It was only one week ago that Auburn fell to Penn State at home. But with all of the wild news that has happened since, it feels as if the game was played several months ago.
Auburn players, coaches, and fans desperately need something to go their way in a hurry. A win against Missouri at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday may not bring total happiness, but it will be a step in the right direction.
While it may seem like the sky is falling around the Plains, there are still positive aspects to Auburn’s game that should help them earn their first SEC win of the season.
What are those items? Let’s take a look below. Here are five things that need to go well in order for Auburn to take down Missouri on Saturday.
Chemistry begins to build between the quarterback at the rest of the offense
AP Photo/Butch Dill
Though it will be because of injuries, head coach Bryan Harsin will have no choice but to give a quarterback control of the offense.
Through three weeks, T.J. Finley and Robby Ashford have split time, with neither player standing above the other. This week, neither Finley nor backup Zach Calzada will be available for the game, which means that Ashford will be expected to start, with the possibility of true freshman Holden Geriner getting snaps as well.
If either Ashford or Geriner steps up to take control of the offense, it could send a positive shake wave to the rest of the offense.
Bryan Harsin remembers who his best player is
AP Photo/Butch Dill
Have you ever heard of the phrase “your greatest strength might very well be your greatest weakness”? That is certainly the case for Auburn Football and head coach Bryan Harsin.
Auburn football lives and dies by running back [autotag]Tank Bigsby[/autotag], which goes along with what our editor Patrick Conn wrote in his piece “Five reasons Auburn could struggle against Missouri.” Bigsby only recorded nine carries in last week’s loss to Penn State and has only received seven touches in Auburn’s 28 total plays inside the red zone through three games. Misuse of a great running back will not win many games.
The lack of Harsin’s use of his greatest asset is concerning. If “the gameplan” does not allow him to use Bigsby in a great capacity against Missouri, then Auburn will for sure have trouble.
However, if Harsin allows Tank to do his job, Auburn could run away with the win.
The defensive front has a strong showing
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Auburn has plenty of key players on defense. Derick Hall, Eku Leota, Cam Riley, Owen Pappoe… you get it.
Auburn has recorded only four sacks through three games. Auburn slid by Mercer and San Jose State without applying much pressure, but Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was able to extend drives due to Auburn’s lack of pressure.
Missouri’s Brady Cook not only throws the ball, but he is the teams leading rusher as well, meaning that he will have the football in his hands most of the game. If Auburn can get Cook off of his rhythm, the defense could enjoy more success than they have all season.
The defensive backs break out of their slumber
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Call this one 3a. To go along with the fact that Auburn has only recorded four sacks, they have also failed to create a turnover.
Brady Cook relies on his top three receivers in Dominic Lovett, Barrett Banister and Luther Burden to make plays. He has done so more often than not, as he has thrown four touchdowns and three interceptions.
If the front seven can create pressure, the defensive backs should be able to reap the rewards.
They jump over the mental hurdle
AP Photo/Butch Dill
Yes, they got spanked at home by Penn State. Yes, they have heard that they are not good. Yes, their head coach has received much scrutiny over the week.
How do they bounce back? That will be the Tigers’ greatest test of maturity.
They get a shot to bounce back against an inferior SEC opponent in front of the home crowd. The odds are in their favor, but they have to do their part to earn the victory.