The Auburn Tigers began their season facing one FCS opponent and followed that up by taking on a Group of 5 squad. Mercer and San Jose State were both greatly overmatched in the talent department, even though the Spartans gave Auburn a competitive game.
Today, Auburn begins the stretch of games against against much stronger teams that will determine the success of the season.
The gauntlet begins as the Tigers face their first-ever Big Ten opponent at home – the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Auburn gets the return trip from Penn State, as the Tigers traveled to Happy Valley last season and returned with a 28-20 loss.
The Tigers hope to return the favor to the Nittany Lions this afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Penn State enters the contest 2-0 and ranked 22nd in the country. It remains to be seen exactly how good the visitors are, but Auburn will have to give its best performance to have a chance to defeat Penn State.
Take a look at a few things that will have an impact on whether or not Auburn can earn a victory against Penn State today.
Offensive Line Play
The Auburn offensive line has been widely discussed in Auburn circles for years now, and it usually has not been glowing.
Followers of football know the success the offensive line leads to time for the quarterback to throw and space for the tailbacks to run.
Without those critical elements, offenses grind to a halt. Unfortunately, Tiger fans have become familiar with that scenario playing out far too often against quality opponents.
Today is the first time this year we will see if Auburn’s offensive front can produce winning results against a defensive unit that is talented enough to give them problems.
The Tigers need the offensive line to give quarterback TJ Finley a clean pocket and lanes for the stable of Tiger backs to run.
If the Tigers can get a good push against the Penn State front early and establish a solid ground attack, that will improve Auburn’s chances to win the game.
Auburn has struggled with turnovers this year with four interceptions. The Tigers have fumbled the ball a few times, but have been fortunate to recover them each time.
Conversely, the Auburn defense has been unable to take the ball away at all this season.
It is likely that both of those things must change for Auburn to win today.
The offense has not shownit is good enough to overcome giving the ball away and still be successful.
Their struggles will be magnified against a much more talented defense today.
On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense has been solid, but unable to consistently generate negative plays for the opposing offense.
The Tigers defenders must produce sacks, tackles for loss, and, for the first time this year, turnovers to slow down Penn State and set up the Auburn offense in position to score.
Home Field Advantage
In seasons that Auburn has been successful, Jordan-Hare Stadium is a house of horrors for the visitors.
In seasons that Tiger fans would rather forget, teams that are average at best have waltzed right down Samford Avenue for road wins.
This afternoon will be the first time in 2022 that Auburn’s home atmosphere really has an opportunity to shine.
If the Tigers can get off to a quick start and help keep the energy at the beginning of the game pulsing throughout all four quarters, then Auburn will have a huge advantage against Penn State.
Auburn must play its strongest game of the season to earn a victory and the home fans have a chance to help make that happen.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.