GAME PREVIEW: # 23 Auburn vs. Georgia State



Here we are, back home, after a loss. It’s kind of like having a nice weekend at your friend’s house and then having to come back on a Sunday afternoon and start your homework. The loss to Penn State was difficult to handle, especially since Auburn’s mistakes were incredibly glaring, but in the grand scheme of things, it could be a blessing in disguise.

Auburn certainly went out and played hard in a rabid road atmosphere, and didn’t shy away from the challenge at all. The mistakes you can point out – Kobe Hudson’s fumble and the failure on the goal line – resulted in a big points swing and maybe ended up making a difference in the game. We saw a team fight and scratch and almost come back despite the odds, and it was refreshing to know they weren’t giving up.

Whether you wanted to compare that effort to what a Gus Malzahn team might have given is your prerogative, but Bryan Harsin produced an impressive effort even when lost. Now we see how he is able to reverse the negative momentum and bring it the other way. Fortunately, we can test this new dynamic against Georgia State instead of Georgia, and there should be no danger of losing this game.

Auburn will be able to control the lines of scrimmage and should have no difficulty running 300 yards while stopping the Panther offense, which is itself heavily based on running. Not much of a mystery in the trajectory of the game, to be honest. What we want to see is how the Tigers seem to behave both out of the gate and throughout the game. Are they listless and dull after the loss? Are they going through the emotional hangover and the ensuing blue balls associated with almost winning a huge victory?

Whatever the answer, Auburn doesn’t have to stand up for this game to win, but they will have to stand up to make everyone feel better. Bryan Harsin and company have embraced the 1-0 mentality, and you can’t go 1-0 if you don’t fully focus on the next game on the schedule. Here is where we can see what kind of coach he really is.

WHEN AUBURN AT THE BALL: Even with the slowest offensive effort last week, Auburn seemed to understand something in the third quarter, and the Tigers still lead the country in yards per carry (7.9) and are still second in the country in regards to the offense (47.3 points per game). You’d think we’d have half of Tank Bigsby, where he ran 10-12 times, and then a big dose of Jarquez Hunter and Sean Jackson afterward. I think we will, and Shaun Shivers returns this week after his COVID quarantine, so he will be part of the offense again.

What will probably work more is to improve the confidence of the passing game. Penn State managed to lock our receivers for the most part, and Bo Nix looked a lot more like the quarterback we’ve seen over the past two seasons. It was good to see him return to Kobe Hudson after the fumble, and Hudson made some big catches. Unfortunately, Demetris Robertson and Shedrick Jackson barely moved the needle, and Auburn struggled to get a big game through the air. I’m sure we’ll put a little more emphasis on making this passing game a success, especially before we have to enter Baton Rouge next Saturday night.

WHEN THE STATE OF GEORGIA HAS THE BALL: Now that won’t work out well for the Panthers. GSU averages less than 300 yards per game on offense, and the bread and butter of their offense is the running game. However, they only average around 175 yards per rushing game. There are four runners who have amassed over 100 yards this season, but no one has yet proven they can carry the load. Quarterback Darren Grainger is a double-threat guy, going 122 yards on 22 carries and throwing a pair of touchdowns on 8-16 passes, but he’s not far prolific. The most seasoned pitcher is Cornelious Brown, who has gone 24-46 for just 197 yards and no scoring this year.

When they choose to throw the ball, Destin Coates is the leading fullback, with 141 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries, and Jamyest Williams showed a little blast averaging 6.0 ypc over 17 carries.

There’s not much to the passing game, and I think Roger McCreary will shoot the first assignment on Jamari Thrash, who is the only receiver with double-digit catches in the first three games (11 receptions, 167 yards, 1 TD). Ja’Cyais Credle also showed flash with 5 catches for 74 yards, but no one else has caught more than 3 receptions all year.

This is a team that was stopped offensively by Army (48 yards on 28 carries) and blitzed defensively by North Carolina (607 yards overall, 8.5 yards per play), before finally starting to figure it out. against Charlotte. Auburn is not Charlotte. It’ll be over pretty quickly, and we’ll shoot for a match that will last almost three hours.

SERIES HISTORY: Hey, we’re off the list!

LAST WEEK: Auburn of course fell to Penn State by a score of 28-20, and Georgia State claimed its first win of the year in a 20-9 victory over Charlotte. The Panthers finally started their running game, slashing the 49ers for 296 yards on 49 carries.

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. Termination mode. Think of this game like Georgia State is just a little speed bump. Not one of the big ones with reflectors on top, but one of the little ones that makes you laugh when you fly over it at top speed. Auburn has to show that last week was the culmination of mistakes for a team learning new offensive and defensive systems. We’re four weeks away now, and this game has to be the one to show all systems work. We have tried it now with live ammunition, and someone got hurt. You learn, you adapt and you move forward. Come out with the same intensity we’ve seen against Akron, and I predict this team will break the streak at Baton Rouge next weekend.
  2. Show us continuous improvement on offense. While we’re sure the Tank and Jarquez combo works great, we want to see something else to build on. If it’s not for next weekend, then certainly the following weekend, where Auburn will have to have a few more laps up for Georgia. Let’s work on the relationship between Bo and the receptors, and involve them even more in the new wrinkles put in place by Harsin and Bobo. Open up the passing game and bring Bo closer to what we’ve seen in weeks one and two. It can be a two step forward situation, one step back for the offense. This is still global progress.
  3. Bags and slippers. That defensive line didn’t put much pressure on Sean Clifford, and he was able to sit down and complete 28-32 passes on the Tigers last week. This is completely unacceptable, and it would be hard to believe that Tom Brady could post a similar stat line if he was thrown into it. It starts with hitting the quarterback and making him nervous in the pocket. Auburn didn’t do it last week. Now you have a young quarterback coming into Jordan-Hare for a non-morning kick. Make him suffer, put him to the ground and profit from his mistakes. Take a few turnovers and push this game into rash territory very quickly.

HOT QUESTIONS:

  1. Which Bo Nix will we see? It becomes a question almost every week from a corner of Auburn’s universe, but back home it should be solid and stable. If there’s a time for him to take the trouble out of the road, it’s in the week ahead. He can start today with a short memory after Penn State.
  2. Will Derek Mason show his adaptability during the match? Auburn’s plan to get into State College might have been good on paper, but Penn State quickly morphed into a short passing team who had no trouble being patient as they moved on the ground. It might not be the game where we need to learn more, but you can still be vigilant to see if Mason makes an adjustment on the fly if the Panthers move the ball. Is he going to launch an exotic blitz or two? A whimsical blanket? I would like to see it.
  3. What kind of team comes out of the tunnel? Is it a group of tail-tuckers? Or is it a team ready to scream and show that last week was an anomaly? The jet made a flat spin last Saturday. Can we straighten it out or are we meant to goose ourselves and throw ourselves against the canopy?

The kick-off arrives this afternoon for a beautiful early fall day! 3 p.m. CST / 4 p.m. EST, be there and get this team back on track! War eagle!



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