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.

3 days 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.

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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

4 days 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.

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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

4 days 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

6 days 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 2 weeks 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.

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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 3 weeks 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.

3 weeks 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.

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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 4 weeks 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.

192

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.

4 weeks 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

4 weeks 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

1 month 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 1 month 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.

1 month ago

Auburn downs Ole Miss 35-28 in Oxford

(Auburn football/Twitter)

Well, it wasn’t dominant or pretty, but Auburn traveled to Ole Miss and came away with a much needed victory.

There is still plenty of room for improvement from the Tigers, but it will be much easier for the coaches and players to make that happen with a 3-2 record instead of the 2-3 record staring them in the face with about five minutes left in the contest.

Auburn survived again on the backs of standout offensive performances by Tank Bigsby and Seth Williams, along with a little help from another questionable officiating decision that may have deprived Ole Miss from a much needed touchdown late in the game.

Even after the apparent muffed kickoff return that the referees missed, the Rebels had opportunities to win the game and were unable to do so.

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The Rebels are likely to be upset with the officiating, but a final offensive drive that came up short due to mismanaging the clock and dropped passes are what ultimately sealed their fate.

Take a look at the key things that decided Auburn’s 35-28 win over Ole Miss:

Overpowering rushing attacks
Some combination of talented tailbacks, perceived weakness in the defensive fronts, less than perfect weather and a desire to protect quarterbacks who combined for nine interceptions last week led to both squads planning to run the football this week.

Whatever the exact reasoning, the results were extremely positive for both offenses today. Auburn rushed for 224 yards on 47 carries, while Ole Miss ran for 283 yards on 51 attempts.

There were seven players between the two teams who rushed for at least 48 yards, including three different quarterbacks. Interestingly, the quarterback run game seemed to be designed from the beginning as a way to involve the signal callers without placing too much pressure on them with decision making. The gameplans were effective for both squads, as neither defense ever really solved the opponents rushing attack.

Finally, just a quick mention that Auburn freshman phenom Tank Bigsby rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss. He has now rushed for over 100 yards in three consecutive games and also had an incredible 100 yard kick return for a touchdown called back on a completely unnecessary hold behind the play.

At this point, any call that involves giving Tank the ball is a good one. Bigsby must be the focal point of the Auburn offense.

Protecting the quarterback
Protecting quarterbacks Bo Nix and Matt Corral (of Auburn and Ole Miss, respectively) was critical for both squads today. Both play-calling and offensive line play managed to do that for most of the day.

There were a total of four passes thrown more than 10 yards down the field before Ole Miss’ final drive of the game. Instead, both teams opted for running the football and throwing quick passes to limit chances of turning the ball over.

On the day there was only one egregious decision made throwing the ball, and it ultimately was the difference in the game. In the first quarter, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral threw an ill-advised pass on 3rd and goal from the 4-yard line that was intercepted by Auburn defensive back Roger McCreary.

The fact that the Rebels came away with no points while having a 1st and goal situation, put them in a situation of needing to score a touchdown on the last drive to tie the game instead of a field goal being enough to win.

Conversely, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix played a clean game passing and was a huge success running the ball. At this point, Nix’s most valuable trait may be that he causes problems for opposing defenses with his legs.

To his credit, Nix did make a really good throw to receiver Seth Williams with just over a minute left in the game.  The star wideout’s reception and 42 yard run became the game-winning touchdown. Bo Nix bounced back from a brutal game last week and did what was asked of him today, leading to a win over the Rebels.

Defense?
The game is rigged against defenses today as rule changes, spread offenses and dynamic quarterbacks make the task of stopping an opponent nearly impossible.

Today the Tigers’ defense did its job in a couple of senses. First of all, they kept the opponents from scoring more than their own team (obviously the ultimate goal). Also, Auburn held Ole Miss to its lowest scoring total of the season through the first five games. Lastly, the Tigers remain the only team in the SEC that has not given up more than 30 points in a game this year (as arbitrary as that number may be).

However, it is extremely concerning and quite disorienting to see Auburn defenses get pushed around. Auburn’s calling card throughout its history has been a physical brand of football, especially defensively. Watching Ole Miss rack up nearly 300 yards rushing at 5.5 yards per attempt was strange.

Credit the Rebels’ players and coaches for planning and executing a rushing attack that was outstanding today, but Auburn left a lot to be desired defensively.

Last week’s second half performance against South Carolina combined with today’s showing versus the Rebels means that Auburn’s defense must toughen up going forward.

It appears that the Auburn offense may be finding its footing in the running game, so if the Tigers’ defense can stiffen, that is a proven recipe for a successful football team. The Auburn defense can improve its schemes, tackling and effort. It must do so for the Tigers to win games through the remainder of the schedule.

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

1 month ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Ole Miss edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn travels to Oxford, MS, this week to take on the Ole Miss Rebels (1-3). Ole Miss’ season has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the early going. New Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has brought excitement and a high powered offense that was averaging well over 40 points per game after its first three contests against Florida, Kentucky and Alabama. The issue in those games was that the Rebels’ defense was allowing over 50 points per game.

In Ole Miss’ recent game with Arkansas, the Rebels held the Razorbacks to 33 points (which isn’t great, but was marked improvement). Ole Miss’ problems against the Razorbacks suddenly occurred on the offensive side of the ball when the team managed only 21 points and threw six interceptions.

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This week, Ole Miss will try to put together a complete team performance against an Auburn squad that is looking to bounce back from a loss to South Carolina. Today, we look at three areas that will be important in determining the winner in the matchup between Auburn and Ole Miss.

Ole Miss inside receivers
Lane Kiffin has brought a dynamic passing attack to Ole Miss that averages over 330 yards per game led by quarterback Matt Corral. The Rebels do a good job of scheming specific plays and looking to create opportunities for big plays, but they do an even better job of creating good matchups for their best players.

Ole Miss’ two leading receivers are Elijah Moore (who leads the SEC in receptions and yards) and tight end Kenny Yeboah who is a transfer from Temple University. Both of these players are explosive and likely to be deployed in multiple ways throughout the game. However, both of these athletes do a lot of their work over the middle of the field from initial slot or tight alignments.

Expect that to be the case this week as well since Auburn’s defense has given up big plays each week from opposing players lined up in the slot. The Tigers’ defense has struggled to defend dynamic inside receivers over the last couple of years, so they must have a good plan to try and neutralize Moore and Yeboah to slow down the Ole Miss offense.

Depleted Ole Miss defense?
Defense has been a struggle for Ole Miss over the last few seasons. However, this season has been a nightmare defensively as the Rebels are allowing opponents to score an average of 47 points per game so far. Clearly, that indicates some mixture of personnel issues and an inability to find innovative coaching measures to slow down the opposition.

As if it had not been tough enough already, this week Lane Kiffin indicated that multiple offensive players have been moved to defense because of COVID-19 (either infections or contact tracing protocols), affecting that side of the ball.

Auburn’s offense has a great opportunity this week to find its identity and put up points against an Ole Miss defense that was last in many statistical categories even before having COVID-19 issues. The Tigers must find success on offense this week to win the game and gain some confidence for the remainder of the season.

Turnovers
The turnover battle is critical in every game. But, this week is a matchup of teams that combined for nine interceptions thrown last week in losing efforts. Protecting the football will be paramount for both squads if they hope to leave the game victorious.

Ole Miss’ defense has not proven the ability to stop any of its opponents, so Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and his offense cannot give away possessions by turning the ball over. If the Tigers can hold onto the football, that should lead to a productive day on offense.

Similarly, the Rebels’ offense has become one of the most explosive groups in the SEC. If Ole Miss can avoid throwing the ball to the other team, they are likely to score a lot of points every week (including this one).

The game between Auburn and Ole Miss may be a high scoring affair, so neither team can afford to fall behind in the turnover margin and expect to win the 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

1 month ago

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

Auburn scored nine points in its first two possessions versus South Carolina. On those two drives, the Tigers amassed 138 yards and were effective running and passing the football. Conversely, the South Carolina Gamecocks had a grand total of negative 12 yards and two punts after their first two offensive possessions. Midway through the first quarter, it appeared Auburn would win this game going away.

Then on Auburn’s third drive of the game, quarterback Bo Nix threw the first of his three interceptions on the day. That play gave South Carolina a short field of only 29 yards and the break they needed to get into the game. Auburn’s first turnover of the day is not where they lost the game, but it is where the game became a real contest.

Over the next three quarters, South Carolina found answers and made plays, while Auburn was often frustrated and confounded. Today we look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that provide a closer look into Auburn’s 30-22 loss at South Carolina.

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Three numbers

3
Auburn turned the ball over three times against South Carolina. There are many things that go into wins and losses, but giving the ball way multiple times (especially in your own territory) is the most surefire way to lose. Once again, it is more complicated than just turnovers, but Auburn has a negative turnover margin in two games and has lost them both.

Some teams are great enough overall or explosive enough on offense to overcome a few turnovers, but Auburn is not one of those groups right now. If the Tigers are going to win over their last six games this season, they must protect the football.

40% vs 100%
When in the redzone, Auburn scored touchdowns on two of its five opportunities while allowing South Carolina to score four touchdowns on all four of its chances. For all of the talk about turnovers, this was as big of an issue for Auburn against South Carolina. Auburn was forced to kick field goals three times in the redzone, while the Tigers defense conceded touchdowns to the opponent every time.

For Auburn to win more games, the Tigers’ offense must score touchdowns more regularly when getting near the goalline. On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense has allowed nine touchdowns in 12 redzone attempts over the last three games combined. Both units must improve in this critical area to win football games in the SEC.

13
Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain was all over the field against the Gamecocks and finished the game with 13 tackles. McClain didn’t have a perfect performance, but he was certainly a bright spot for the Tigers in a disappointing loss. The Auburn linebacker may start a given play aligned in different spots, but when the whistle blows at the end of a down McClain is always in the same place — tackling the ball carrier or very nearby.

McClain, who exhibits determination, athleticism and aggression every game, now has three consecutive games with at least 10 tackles.

Two notes

Clock management
Auburn’s offense has been a mess at the end of each of the last two games. The Tigers were fortunate that last week’s intentional grounding/backward spike fiasco did not cost them the game. Even before the penalty, it is a fair question to ask why the offense was spiking the ball with 28 seconds left if they intended to kick the field goal. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to let the clock run down and spike the ball with only a few seconds left so that Arkansas would not have an opportunity to get the ball back?

Similarly, Auburn’s final drive with the Tigers trailing by eight points against the Gamecocks ended with quarterback Bo Nix being tackled short of the first down marker as time expired. There are a number of things on the last possession that could have been done better, but the key mistake was failing to throw the ball into the endzone on the last play. Nix must give his receivers a chance to make a play as it was clear he was not going to be able to rush for a touchdown.

Auburn is not a team capable of blowing out many of the opponents on its schedule, so it is vital that the Tigers’ offense improve in late game and high leverage spots moving forward.

Going off-script

Auburn opened up the game against South Carolina with a clear strategy of spreading the ball around to Tiger backs and receivers on quick throws, screens and off of run/pass option. Bo Nix completed passes to seven different receivers in the first quarter alone. Everything seemed to be going smoothly as Auburn opened up the contest “on script.” That simply means that coaches often have 10/12/15 plays that are pre-selected and practiced that will be called in sequence to begin the game.

The Tigers’ offense managed t0 score on both drives where the script was in play, but only managed three scores on the next 10 possessions. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris must adapt better as the game goes on to generate more points for the Auburn offense.

One quote

“Proud of our guys fighting to the end.” — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s opening remarks following 30-22 loss to South Carolina
Coach Malzahn chose to look at the positives (as much as possible) in the postgame press conference following the game against South Carolina. He did not rip his players, call out individual failures or assign blame to officials.

However, players giving good effort in a closely contested SEC game is the bare minimum expectation. Anything less than that is completely unacceptable. Gus Malzahn knows that and is usually just not that interested in discussing anything of substance with the media. Great fight and effort from Auburn football players is expected. It is up to this team and coaching staff to drastically improve in execution and production.

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 1 month ago

College football power rankings: Bama flexes its muscle

(YHN)

One team has solidified its position above all the rest: The Alabama Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban’s squad has been seated at the top of Yellowhammer’s college football power rankings for several weeks. Cruising past No. 3 Georgia, the Tide own the best win of any team this season, and are now seeing the rest of the nation come around to Alabama’s position as the best team in the country.

Here is what our experts had to say about this week’s rankings.

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Zack Shaw’s ballot:

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

The lowdown: Alabama looks like they are going to score 40 points in every game. Period. Mac Jones is not a downgrade from Tua Tagovailoa, and each of the other 10 offensive starters will be NFL players. Clemson’s combination of Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and defensive coordinator Brent Venables makes them the only team I have seen that could beat them. Once Ohio State begins its season this week we will see if the Buckeyes can join that group.

 

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

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

The lowdown: The Alabama-Georgia matchup was a national championship-caliber game, as both teams were studded with five stars and first-round draft choices. Alabama was the stronger team down the stretch; they finally turned on their full-throttle defense in the second half. Alabama stays number one in my rankings even though Clemson put on a high-scoring show yesterday. I bumped Georgia to spot number four because of their loss to the Tide.

1 month ago

South Carolina takes down Auburn, 30-22

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

The flight home from Columbia, SC, to Auburn is going to feel much longer than 65 minutes today. After Auburn jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead (because of a missed two point conversion attempt), the Tigers slowly but surely watched the scoreboard change to as much as an 11 point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Eventually, South Carolina earned a 30-22 victory against Auburn, the second win of the season for the Gamecocks.

Auburn outgained South Carolina 481-297 in total offense yardage. However, out producing the Gamecocks by nearly 200 yards was squandered by Auburn turning the ball over three times. To make matters worse, each of the three interceptions thrown by quarterback Bo Nix gave South Carolina the ball in Auburn territory. South Carolina was able to take advantage of each of Nix’s interceptions and score touchdowns on the ensuing possessions every time. In fact, the Gamecocks had only one touchdown drive that did not originate in Auburn territory via turnover on the day.

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Similarly, the Tigers’ defense that allowed very little yardage and no points to the Gamecocks in the first quarter, conceded 30 points over the final three quarters. Certainly the defense was not helped by having to defend short fields on multiple possessions, but over the course of the second half especially, South Carolina’s tailback duo of Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick was able to wear down the Tigers to the tune of 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Below we look at a few critical areas that lead to South Carolina’s 30-22 win over Auburn.

Quarterback play

Neither quarterback on the field had a stellar game today. South Carolina’s Collin Hill was not asked to do a lot other than protect the football. Hill did that successfully until late in the third quarter when Auburn defensive back Christian Tutt tipped a pass that was eventually intercepted by linebacker Owen Pappoe. Once that occured, Collin Hill only attempted four more passes the rest of the game. South Carolina was able to run the ball effectively in the second half, so they opted to do so on about 75% of their plays in the third and fourth quarter.

On the other side of the field, a different strategy was implemented. Admittedly, there is no easier place to coach or call plays from than the comfort of your couch. With that being said, Auburn’s decision to call 50 pass plays (47 pass attempts plus a few scrambles on called pass plays) for quarterback Bo Nix was borderline malpractice. It would be enough to question that many pass attempts if your only objection is the fact that the Tigers were averaging about 5.5 yards per carry. However, when you combine that with how uncomfortable Bo Nix was today, it was really a baffling decision.

Nix threw three interceptions today and that is clearly concerning. What may an even bigger problem, though, was that Bo Nix appeared to be rattled even when throwing completions. Every broadcast crew mentions Nix seemingly running from pressure that is often not there — and it’s true. But beyond that, Nix is regularly demonstrably displeased with coaches, other players and himself. Auburn’s coaches must find ways to make Nix more comfortable and get him some easy completions. Bo Nix is talented, smart and a competitor, but he is not Patrick Mahomes. So, it would likely benefit Auburn to adjust its gameplan accordingly.

Shi Smith shines

South Carolina receiver Shi Smith did not sneak up on Auburn. He was the Gamecocks’ leading receiver entering the game and is one of South Carolina’s most important players. That makes what Smith did today even more impressive. Undoubtedly, a big part of Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s gameplan was to limit Shi Smith. For most of the day Auburn’s defense was successful at limiting big plays from Smith, but two of his eight receptions were extremely difficult and critically important.

Smith came out on top in two different one-on-one battles with Auburn corners that swung the game in South Carolina’s favor. With 6:31 remaining in the third quarter, the Gamecocks’ standout outjumped an Auburn defender for a 10-yard touchdown reception that tied the game. Then on a critical third down with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game, Smith made a circus catch for a 32-yard reception that led to a field goal for the Gamecocks. That field goal gave South Carolina a 30-19 lead and really put the Gamecocks in control of the game.

Second half adjustments

In each of the last two weeks, the Auburn Tigers have jumped out to two score leads before their opponent has been able to put any points on the board. Also in the last two weeks, the teams that Auburn has been playing have come back to take the lead in the second half. Last week against Arkansas, Auburn was able to escape with a close and somewhat controversial victory. However, once South Carolina roared back to take the lead in the third quarter today, the Gamecocks did not give it back.

Auburn must find a way to put together strong starts and finishes to games if they are going to win going forward. The first four weeks of the Tigers’ schedule has proven to be a big challenge, and it is not going to get any easier. Auburn must develop the mental toughness to persevere through difficult stretches of games and the season at-large if they hope to compete this 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

1 month ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. South Carolina edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn travels to Columbia, South Carolina, today looking for its third win of the season. The Tigers will face off against the Gamecocks, who are coached by two-time Auburn assistant coach Will Muschamp. South Carolina lost to Top 25 teams in each of its first two contests, before blasting Vanderbilt 41-7 in Week 3 to earn their first win of the year.

The Gamecocks’ victory over Vanderbilt last week was critical for South Carolina to alleviate some pressure on Will Muschamp and his coaching staff. It also gave the players needed confidence moving forward. This matchup is huge for both teams, as a loss for either will make the season almost impossible to salvage based on the programs’ preseason expectations.

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Today, we look at three key areas that will impact who comes away victorious in this Week 4 contest between Auburn and South Carolina.

Third down defense
Third down defense is an area that Auburn has really struggled this year. Through two games, the Tigers were last in the SEC at stopping opposing offenses on third down. Following last week’s win against Arkansas, Auburn’s defense has moved up to 12th out of 14 SEC teams in third down defense. However, that clearly is not a stellar mark and is an area Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wants to improve.

On the other side of the field, the Gamecocks defense currently ranks first in the conference, allowing opponents to successfully convert on third down chances less than 20% of the time. South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson (former Auburn defensive back under coach Tommy Tuberville) has put together a defensive unit that has forced two different opponents to successfully convert on only one out of 11 third down attempts (Tennessee and Vanderbilt).

If one of these defensive units is able to consistently force the opposing offenses into third down situations, get stops and force punts, then it will be a big advantage for that squad.

Pass rush
Both of these defenses have been around league average in generating quarterback sacks through the first few weeks. Auburn and South Carolina’s defenses have amassed six and seven sacks, respectively. Even though neither team has set the world on fire in this category to this point, pass rush figures to be critical in today’s outcome.

South Carolina’s pass rush is led by junior defensive lineman Kingsley Enagbare, who has three quarterback sacks on the year. In addition to generating three sacks, Enagbare has also forced two fumbles in the first three games of the season. It will be important for an Auburn offensive line that has struggled in pass protection to have a good plan for dealing with Enagbare and his Gamecock teammates on the defensive front.

Auburn’s defense has struggled to generate much pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing in the first three matchups of the season. This week the Tigers’ defense gets an opportunity to go against an offensive line that has given up more sacks than any other group in the conference so far. Coach Kevin Steele’s group must take advantage of this South Carolina weakness and get Gamecocks’ quarterback Collin Hill to the ground early and often.

Explosive offensive plays
The offenses in this game have both struggled to consistently move the ball against their opponents (when not playing Vanderbilt). Both the Gamecocks and Tigers rank in the bottom half of the conference in total offense and yards per play. Those numbers indicate that for either offense to light up the scoreboard, they will likely need to generate a number of big yardage plays.

The only issue is that both of these offenses also rank in the bottom half of the conference in creating big plays. So, if one of these offensive units is able to shake that pattern and connect on deep shots in the passing game or breakaway on a long run or two, then they will put their team in a position to win a much needed SEC 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

2 months ago

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

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

After a chaotic final few minutes, Auburn emerged victorious 30-28 over Arkansas in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The beginning of the game was a bit of a slog as remnants of Hurricane Delta moved through East Alabama, dumping several inches of rain along the way. In the first half especially, the weather conditions made it difficult for players to throw, catch or even run as effectively as normal

As the game wore on, the Razorbacks, led by quarterback Feleipe Franks and running back Trelon Smith, roared back to overcome a 17-point deficit and take the lead 28-27 with 5:29 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. What transpired over the remaining time to play was a fascinating mixture of interesting coaching decisions, a few player miscues, errant referee whistles and ultimately three Auburn points that sealed the Tiger’s win.

Today, we take a closer look at three numbers, two notes and a quote that shed more light on exactly what happened in Auburn’s second win of the 2020 season.

950

Three numbers

4
Auburn defensive back Jordyn Peters has blocked four kicks in his career at Auburn. The senior from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is primarily a key back up on defense, but has been a special teams standout for years. His first blocked punt of 2020 led directly to the first touchdown of the game against Arkansas when walk-on linebacker Barton Lester recovered the ball in the endzone.

The spark Peters provided on special teams is nothing new. You may also recall that Jordyn Peters was the player who stopped Kentucky’s fake punt attempt in Week 1 that essentially sealed the win for Auburn. The ability that Peters has shown to make game-changing plays on special teams is a huge asset and will likely lead to a professional team giving him a chance to make a roster once his college career ends.

268
Auburn’s freshman running back Tank Bigsby amassed 268 all-purpose yards from rushing, receiving and kick off returns against Arkansas. Bigsby had already shown glimpses of his potential in limited opportunities during the first two contests, but when Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn called on the talented newcomer to step in and be the Tigers’ first option at tailback, he delivered in a big way.

Bigsby’s playing style is inspiring for his teammates and frustrating for opponents. There simply are no easy tackles of the Auburn running back. Tank Bigsby’s ability to make defenders miss and run through would be arm tackles is impressive, but also necessary for the Tigers’ offense to function right now. The Auburn offense needs others to step up and play with the fight and determination Bigsby has displayed to improve as a group.

7
The Auburn defense totaled seven tackles for loss (including three sacks) against the Razorbacks. That is not a dominant performance, but it is an improvement following the outing against Georgia where the defense had only two tackles for loss. The most encouraging part is that a number of those stops and sacks were made by defensive linemen.

Moving forward, the Auburn defensive front will be required to make tackles for loss and generate pass rush without blitzing, and the defense’s performance against Arkansas showed that it is possible on multiple occasions. There is still much room for improvement, and more difficult opponents are waiting in the wings, but the Tigers can build on the win against the Razorbacks.

Two notes

Hindsight is 20/20
Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendall Briles has likely replayed in his mind the three plays that he called following Anders Carlson’s missed field goal a thousand times in the last couple of days. Leading Auburn by one point with just over 2:30 remaining in the contest, the Razorbacks attempted three plays that were much more concerned with running clock than gaining any yards.

Of course, Auburn had all three time outs and used one after each play. So, Arkansas gained a grand total of two yards and burned only about 45 seconds with their possession and punted the ball back to Auburn with roughly two minutes left on the clock. Clearly, it would not be conventional to dial up three Hail Mary attempts in the Razorbacks’ situation, but their offense had thrown for over 300 yards and had Auburn’s defense on its heels the entire second half.

If given another chance, the Arkansas offensive staff would probably do things differently and be a little more aggressive. Arkansas’ inability to pick up a first down with 2:30 left is where the game turned back into Auburn’s favor.

Auburn’s third down defense
Auburn’s defense entered the game last in the country allowing opponents to convert on third down attempts nearly 70% of the time. Against Arkansas, the Tigers’ defense allowed only six conversions in 15 attempts for its best performance of the season. The ability to force the opponent to punt is always huge, but it was even more impactful against Arkansas because the Razorbacks’ special teams units were dreadful.

Auburn can gain confidence from its third down performance against Arkansas, but there does seem to be one glaring issue: The Tigers seem to love to blitz a lot of players on third down, and opposing offenses have taken notice. Each of Auburn’s opponents have picked up long third down conversions by simply throwing screen passes to tailbacks as the blitzers rush by. Expect Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to shore up this weakness as Auburn progresses through the remainder of its schedule.

One quote

“They just said it was a fumble, a backward pass, but they blew the whistle before we recovered the ball so they couldn’t review it, I guess. That’s the explanation I got.” –– Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman on Auburn quarterback Bo Nix’s apparent fumble.

It was never exactly clear what the referees ruled when quarterback Bo Nix was called for intentional grounding, but he appeared to spike the ball backward, which would be a fumble. The officials correctly penalized Auburn for intentional grounding once Nix fumbled the snap initially and then spiked the ball. However, it really seemed like Nix’s spike was actually a lateral, and therefore should have been treated as a fumble.

Unfortunately for Arkansas, the officials blew the whistle signaling an incomplete pass before any player realized the ball was live and could be recovered. Since the play was blown dead, there was no ability to review whether or not there was a fumble recovery. It was a brutal turn of events for the Razorbacks.

In a game that requires having things break your way for a great season, the Auburn Tigers will gladly accept the outcome and move forward to face South Carolina this week.

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 2 months ago

College football power rankings: Bama holds steady; Gators fall out

(Pixabay, YHN)

The slow-motion reveal of a college football season is well underway. It has been more than six weeks since some teams have taken the field, and we have learned a little more about those teams with the passing of each Saturday.

It has become obvious which players took their offseason development seriously (see: Mac Jones) and which teams appear to have bypassed offseason workouts (see: LSU).

This week sees the most variance among the rankings of our experts as they vote on the cumulative Yellowhammer Power Poll.

Here is where things stand:

214

Zack Shaw

1. Clemson
2. Georgia
3. Alabama

4. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
6. Penn State
7. Texas A&M
8. BYU

The lowdown: Defense appears to be in short supply early in the 2020 season. Clemson and Georgia rise to the top of the rankings because of their ability to slow down opponents in addition to putting up points themselves.

Paul Shashy

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Notre Dame
5. Ohio State
6. North Carolina
7. Penn State
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: Hurricane Delta made yesterday’s games a little more interesting with time changes and soaked fields. Clemson looked incredibly strong in their win over a Top 25 Miami. The week’s most exciting storyline was Saban vs. Kiffin, which was an unusually close game until the fourth quarter when Alabama pulled away. Once again, quarterback Mac Jones continues an outside quest for a Heisman with over 400 yards passing.

Tim Howe

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. North Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Notre Dame
8. Auburn

The lowdown: Saturday was Lane Kiffin’s Super Bowl. The Crimson Tide survived and can now focus fully on Georgia. Be careful drawing any conclusions from that game. North Carolina ran for 399 yards on the ground. That is a winning formula in any conference.

Yellowhammer’s power rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes are noted above.

2 months ago

Auburn sneaks past Arkansas 30-28

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

The Auburn Tigers escaped a wet Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night with a tight win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Auburn opened up the game with an early 17-0 lead, and looked good doing it. After struggling against Kentucky and Georgia, the Tigers’ rushing attack finally came alive. Early on, the Tigers’ defense was forcing the Razorbacks to punt regularly and special teams standout Jordyn Peters blocked a punt that was recovered by Barton Lester for the Tigers’ first non-offensive touchdown of the season.

However, over the last two and a half quarters of the game, Auburn seemed to be hanging on for dear life. Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks ended up throwing for over 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, giving the Razorbacks a great chance to steal a road victory against a top-25 ranked team.

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With just over five minutes remaining, Arkansas took a one-point lead. Auburn followed that up with a promising drive ending with kicker Anders Carlson’s missed chip shot field goal with about two minutes left.

After a defensive stop, Auburn drove again to set up Carlson for a chance at redemption. That chance was almost prevented when quarterback Bo Nix followed a muffed snap up with what appeared to be a backward spike, which could have been ruled a fumble.

In the end, Carlson made a field goal with seven seconds left to seal the victory.

Take a look at the three key takeaways from Auburn’s 30-28 win over Arkansas:

Special teams made the difference
The biggest difference in the game was that Auburn’s special teams units were much better than Arkansas (even considering a late missed field goal). When the Razorbacks were unable to even get a kick off on their initial PAT attempt, it set Arkansas on a course of chasing points for the rest of the game. Arkansas came away with no points on PATs or two-point conversions after three of their four touchdowns. Getting no points on those chances is brutal in a two-point loss.

The single most deficient group on the field was the Arkansas punt team. The Razorbacks failed to even line up in a legal formation on three different occasions. One of the times the Razorbacks did line up correctly, they allowed a blocked punt in their own endzone that was recovered for an Auburn touchdown. The Razorbacks’ special teams units will definitely want to forget their trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Talented tailbacks
Arkansas tailback Trelon Smith and Auburn freshman running back Tank Bigsby were the stars of the game. Arkansas’ Smith gained 159 yards of total offense, scored one rushing touchdown and eluded Auburn defenders the whole night. The Razorbacks repeatedly got the ball to Trelon Smith in space and let him make plays. Smith proved to be a player that Arkansas can lean on through the rest of the SEC schedule.

On the other side of the field, Auburn has found its running back, regardless of other players’ injury status. Tank Bigsby continued the momentum this week against Arkansas that he started versus Georgia in Week 2. Bigsby ran with great decisiveness, vision, effort and determination, setting the tone for the Tigers’ offense. Tank had 146 yards rushing, sparking the Auburn run game for a much-needed effort that produced 259 yards on the ground in total.

Schwartz provided second-half spark
Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz totaled 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown versus Arkansas. The Tigers offense clearly made a concerted effort to get Schwartz the ball throughout the game. However, Schwartz collected half of his catches, half of his yards and his receiving touchdown on a pivotal drive at the end of the third quarter that eventually put Auburn ahead by nine points.

Auburn’s Nix has been unable to connect very often down the field with the speedster Schwartz early in the season, but the quick passing game and screen passes have led to some key production for the offense. If Nix and Schwartz can get on the same page for deep throws moving forward, that will open up a world of options for the Tigers over the rest of the schedule.

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

2 months ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Arkansas edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

The matchup between Auburn and Arkansas was already interesting because of both Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s and offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ history with the University of Arkansas. Both men coached for the Razorbacks, with Chad Morris being in Fayetteville as Arkansas’ head coach as recently as December. To say that Razorback fans want to beat Auburn (and specifically those coaches) would be an understatement if much of the internet vitriol is true.

This game is widely considered much more interesting now, though, because of both teams’ performance last week. The Tigers are about a two-touchdown favorite, according to the oddsmakers, but after a disappointing loss to Georgia in conjunction with Arkansas’ victory over Mississippi State, many believe this could be a close contest.

Arkansas had not won an SEC game in more than two seasons prior to last week. So, new Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman’s 21-14 upset victory over Mississippi State has given a spark to a program that severely needed it.

Today, we look at three things that will play big roles in determining if Auburn can get back on the right track, or if Arkansas can come away victorious two weeks in a row.

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Turnovers
Turnovers always factor heavily into football games, but the Arkansas Razorbacks have been a turnover machine in the first two weeks. On the positive side, Arkansas is tied for first place in the conference with six takeaways this season. So, Auburn must take great care on offense to be smart with the football because Arkansas has proven capable of making game-changing plays on defense.

On the flip side of that equation, Arkansas’ offense is 13th out of 14 SEC teams with five turnovers from the Razorbacks’ offense. Auburn must take advantage of an Arkansas offense that has been sloppy with ball security early in the year. The Tigers forced three turnovers against Kentucky, but were unable to take the ball away from Georgia at all.

Both offenses in this game have struggled to generate consistent drives and big plays, so the team that is able to hold onto the ball (especially in potentially bad weather) may be the deciding factor in the game.

Linebacker play
The two leading tacklers in the SEC will take the field in Jordan Hare Stadium today. They both play linebacker for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Junior linebacker Bumper Pool currently leads the conference with 31 tackles, and his senior teammate Grant Morgan follows right behind with 28 stops. Both of these athletes are experienced players with a nose for the football, so expect to hear their name called early and often when Auburn has the football.

On the other hand, Auburn will be without its leading tackler and team captain, linebacker KJ Britt. Britt had surgery on his hand Friday and will not be available to play for weeks. The Tigers’ talented linebacker crew has found life to be much more difficult this season without Derick Brown and Marlon Davidson to eat up blocks and wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.

Auburn linebackers Owen Pappoe and Zakoby McClain will be called upon to fill the production and leadership void left by Britt’s absence. Auburn must be better against the run this week, and the Tiger linebackers will be critical to making that happen even without their captain.

Felipe Franks vs. Bo Nix

Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks and Auburn quarterback Bo Nix have both faced the Georgia Bulldogs’ defense already this season, and both probably would like to forget those games. However, the two quarterbacks had good performances in their other outings this season, leading their respective teams to victory. It has already been discussed that protecting the football will be paramount for both players, but it is likely that the quarterbacks will need to connect on big plays with backs and receivers to put up points.

Feleipe Franks transferred to Arkansas from the University of Florida, providing the Razorbacks with an upgrade in talent and SEC experience over their previous signal callers. Against Mississippi State, Franks completed over 70% of his passes, threw two touchdowns and avoided any interceptions en route to victory. That is not a stat line that is legendary by any means, but it likely gives confidence to Franks and his teammates that they can deliver against SEC competition.

Auburn and Arkansas both rank in the bottom half of the SEC in points per game and yards per play, so it is expected that long drives might be hard to come by for both squads. If that is the case, then whichever quarterback can create explosive plays with his arm or legs will put his team in position to win the 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

2 months ago

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

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

There is a lot of work to be done on The Plains. Auburn was handed a brutal beatdown by the Georgia Bulldogs in the second week of the 2020 SEC football season. Some thought that playing the Bulldogs early in the season because of this year’s schedule shakeup might give Auburn and advantage because of Georgia needing to break in a new quarterback and several offensive linemen.

That theory was soundly debunked as the contest showed Georgia clearly outclasses Auburn whether in week two or week 10. The Bulldogs’ fourth straight victory over the Tigers was never really in doubt after the first quarter. Auburn’s offense was unable to find the endzone even once, and the Tigers’ defense was pushed around and beaten up for four quarters.

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Today, we look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that give more insight into what happened in Auburn’s 27-6 loss against Georgia.

Three numbers

2
Auburn’s defense only managed to stop Georgia behind the line of scrimmage two times the entire game. Linebacker Zakoby McClain sacked the quarterback on a blitz and safety Jamien Sherwood made a great tackle for loss on a screen pass. Aside from those plays, the Tigers’ defense did not offer much resistance to the Bulldogs’ offense.

The Auburn defense was unable to get much pressure on Georgia’s first-time starting quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, even when blitzing. Bennett completed over 70% of his passes, threw one touchdown, avoided any turnovers and looked quite comfortable doing so.

To make matters worse, Auburn did not stop Georgia behind the line of scrimmage on one rushing attempt, and there were 45 opportunities to do so. It was startling to see the Tigers’ defensive front get rolled over six yards at a time the whole game. It was expected that Auburn would have issues against Georgia’s defense, but seeing the Tigers’ defense look helpless raises big concerns moving forward.

9/14
For the second week in a row, Auburn was unable to consistently stop the opponent on third down. Georgia converted nine of their 14 third-down attempts against the Tigers defense. In Auburn’s game against Kentucky, the defense was eventually able to overcome this problem by creating three turnovers. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Auburn was unable to take the ball away from Georgia, so the Bulldogs put together long drive after long drive.

For reference, SEC defenses stop opposing offenses on third down 43% of the time on average. Auburn is last in the SEC at this critical statistic after two weeks. Defenses that are unable to force punts or generate turnovers on downs tend to lose confidence and get physically worn down over the course of a game. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele must find a way to get this corrected quickly or the Auburn defense is in for a very long season.

1.8
Auburn averaged 1.8 yards per carry against Georgia. To be frank, that is abysmal and should never happen to Auburn. The Tigers ended the game with more penalty yardage (46) than rushing yardage (39). The Auburn offensive line was unable to generate any push or create any space for Auburn’s backs to run effectively.

Auburn has allegedly re-vamped its passing attack, but this team cannot find consistent success unless the running game improves considerably.

Two notes

Tank Bigsby
If there was a bright spot for Auburn against Georgia, it is that running back Tank Bigsby showed he has the potential to be a very good player even as a true freshman. Bigsby showed good patience, vision and ability to break tackles while carrying the ball. He also was the Tigers leading receiver with seven catches, including one outstanding grab on the sideline for a first down.

Bigsby got the starting nod at running back because Shaun Shivers was injured, but expect him to develop into the workhorse of this Auburn offense. In addition to displaying a diverse set of skills, Tank Bigsby also showed a lot of heart and competitiveness. If Bigsby can stay healthy and protect the football, expect him to be the Tigers’ leading rusher for the next few years.

Confounding coaching
There are plenty of examples that could go here, that’s just the way it is when a team suffers such a comprehensive loss. Maybe the most perplexing scenario was when Coach Gus Malzahn chose to kick a field goal from the 4-yard line while trailing 24-0 right before halftime.

The argument could be made that the team just needed to take any points possible. However, by that point, it was apparent that touchdowns would be hard to come by for the Tigers against Georgia, and they may not get that close to the goal line again (which proved to be true). Additionally, even if Auburn went for the touchdown and did not convert, the Tigers would be trailing by three touchdowns which was the same outcome of making the field goal. The only difference would be that Auburn would need to make good on two-point conversions instead of extra points.

One quote

“They won the line of scrimmage. We really got whipped on all three phases. We got out-coached.” – Auburn coach Gus Malzahn after losing 27-6 to Georgia.

Yep.

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 2 months ago

College football power rankings — Tide tightens grip on top spot

(Pixabay, YHN)

Staying at an elite level in any field for 14 years is a difficult task. Human nature gets in the way. Focus drifts. Energy wanes. Complacency sets in.

Not for Nick Saban. Merely two games into his 14th season as Crimson Tide head coach, it appears Saban has assembled as good a team as any in his tenure. That is not good news for the rest of college football.

The Tide occupy the top spot in this week’s Yellowhammer College Football Power Rankings.

Yellowhammer’s power rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes are noted below.

Here is where things stand:

258

Paul Shashy’s ballot

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Clemson
4. Florida
5. Notre Dame
6. Ohio State
7. Miami
8. Penn State

The lowdown: Crisp and beautiful fall weather set the tone yesterday for some great football. Auburn was thumped in Athens by a Georgia team that looked much better than they did the previous week. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones showed serious passing ability this weekend, which is why Alabama continues to claim the number one spot. Miami versus Clemson will be the marquee matchup this upcoming weekend and will most likely decide the ACC.

Zack Shaw’s ballot

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. Ohio State
5. Georgia
6. Miami
7. Notre Dame
8. Penn State

The lowdown: The team to watch this year might be the Florida Gators. Dan Mullen’s team was a trendy pick to win the SEC East in the preseason, and they look poised to make that happen. The Gators have some of last season’s LSU in them…that is scary for everyone else. The Florida defense is not elite, but the Gator offense is going to score a ton of points on a weekly basis.

Tim Howe’s ballot

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Ohio State
5. Clemson
6. Miami
7. Auburn
8. North Carolina

The lowdown: Alabama and Georgia have the two best wins so far in this young season. That does not mean they are in the same class. In fact, it does not appear anyone else is in the Tide’s class in 2020. The college football world is waiting on Ohio State to begin its season on October 24 to see if it has some potential to challenge Nick Saban’s squad.