Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - No. 6 Auburn is coming off a huge win over the now No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs. They have another tall task in two weeks when they welcome No. 1 Alabama.
However, they first have to take on ULM Saturday and must take care of business in order to keep this season's Iron Bowl the center of college football.
Here are my 5 keys to an Auburn win against ULM:
1) Contain Caleb Evans
The highlight of this ULM team is clearly their quarterback Caleb Evans. Evans is the most elusive player on the Warhawk team, being a passing and running threat.
Evans runs a fantastic read-option offense that has put ULM at the top of the Sun Belt Conference in point points per game averaging 37 per contest.
On top of that, Evans has put ULM at No. 19 in the FBS with total offensive yards per game, averaging about 475 yards.
The ULM offense poses some issues for the Auburn defense, but nothing I feel they can't handle.
Auburn's defense has been able to shut down multiple read-option offenses as well as triple-option offenses this season.
The Tigers have held their opponents to just under 300 yards per game in total offense. This stat happens to put Auburn at number 9 in the nation in that regard.
Auburn has been effective all season in stopping the run, especially in stopping the Georgia run game. The Auburn defensive front allows teams an average of about 118 yards rushing per game.
Keeping these things in mind, if Auburn wants to soundly beat ULM they will have to stop their key player in Evans.
2) Limit the deep threat
The ULM offense led by Evans uses a constant deep passing game to stretch the field and score points quickly.
The Warhawks have 11 wide receivers that average 10+ yards per reception this season, that is a lot of players who basically pick up a first down every time a pass comes their way.
Auburn has been able to limit their opponents passing games this season as well. To put it blankly the Auburn defense doesn't allow their opponents to do much offensively.
The Tiger secondary allows just over 180 yards passing per game. Relatively speaking, that is a relatively low number considering they have one of the toughest schedules in college football.
If Auburn can't completely shut down Evans, they will have to completely shut down multiple receivers who like to use their speed to stretch the field. If Auburn can at least stop the deep pass, they have a higher likelihood of defeating ULM.
3) Let Kerryon do his thing
Like I have said before, running back Kerryon Johnson is the best player on this Auburn team. Let's put it this way, even coach Gus Malzahn thinks Johnson should be in Heisman conversation.
Anyways, moving on to Johnson against ULM. For Auburn to put this game away early, they should do it on the legs of Johnson.
Johnson has 17 TDs this season and has already passed the 1,000 rush yard mark against Georgia. He currently has 1,035 rushing yards on the season in only 8 games. That's a very impressive accomplishment.
Kerryon Johnson is not human.— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) November 11, 2017
With that being said, ULM tends to have a weaker run defense. The Warhawks defense typically allows their opponents to run for about 212 rushing yards per game. A pretty high number if you think about it.
ULM also averages giving up 2 rushing touchdowns a game.
If Auburn wants to put this game away early, they will need Johnson to continue to put up the numbers he has been all season. If Johnson can do this, the Tigers will be able to sit Johnson the rest of the game to keep him healthy heading into the Iron Bowl.
4) Limit the turnovers
This point is a point I make every week. There is no stat that says it better other than actions. If Auburn turns over the ball, ULM gains some momentum and can change the game.
It's as simple as that if Auburn turnovers the ball, ULM has a better chance of changing the game and possibly pulling ahead of the Tigers.
Auburn hasn't turned the ball much in the past few weeks. The Tigers had zero turnovers against Texas A&M and Georgia.
Now keep this in mind, Alabama lost to ULM in 2007, Nick Saban's first year as head coach.
For Auburn to not be on the same list as Alabama, the Tigers must keep possession of the ball in order to keep momentum.
5) Get out without injuries
For Auburn to win this game, they must be able to put the Warhawks away early in order to get their starters out.
If ULM hangs around, the more time Auburn's first-string players have to play. What this means is there is a greater chance of injury to a key Tiger player.
It will be key for the Tigers to win early and quickly in order to get other players in. And as a bonus, if Auburn can put their second-string players in early, the more experience those players get.
Those players can then gain more experience, something that will pay off for future games and for future seasons.