Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - Auburn football will kick off its 2017 season tomorrow against Georgia Southern. The Tigers are looking to start their season off with a win, but how will they do that?
After breaking down Georgia Southern, the Tigers have several keys to their victory.
My 5 keys for Auburn football to defeat Georgia Southern:
1) Run the ball
If you hear “Run Forrest Run” during the game, that may be offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey on the sidelines yelling for quarterback Jarrett Stidham to hand the ball off to his two power backs, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.
Georgia Southern gave up over 2,000 rushing yards last season; their run defense seems to have been a weak spot for the team. To put that number in perspective, Pettway rushed for 1,224 yards alone last season and combined with Johnson’s 895 rushing yards, the two backs for Auburn rushed for a combined 2,119 yards.
With the run defense of Georgia Southern being weaker, Auburn should be looking to run the ball more often, especially because the Tigers have strength in their offensive line. The line will be led by the trio of: Austin Golson, Braden Smith, and Darius James. The group has a combined 60 games experience.
The right side of the offensive line seems to be the stronger side for the Tigers, with right guard Braden Smith and right tackle Darius James holding down the fort.
If the Tigers want to win by a large margin of victory, they will be smart and hand the ball off to their backs and let them do their thing. I expect both Pettway and Johnson have 100-yard games and possibly combine for multiple touchdowns.
2) Step on the gas
If you hate having flashbacks to the 2015 season when Auburn won their first home game in overtime 27-20 against Jacksonville State, then you certainly want Auburn to put the gas on early and not let up so that doesn’t happen on Saturday.
In order to put Georgia Southern away, Auburn will have to not let up or underestimate their opponent.
Georgia Southern has faired well in games against teams in power 5 conferences. They have beaten SEC Florida in 2013 by 6 points. In the last seven games that Georgia Southern has played against power five conference teams, four of those have been decided by 6 points or less. Just last season, Georgia Southern led Ole Miss 14-3 before losing by 10.
Georgia Southern has also won their last 4 games in the state of Alabama, dating back to 2013 against Samford.
So, if Auburn wants to win this weekend, they cannot look past Georgia Southern. The key for them is to push them down and not let them come back up for air.
3) Stop the triple option offense
Georgia Southern has been known to run a triple option offense, which makes them very hard to defend against.
This week, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said the key to stopping the triple option is “eye discipline.”
With that being said, Georgia Southern is lacking one thing that will also give the Tigers an edge in stopping the triple option: quarterback experience.
Georgia Southern’s projected starting quarterback is redshirt freshman Shai Werts, and he has no FBS game experience. Their backup quarterback, LaBaraon Anthony, has only 2 FBS games under his belt.
With a lack of QB experience, I can see Auburn finding an easier way to stopping the triple option. Expect Dontavius Russell and Marlon Davidson to pressure the quarterback often, which could cause an inexperienced quarterback to make stupid mistakes.
However, Georgia Southern does not lack in experience in the running back position. Wesley Fields and L.A. Rambsy are tandem backs similar to Auburn's. Fields alone has rushed for a career 1,174 yards and 10 touchdowns and also has 282 passing yards for 4 touchdowns.
Fields and Rambsy can both catch the ball on pass plays, that’s where the eye discipline will come in. I expect Tray Matthews and Carlton Davis to jump on passes early, that is if the Tigers want to win and eliminate the pass.
As Steele said, if Auburn can keep their eye discipline, they should have no problem in picking up on the sloppy plays early.
4) Score TD’s in the Redzone
It's not surprising that Malzahn said: “to be one of the best you have to be able to run the ball in.” Well, shockingly enough, that’s something Auburn has done well when they’ve been really good.
It’s no question that last season’s redzone offense was lacking in scoring touchdowns or scoring period.
The Tigers finished last season ranked 69th in redzone offense, scoring only 83% of the time.
For Auburn to be more successful and get more points on the board they should have a redzone scoring percentage of at least 90%.
Last seasons Tigers relied too much on the leg of Daniel Carlson, who had a team leading 134 points for the season, while in the redzone.
For Auburn to beat Georgia Southern or any team, they have to use their weapons to put the ball in the endzone.
By adding Stidham this offseason, Auburn could potentially have a power run game and an explosive aerial attack. This means the Tigers have a multi-threat offense and should utilize it in order to score more in the redzone.
If Auburn is to win Saturday, expect redzone trips to be highlighted by the run game of Pettway and Johnson as well as the aerial threats of Eli Stove, Nate Craig-Myers, and Ryan Davis.
5) Keep the ball
Everyone knows the best way to keep an underdog in the game is to turn the ball over. And if last seasons Auburn was known for something, they were known to give the ball away one too many times.
Last season Auburn had 14 turnovers. That’s a lot of turnovers considering they only went two games, against Arkansas and Ole Miss, where they did not have a single turnover.
Granted only 20 points were given up off these turnovers, but by putting the ball in the other team's hands, gave the other team more confidence.
If one thing is for sure, if Auburn plans on putting away Georgia Southern, they cannot turn the ball over and give Georgia Southern a confidence boost.