye week and then an unexpected missed game against Mississippi State because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Volunteers have not been away from action as long as Auburn, but they too had a last week’s matchup postponed due to COVID-19. That could be a good thing for the Vols because it gave them extra time to prepare for Auburn following a rough loss to Arkansas in their most recent game.

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Take a look at three key factors that will play a big role in determining who comes away victorious in today’s matchup between Auburn and Tennessee in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

COVID-19 absences
Neither coaching staff has provided a list of players that will be held out of today’s game because of positive COVID-19 tests. However, it is safe to assume that both teams will be missing athletes today. It is a certainty that Auburn will have players unavailable today because of the 14-day waiting period after a positive COVID-19 test.

There is no point in speculating exactly who may or may not be held out today, but it is obvious that if either team has key players unavailable for the game, then that will be a challenge for the team to overcome. Once players take the field for warm-ups this afternoon, everyone will have a clearer picture of availabilities and absences.

Auburn’s long layoff
People often debate whether or not momentum is a real thing in sports. Sometimes people are referencing a specific stretch of an individual game, other times the context is that of a series of games in a season. As analytics have moved more front and center of sports discussion and decision making, the idea of a team creating and carrying momentum has lessened.

However, there is no doubt that confidence and success work together in a self-fulfilling cycle where some of one tends to lead to more of the other. The reason this is important today is that Auburn put together its best game of the year against LSU three weeks ago, and has not had a chance to build on it since then.

The Tigers will likely need to shake off a little bit of rust in order to recapture the rhythm and confidence that was found in the big win the last time Auburn took the field. If Auburn is unable to get off to a quick start or settle into the flow of the game early, that could provide Tennessee a chance to gain a foothold in a contest that they are double-digit underdogs.

Tennessee’s quarterback situation
The last time Tennessee made the trip to Auburn, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano led the Vols to a 30-24 victory in Jordan-Hare Stadium. That day, Guarantano passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns and proved to be the difference in the game. However, this year in Guarantano’s senior season, things have not gone very smoothly. The Volunteers enter the contest on a four-game losing streak, and three different quarterbacks got an opportunity to play in the most recent loss to Arkansas.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt declined to give much insight into the quarterback situation earlier in the week other than to say that multiple guys have gotten reps at practice and have looked good doing so. Regardless of whether Guarantano, freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey, sophomore quarterback JT Shrout or anyone else takes snaps for the Vols today, Tennessee must get good production from that critical position to have a chance to win.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

and 7 months ago

Top teams set to get back to business — Bama atop the college football world

With no matchups between top-25 teams this past Saturday, not a lot was learned about the teams at the top of the college football food chain.

The COVID-19 postponements and cancellations have taught us that the teams most able to adapt and maintain an organizational structure will rise to the top. So it is no surprise that the Alabama Crimson Tide remain at the top of our power rankings.

Here is how our experts filled out their ballots this week.

181

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
4. Clemson
5. Florida
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas A&M
8. Georgia

The lowdown: Due to COVID, Notre Dame vs. Boston College was one of if not the best game of the weekend. The Fighting Irish made a good case for the number two spot, but their underperforming history in big games forces me to continue to place them at the number three spot. Hopefully, most SEC football will be back next week.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Ohio state
3. Notre Dame
4. Florida
5. Clemson
6. Texas A&M
7. BYU
8. Oregon

The lowdown: This was the most 2020 week of college football season yet. Several of the top teams in the country had matchups postponed due to COVID-19 positive tests and contact tracing. The team that stood out the most in this weird weekend was the Florida Gators. The Florida offense led by quarterback Kyle Trask annihilated an Arkansas team that has proven to be respectable so far. Florida did lose by a field goal at Texas A&M earlier in the year, but I can’t imagine wanting to play Florida instead of A&M at this point.

and 7 months ago

Can anyone compete with Bama?

(YHN)

Last week, we compared the Crimson Tide’s roster to what we thought could be its closest competitor — Clemson. We concluded that there was a fairly substantial gap between the two. This was confirmed again last night, as Dabo Swinney’s Tigers looked helpless in the secondary and overwhelmed along the offensive line in its loss to Notre Dame.

Even in victory, the Irish do not look the part of a competitor for Alabama, either. With a backup quarterback and no NFL prospects at wide receiver for Clemson, Notre Dame’s own defense got shredded for 40 points and 440 yards in the air.

Imagine what Mac Jones and company would do to the Irish.

Next up on the competitor’s list? Ohio State.

Here’s how are experts filled out their ballots this week.

152

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
4. Clemson
5. Florida
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas AM
8. Georgia

The lowdown: Notre Dame showed out this weekend, besting Clemson in an epic overtime game, and they remain a solid contender to be in the college football playoff. The primary SEC matchup was Georgia-Florida, and Florida showed that they are back to being a power player in the SEC and will most likely advance to the SEC championship vs. (hopefully) Alabama.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
4. Clemson
5. Texas A&M
6. Florida
7. BYU
8. Oregon

The lowdown: What do we do with Clemson? Two weeks without their starting QB, who just happens to be the best in the country, and they have played two close games. Would they have won with Trevor Lawrence? We will never know. But, we do know that the SEC is shaking out with Alabama and Florida on an apparent crash course in the conference title game.

8 months ago

Three numbers, two notes, one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. LSU

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

Auburn earned its fourth win of the season by blowing out the LSU Tigers. The game got off to a bit of a slow start as neither offense was able to get much going in the first quarter. However, the Auburn defense set the tone for the rest of the contest in the second quarter by forcing two turnovers and scoring a touchdown.

Once Auburn took the lead 14-0 on a fumble return for a touchdown by Auburn defensive back Christian Tutt, the game was never in doubt again. The Tigers offense marched 99 yards for a touchdown drive to go up 21-0 right before the half, and the rout was on from there. Over the course of the second half, Auburn extended its lead to 45 points at one time, before LSU scored a garbage-time touchdown to make the final score 48-11.

902

The Auburn Tigers got a big victory over a traditional rival and seem to be finding their footing in the middle of the season. Take a look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that shine a light on exactly how Auburn beat LSU in such dominating fashion.

Three numbers

99
Auburn’s offense completed an eight-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to go up 21-0 when quarterback Bo Nix found freshman receiver Ze’Vian Capers for a nine-yard touchdown pass. This drive put the game out of reach, but maybe more importantly showed what Auburn fans have been waiting to see out of offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ group all season.

The drive mixed runs and passes effectively, spreading the ball around to multiple players. Standout freshman tailback Tank Bigsby moved Auburn from the shadow of its own goal post with a 26-yard run, and the Tigers never looked back. On the march down the field, three different players caught passes and three other players had rushing attempts.

If the Tigers can recreate the rhythm of that scoring drive moving forward, Auburn will be much better positioned to put up points week in and week out.

4
The Auburn defense managed to sack the LSU quarterbacks four times on Saturday. That is not a number that is mind-blowing, but considering that the Tigers’ defense had only accrued eight sacks in the first five games, the pass rush versus LSU was definitely the best of the season.

Not only did Auburn record four sacks, but there were many other pass attempts from LSU quarterbacks where Tigers’ defenders hurried or hit the signal-caller. No quarterback thrives while being hit and pressured, but the visiting Tigers’ young freshmen both struggled to find any success against the Auburn pass rush.

Auburn’s ability to keep LSU from converting any big plays in the passing attack meant they were never able to threaten the defense throughout the entire game.

381
For as much as LSU’s quarterbacks had a day to forget, Auburn’s Bo Nix had a day he will always remember. The difference in the game could really be boiled down to quarterback play. Auburn’s sophomore signal-caller had 381 yards combined between his passing and rushing, along with four total touchdowns. The Auburn offense was efficient through the air and effective on the ground in large part due to Nix.

As the year has progressed, the offense seems to have arrived at an identity of running the ball (Nix is now a big part of this) and throwing quick passes, often with fakes or misdirection. Both of those scenarios provide Bo Nix the ability to use his athleticism and take advantage of defenses. Expect to see this plan continue through the rest of the year.

Two notes

Auburn’s offensive line makes the difference
The Auburn offensive line turned in its best performance of the year against LSU. The Tigers did not allow a single sack and also made room for Auburn rushers to gain 206 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Auburn has now rushed for over 200 yards in four consecutive contests. As mentioned earlier, Auburn’s pass protection was great as well, especially considering that LSU led the SEC in sacks entering the game.

Auburn’s offensive line is a group that struggled early in the year and is working to forge itself into a strong unit. If the linemen can continue to improve at their current rate, the Auburn offense will have a chance to be a dynamic group.

Auburn’s secondary shuts down star WR for the second week in a row
The leader in receiving yards in the SEC is Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore. Moore has racked up 829 yards in six contests this season. Last week when Auburn faced Ole Miss, Moore was held to a paltry 16 yards on five receptions.

The SEC leader in receiving touchdowns is LSU’s standout receiver Terrace Marshall, Jr. The LSU wideout has scored nine touchdowns through the air in only five games. However, this week against Auburn, Marshall managed only 28 yards on four catches and was unable to find the endzone.

That is two weeks in a row that Auburn has faced premier talents in the conference at wide receiver and has answered the challenge with great performances. The Auburn secondary led by cornerback Roger McCreary, nickel corner Christian Tutt and safeties Jamien Sherwood and Smoke Monday deserve a lot of credit for the work they have done this year. If the Tigers pass defense can continue to be strong, that will help pass rushers continue to make a big impact over the final stretch of the season.

One quote

“I told our guys, ‘We need to rush for 200 yards against these guys, we need to stop the run, make them one-dimensional, get after the rookie quarterback and take some shots.’ Really, that was really the game plan in a nutshell.” – Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn on his team’s plan for LSU

Kudos to Gus Malzahn and company for having the right plan of attack and executing it perfectly. Auburn wanted to protect its quarterback with a strong rushing attack and conversely, the Tigers wanted to force LSU’s inexperienced signal-caller into obvious passing situations by stopping the run. That is a tried and true formula that once again proved successful for Auburn and allowed the Tigers to pick up a big win against LSU.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

and 8 months ago

College football power rankings: Bama’s dominance remains the one constant this season

(YHN)

There have been no big non-conference matchups. Teams (Michigan) have seen dramatic rises and falls in consecutive weeks. Whole teams (Wisconsin) have been put out of commission. A Heisman contender (Trevor Lawrence) tested out for his team’s biggest regular season game. A major conference (Pac-12) has yet to even step on the field.

One thing remains constant, and it seems only one thing, that is the sheer dominance of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Tide torched another opponent and are putting on the same type of show comparable to the one which earned “greatest team ever” status for LSU last year. LSU’s designation is, no doubt, in danger.

Here’s how are experts filled out their ballots this week.

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Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame
5. Georgia
6. Texas A&M
7. BYU
8. Florida

The lowdown: Teams appear to be settling into the 2020 season. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have shown that they are more talented than everyone else in the country. In the upcoming week, Notre Dame has a chance to prove where they stand against Clemson (without Trevor Lawrence), and Georgia and Florida face off in a matchup that will likely decide who represents the SEC East in the conference championship.

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas AM
8. Florida

The lowdown: Alabama continues to claim the top spot after they throttled Mississippi State, and quarterback Mac Jones’ quest for the Heisman improved after his flawless performance. Clemson appeared beatable and was nearly bumped down a spot after their mediocre, at best, performance versus Boston College. Ohio State proved to be as strong as expected with a solid win over a feisty Penn State, while Georgia looked weak in their game with Kentucky. The marquee match-up this upcoming week will be Georgia/Florida, which will decide the SEC East and will have huge ramifications on the playoff picture.

8 months ago

Auburn dominates LSU, wins 48-11

(Auburn football/Twitter)

This was the performance that everyone associated with Auburn football needed.

Head coach Gus Malzahn had lost three consecutive games to LSU, and Auburn fans would have been furious if this week was another loss to the Bayou Bengals. The Tigers’ players needed to win this game to build confidence and to give themselves an outside chance of competing for the SEC West division title.

Lastly, Auburn fans just needed something to feel good about, and a beatdown of LSU certainly goes a long way toward making that happen.

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On the field, it was as complete a team performance against an upper-echelon SEC team that Auburn has had, maybe since it defeated LSU 41-7 back in 2014. The Tigers’ defense was strong from the start as they forced two turnovers, four punts and even scored a touchdown in the first half when defensive back Christian Tutt returned a fumble 26 yards.

Auburn’s offense closed out the half with a 99-yard touchdown drive that demonstrated an attack the fans have been craving to see all season and put the Tigers up 21-0. Once Auburn scored on the first possession of the second half to go up 28-3, the game was over, even though there was still a little over 26 minutes left to play.

LSU’s offense was never able to get anything of consequence going against the Auburn defense, meanwhile, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix led Auburn to its highest scoring output of the year.

Take a look at three things that led to Auburn’s dominant 48-11 victory over LSU.

Turnovers
Auburn’s one turnover happened when standout receiver Seth Williams fumbled the ball out of the endzone as he was about to score, which gave LSU the ball back early in the game. Aside from that, the good Tigers protected the football and played a clean game. Quarterback Bo Nix played great and did not put the ball in jeopardy once on the day. The same thing can’t be said about the LSU Tigers.

LSU’s freshman quarterback TJ Finley started the game but didn’t finish it. After Finley had a very good first start of his career last week against South Caroline, he had a game that he would like to forget. Finley was eventually benched, but not before throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble while getting sacked.

The turnovers that Auburn’s defense forced in the first half directly led to the first 14 points of the game and bought time for the Auburn offense to find its footing. That is now two weeks in a row that Auburn has won the turnover margin and won the game.

Auburn won in the trenches
Auburn’s offensive line has been the most maligned position group from fans and media alike for the last few years. Some of that has been deserved, but the Tigers’ offensive line has turned in four straight performances that were good enough to win games. Today the line did a nice job of protecting Bo Nix against an LSU defense that led the SEC in sacks entering the game. Not only did they protect Nix, but the offensive line cleared the way for Auburn to rush for over 200 yards again.

On the other hand, Auburn has been known for strong defensive line units for decades. But, this year the defensive line has struggled to find consistent play with the absence of Auburn’s All-SEC defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. Against LSU, the 2020 Auburn defensive front completely shut down the opposition. The Tigers defensive line accrued three sacks, forced a fumble, came up with an interception and held LSU to under two yards per carry when the first teamers were on the field.

Auburn’s advantage up front on both sides of the ball was critical to the lopsided victory.

Bo Nix leads the way
It seems like Bo Nix and offensive coordinator Chad Morris are settling into an identity for the Tigers offense. Over the last couple of weeks the Tigers have focused the passing game on quick throws, often with some misdirection or play-action. This strategy allows Nix to quickly identify his targets and make throws that are low-risk. Nix is still trying to become more comfortable in drop back passing scenarios and throws down the field, but to his credit, he did connect on a deep shot with speedy receiver Anthony Schwartz for a 91-yard touchdown today. Hopefully, that can build Nix’s confidence and spur on the Tigers’ offense to new heights for the rest of the season.

However, the area that Nix impacts the game the most is with his legs. Today Bo Nix rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in addition to scrambles that avoid sacks and escape pressure. It seems that the Auburn quarterback wants to run, and the Tigers’ offensive staff is finding ways to use that desire constructively.

Today Bo Nix threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to the aforementioned damage he did on the ground. Nix’s incredibly productive and efficient day juxtaposed with the quarterback performance from LSU is what led to this game becoming a blowout in Auburn’s favor.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

8 months ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. LSU edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

This week, Auburn takes on the defending national champion LSU Tigers (2-2). However, this year’s version of the Bayou Bengals looks much different than last year’s juggernaut. Coming into the season, LSU knew that it had to replace its offensive and defensive coordinator along with over 15 starters that left for the NFL or graduated. That number doesn’t count All-American wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase who eventually opted out of the season before it began.

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With the major roster changes, is not a surprise that this year’s LSU team has struggled to replicate the magic from last season. So far, the Tigers’ offense has been explosive every week, but the defense has struggled mightily, leading to early-season losses to Mississippi State and Missouri. As the season has progressed, LSU finds itself having to replace even more starters due to injury, transfer and disciplinary action.

Take a look at three areas that will be critical in Auburn’s game versus LSU today:

LSU’s new face at quarterback
Whoever had to follow last season’s masterpiece of a season from LSU’s Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow was going to have a huge task in front of them. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron picked junior quarterback Myles Brennan as the man for the job. Brennan’s numbers were not quite up to Joe Burrow’s legacy, but they were incredibly impressive nonetheless. In Myles Brennan’s first three games, he managed to pass for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, in the game against Mississippi State, Brennan tore a muscle in his abdomen that has made him unavailable for action since last week.

In his absence, Orgeron turned to freshman quarterback TJ Finley as the starter last week against South Carolina. Finley played really well, passing for over 260 yards and two touchdowns, leading LSU to a 52-24 victory over the Gamecocks. According to LSU’s head coach, Finley will once again get the nod at quarterback this week as Brennan recovers. The Auburn defense must find a way to make life difficult for Finley and slow down the LSU offense to win this game.

Derek Stingley, Jr. vs. Seth Williams
Wide receiver Seth Williams has been Auburn’s most explosive playmaker this year. It is no secret to opposing defensive players and coaches that Williams has been the key to Auburn generating production from the passing attack the last two seasons. This week, Seth Williams is likely to frequently draw a matchup with the most talented defensive back in the SEC, LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr.

Stingley burst onto the scene for LSU as a true freshman last year, intercepting six passes and locking down receivers en route to a national championship. In 2020, Stingley missed the season opener due to illness, but has since returned and will be ready to go today in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It remains to be seen if Stingley will follow Williams regardless of where he aligns or not, but whichever athlete can get the better of the other when they go head to head will be key to today’s outcome.

Offensive line shakeups
Auburn and LSU both had a lot of personnel turnover on the offensive line from last year to the current campaign. However, both sets of Tigers seemed to have settled into a preferred starting group by last week. However, now Auburn and LSU both must replace one of their offensive line starters for different reasons.

Auburn’s starting right guard Brandon Council had a major knee injury versus Ole Miss that will cause him to miss the rest of the season. It appears that Auburn will call on redshirt freshman guard Keiondre Jones to step in and take over the spot vacated by Council this week.

On the other sideline, LSU’s starting left tackle at the beginning of the season was Dare Rosenthal. But, last week LSU head coach Ed Orgeron announced that Rosenthal had been suspended indefinitely from the team. So, LSU sophomore offensive tackle Cam Wire has since stepped in as the starter at that position.

It will be critical for both offensive lines this week to protect their quarterback and give room for tailbacks to operate in the rushing attack. If one offensive line is able to do this significantly better than the other, then that will likely be the determining factor in who wins today’s game.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

8 months ago

Three numbers, two notes, one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. Ole Miss

(Auburn football/Twitter)

Auburn earned a much needed SEC win on the road at Ole Miss in Week Five. The Tigers’ offense put together its most effective and efficient effort of the season. Auburn’s defense struggled to stop the Rebels’ rushing attack, but did manage to intercept two passes. Meanwhile, the special teams units for Auburn had two bad snaps that could have been disastrous, seemingly touched a kickoff that Ole Miss recovered for a touchdown (the officials ruled otherwise), and had a 100 kickoff return for a touchdown negated by a holding penalty.

The up and down performance led to a one-score game with Ole Miss having a chance to tie the game on the final play. It wouldn’t be an Auburn football game without some measure of strangeness, chaos or officiating ambiguity, and the contest versus the Ole Miss Rebels certainly delivered.

Today, we look at three numbers, two notes and a quote that summarize the 35-28 victory for Auburn over Ole Miss.

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Three numbers

100%
A number of things have ailed the Tigers in the early part of the 2020 season, but nothing has been more impactful than struggles in the redzone. Against Ole Miss, the Auburn offense seemed to find some much needed answers to the redzone questions. The Tigers scored touchdowns on all four trips inside the Ole Miss 20-yard line versus the Rebels.

Certainly, any touchdown is a good touchdown, but Auburn was able to run the ball for all four scores in the redzone, which should build confidence moving forward. Admittedly, Ole Miss has the worst defense statistically in the SEC. However, the Tigers should be able to take some momentum and confidence forward on offense after this performance.

+2
Auburn forced two turnovers and gave away none against Ole Miss, and that proved to be critical in the game. The Auburn offensive staff clearly had a plan to limit quarterback Bo Nix’s exposure to high risk plays by calling almost exclusively short passes and rushing attempts. The strategy paid off as Nix completed 76% of his passes and avoided any interceptions.

On the other side of the field, Ole Miss actually attempted roughly the same strategy as Auburn. However, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral threw an interception in the first quarter from the Auburn four-yard line that cost the Rebels points they could have used later in the game. The matchup between Auburn and Ole Miss came down to minimizing risk, and Auburn was more successful in that category.

507
Over the past decade especially, football has become a passing game. Quarterbacks are more accurate, rules are more favorable, and analytics say that passing is a better strategy. However, Auburn and Ole Miss turned back the clock in their matchup by rushing for 507 yards and seven touchdowns combined.

The ground game took center stage between the Tigers and Rebels, and neither defense came close to stopping their opponent’s rushing attack. That fact is likely encouraging for both offenses and worrying for the defenses. It will be interesting to see if these teams can repeat those performances throughout the rest of their schedules, but the running game was the story in Oxford.

Two notes

Bo Nix bounces back
The following axiom is true: Quarterbacks get more credit than they deserve in wins and more blame than they deserve in losses.

That isn’t to say that some quarterbacking performances aren’t spectacular and others dreadful. Of course, that is the case, just like players at any other position. However, by nature of the position, quarterbacks get headlines for better or worse.

Last week, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix got lots of headlines that exclusively fell in the “for worse” category, and they were largely accurate. Nix would be the first to tell you that his performance against South Carolina was not acceptable.

He came back this week and did exactly what was needed to lead his team to a victory over Ole Miss. Nix protected the football, completed timely passes, kept plays alive with his legs, and was a major factor in the rushing attack. Auburn’s offensive coaches put Nix in better positions, and the quarterback responded by turning in his best performance of the season.

Expect Nix and the Auburn offense to try and replicate the formula from the Ole Miss game throughout the rest of the season. Bo Nix has not been comfortable in drop-back passing situations, so those should be minimized. The Tiger’s quarterback is best when getting the ball out quickly and being utilized in the run game, so that should be what the gameplan is built around.

Special teams scare
Special teams have usually been somewhere from solid to spectacular under Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. However, this week in Oxford, special teams almost (or perhaps should have) cost the Tigers the game. Bad snaps, untimely penalties and a kick that was very close to being touched and fumbled, combined for a day that Auburn special teamers would like to forget.

Auburn is not a good enough team on offense or defense to withstand many special teams performances like the one that just happened at Ole Miss. Those issues must be corrected quickly if the Tigers plan to come up with more SEC wins.

One quote

“It’s a tough one to swallow, probably tougher than the other ones because it was right there.” – Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on the Rebels’ loss to Auburn.

Lane Kiffin discussed several things after losing to Auburn, but this was what rang most true. There may have been missed calls by officials that swung the game away from the Rebels, but there were multiple chances for Ole Miss to win that they did not capitalize on. Ole Miss led by one point and got the ball back with 4:50 remaining in the game. If the Rebels picked up a couple of first downs, they could have drained the clock and won the game.

However, Ole Miss was unable to gain a first down and punted the ball back to Auburn with just over two and half minutes left in the contest. At that point, the Rebels’ defense had an opportunity to stop the Tigers, but Bo Nix found receiver Seth Williams for a 58-yard touchdown pass that would ultimately win the game.

Ole Miss and Auburn looked to be pretty evenly matched throughout the game, but Auburn was able to make enough plays at the end to steal a win on the road.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

and 8 months ago

College football power rankings: This week was all about Bama, Big Ten contenders and pretenders

The Alabama Crimson Tide seems to be able to pick its score on a weekly basis. And now that the Big Ten season is underway, get ready for the national media to inflate its relevance in the playoff race.

Every week of college football brings a little more information about which teams have the staying power to make a playoff run.

Here is what our experts had to say about this week’s Yellowhammer Power Rankings.

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Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas AM
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: It was a boring weekend for college football with no top ten matchups. We know Ohio State and Heisman caliber Justin Fields belong in the top 5.  As expected, they looked like a playoff team. Speaking of playoff teams, Cincinnati made a strong case this weekend with their thumping of SMU.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. BYU
7. Texas A&M
8. Wisconsin

The lowdown: The Big Ten joined the 2020 college football fray this weekend. Ohio State proved to be what we thought they would be, led by standout quarterback Justin Fields. Wisconsin and Michigan also earned big wins in their first games, while Penn State lost by the nose of the football to drop to 0-1. Once the Pac 12 begins play next week, every team will be underway.