This week, Auburn has a chance to grow confidence again by beating a Vanderbilt squad that has dropped its last seven games. ESPN analytics and BetMGM have high confidence in the Tigers to pull it off. Does the staff at Auburn Wire feel the same way?
In this week’s roundtable, the guys share their thoughts on last week’s win as well as the wild weekend ahead in SEC play.
Will Auburn repeat last week’s success? Will the SEC have a representative in the College Football Playoff?
Is Payton Thorne the guy?
Payton Thorne had his best game as an Auburn Tiger last week. Do you expect to see a similar performance from him this week at Vanderbilt?
TJ: I think that he has the potential to reach those heights again only if Freeze keeps him in the game for a majority of the offensive snaps. Vanderbilt’s defense has plenty of weaknesses, and Thorne could have a great day.
JM: I think he’s going to have another strong game, but not quite as productive as last week. That was one of the best games of his career and it’s unfair to expect him to have another such game right away.
BH: Auburn’s starting quarterback finally seemed to play with confidence last week, and I expect that to carry over against a bad Vanderbilt team. I expect another great game out of Throne with Auburn favored by nearly two touchdowns. Hopefully, another good game can carry over some confidence into the final stretch of the season.
Is the rotation coming back?
In your opinion, what did his performance last week do for the quarterback rotation?
TJ: I think that it proved what we knew all along, that the offense thrives with one leader. Thorne, in this element, is more comfortable and will lead Auburn to more success. Ashford is still important to the offense, however, but it helps when there’s one quarterback to keep the offense flowing.
JM: It all but ended it to me. Thorne provided the spark that Auburn has been searching for all season and I don’t think it can be underrated how important his playing the vast majority of the snaps were. Robby Ashford should still have a package, but it needs to only be used in specific situations.
BH: Last week showed that an offense 95% led by Payton Thorne is the best version of this Tigers team. Robby Ashford is still a great red zone weapon and should be used in goal-to-go situations, but this offense can thrive with Thorne making decisive reads and trusting in himself.
The weapons are on the table
Jarquez Hunter had a great game as well. With Thorne and Hunter both at their best, how much does Auburn’s chances of winning out increase?
TJ: Last week, Auburn entered a stretch of five games where they needed to win at least three in order to qualify for a bowl game. We saw last week that Auburn’s success runs through Thorne and Hunter, and they will need to continue their streak in order to push Auburn to their ceiling. The Iron Bowl is still a toss-up, but I feel better about Auburn’s upset chances now than I did two weeks ago.
JM: It increases drastically and to me, they should be favorites in the rest of their games except the Iron Bowl and with it being in Jordan-Hare and Alabama looking to have taken a step back, it is certainly winnable.
BH: If Thorne can play at his best and the offensive line can keep it upright this team will always have a chance. Now, if Jarquez Hunter is rushing for over 100 yards a game on top of that, then we can start talking about Auburn winning out. I just don’t see all three of those things happening against Arkansas or Alabama though.
Make or break Saturday
There are several intriguing matchups within the SEC this week. Outside of Auburn-Vanderbilt, which game has your attention the most?
TJ: The Georgia-Missouri game has my attention. Although Georgia is unbeaten, they are vulnerable. Missouri is off to its best start in the Eli Drinkwitz era, and this game is an important part of his legacy. I would have more confidence in Missouri’s upset chances if the game was played in Columbia, but Georgia should pull away in front of the home crowd.
JM: The two top games to me are Alabama vs. LSU and Missouri vs. Georgia. Alabama-LSU is always a great game and Missouri-Georgia is quite unexpectedly the de facto SEC East title game.
BH: Alabama has a chance to play itself right back into the College Football Playoff conversation with a win over LSU. If the Tide can win out, I think the committee will find a way to get Alabama in again. Missouri also has the chance to knock off No. 2 ranked UGA on the road. Although that game is intriguing, I don’t see the Tigers’ defense being up to the task even with Brock Bowers no longer in the picture for UGA.
Georgia is No. 2 in this week’s CFP rankings. If they were to lose a regular season game… would the SEC have a representative in the College Football Playoff?
TJ: I think it all depends on what happens with Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss in the SEC West. If Alabama and Georgia win out, I see the winner of the SEC Championship Game going. But if Alabama were to lose to LSU, and Georgia loses a game at any point, I see an unbeaten Washington team wrapping up the No. 4 spot.
JM: That depends on how Alabama, LSU, and Georgia close out the season. If there is a one-loss SEC champion then I think they are a lock to make the playoff, no matter who it is. If LSU is able to run the table and pick up wins over Alabama and whoever wins the SEC East I also think they make it.
BH: It’s definitely likely. The way I could see an SEC team getting a bid in that scenario is if Missouri were to win out and beat a one-loss Alabama in the SEC Championship. Even then, they’d need some help to get in.
Tigers on top
What is your Auburn-Vanderbilt score prediction?
TJ: Auburn 38 Vanderbilt 17
JM: Auburn 30 Vanderbilt 14
BH: Auburn 31 Vanderbilt 6