AUBURN | Auburn’s 2017 football schedule includes two tough road games in September, three more in October and two big November rivalry games at home.
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Today, we continue an early look at each opponent with a final tune-up before the Iron Bowl.
WHO: Louisiana-Monroe (4-8 last season, 3-5 Sun Belt)
WHEN: Nov. 18
WHERE: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
WHAT’S NEW: Head coach Matt Viator hired Eman Naghavi from McNeese State as offensive line coach in March.
WHO TO WATCH, OFFENSE: Quarterback Garrett Smith is back from a knee injury and expected to be the starter as a junior after completing 57.5 percent of his passes for 1,237 yards and nine touchdowns in eight games last fall. He also rushed for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
WHO TO WATCH, DEFENSE: Junior David Griffith leads a strong linebacker corps. He led ULM with 78 tackles, 12.0 tackles-for-loss and 4.0 sacks last season.
OUTLOOK: Seven starters return on what should be a high-scoring offense in the Sun Belt. A strong group of skill players will be bolstered by Alabama transfer running back Derrick Gore. Texas Tech transfer Trace Ellison should help the offensive line.
The defense was a sore spot last year, ranking 125th nationally allowing 260.3 rushing yards per game and 122nd allowing 39.1 points per game. Nine starters return and ULM will look to the linebackers and senior defensive end Caleb Tucker to bolster the front seven.
ULM should be an improved team in year two under Viator from the one Auburn blitzed 58-7 last fall. Still, this will be a mismatch up front and the Tigers should have the game wrapped up by halftime or early in the third quarter.
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