No. 8 Auburn, Nix taking show on road against Mond & Co.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix (10) scrambles away from Tulane defensive end Davon Wright (90) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Auburn, Ala.

Jordan D. Hill

Prep Writer

1. Will the offense find first-half balance against Kent State?

Auburn will make more strides toward balance this week thanks to Kent State’s defensive issues. The Golden Flashes struggled mightily against the run-first Kennesaw State Owls last week, surrendering 437 yards of offense and barely survived against the FCS opponent. The Tigers’ big problem in Week 2 was an inability to run the football against a solid AAC team in Tulane, which looks on track to go to a bowl game. The Golden Flashes are nowhere near that level this season, meaning Bo Nix should be able to avoid throwing quite as much at the start of this non-conference game.

2. What can Auburn do to clean up its game before SEC play?

Auburn’s biggest concern going into the Tulane game needs to be getting more players involved on offense. After boasting a six-man depth chart at running back prior to the Oregon game, sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow has shouldered the load for two straight games. Kam Martin and Shaun Shivers need to get more involved. Additionally, the receiving corps needs more players to step up with Seth Williams’ availability uncertain after Eli Stove and Will Hastings led the way last week. In SEC play, depth will likely determine how far the Tigers can go.

3. Which youngsters will make an impact for Auburn?

Gus Malzahn talked up Marquis McClain this spring, but the junior has yet to catch a pass in 2019. Saturday offers a window of opportunity for McClain, as the Tigers have some concerns at the position with Seth Williams likely out and Anthony Schwartz still on the mend from his hand injury. McClain came back to Auburn to be one of the Tigers’ go-to guys in the passing game, and this is the perfect time to prove what he’s capable of doing.

4. What changes can Auburn make in the running game to improve that side of the offense?

Auburn needs to get its quarterbacks more involved in the run game. The Tigers found little room to work with against Tulane last week, and the rushing attempts were mostly reserved for backup Joey Gatewood. Shying away from running Nix and Gatewood a lot is understandable given the injury risk, but proving either player is a threat with their feet could open up bigger plays for Whitlow, Martin and the others on the ground.

5. Final score?​

Auburn wins 41-10. Second-year head coach Sean Lewis is doing a good job of rebuilding Kent State, but the Tigers’ firepower is far too much for the MAC program to keep up with.


Justin Lee

AU Writer

Auburn vs. Tulane football

Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow runs over to greet former Auburn coach Pay Dye during warmups before Auburn's game against Tulane in Jordan-Hare Stadium. (Justin Lee/jlee@oanow.com)

1. Will the offense find first-half balance against Kent State?

For all the fans aching for a dominating performance against Tulane, this is the game where fans should get to see just that. Tulane isn’t your typical non-Power Five team. The Green Wave had won six of its last seven entering Jordan-Hare last week. Kent State is 1-1, having survived FCS Kennesaw State in overtime. Auburn should impose its will early, and the Tigers should have an easy, early season tune-up.

2. What can Auburn do to clean up its game before SEC play?

Auburn wants to establish the running game early, if only for the players to prove to themselves they can do it before the trip to Texas A&M rolls around. Auburn also needs to improve on its punt coverage, and will have the chance to do that against Kent State when Auburn does punt. It doesn’t matter who the opposition is there. Auburn can still clean up its game in those areas — and try to play a game with limited penalties — on the way to SEC action.

3. Which youngsters will make an impact for Auburn?

Non-conference games like this almost always present younger players with an opportunity to get on the field and log some real-game action. At safety, Auburn has two seniors leading the defense in Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas. Their hand-picked successors, twin sophomores Smoke Monday and Jamien Sherwood, are waiting in the wings and could have their chance to lead the defense. Auburn also has an all-senior offensive line, and would like to put the game away early enough to allow the O-line’s second team to see some action.

4. What changes can Auburn make in the running game to improve that side of the offense?

Auburn can get more creative earlier in games with its sweeps and draws, displacing offensive linemen and scheming them up against linebackers and defenders in the second level on that plays that can help throw off a defense. At the same time, Bo Nix could get more involved in the running game at quarterback, and Shaun Shivers still hasn’t been able to show off his track-star speed this season.

5. Final score?​

Auburn 41, Kent State 7. Auburn will roll in this one, and have its chance to bowl over its competition. The Tigers’ fans should get their chance to enjoy the Homecoming festivities, and Auburn will get to 3-0. They’ll enjoy it now, because the SEC schedule kicks off in just one week.


Auburn vs. Tulane football

Auburn Tigers defensive back Daniel Thomas (24) and Auburn Tigers defensive back Noah Igbinoghene (4) tackles a Tulane ball carrier during the Auburn vs. Tulane game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 7, 2019.

Jon Dykstra

Sports Editor

1. Will the offense find first-half balance against Kent State?

It is now or never. Kent State is the worst team the Tigers have faced this season and the worst one they will face for a while. In the Tulane game, I thought it was important to develop true freshman Bo Nix’s confidence. In this game, I’m going the other way. It is important for the Auburn offense to know they can dominate the like of scrimmage against an inferior opponent. Boobee Whitlow needs to see plenty of work (and prove he can hold onto the ball) and the rest of the running backs need to find their rhythm as well. Offensive line, it is put-up-or-shut-up time

2. What can Auburn do to clean up its game before SEC play?

Auburn needs to show that they can start fast. They can not truly be a top-ten team if they aren’t capable of that against a team like Kent State. The run game should average over five yards a carry, the defense should pitch a shutout and Bo Nix should be able to take advantage of the opportunities he is given. A road trip to Texas A&M is next week and the Tigers need to ace this final test before the SEC opener.

3. Which youngsters will make an impact for Auburn?

I’ll let Justin and Jordan provide the creative answers, mine is simple: Bo Nix. The true freshman has shown some impressive flashes (no pun intended) in the first two games, but his accuracy has been extremely inconsistent. If Nix is ready to lead a top-10 into SEC play, he needs to tighten up some of those inconsistency. If he can’t hit receivers against the windows that Kent State provides, then it will be a very difficult slog through the SEC schedule. Another piece will be the other quarterback. Will Joey Gatewood be mixed in more with the starters to give Auburn a different look?

4. What changes can Auburn make in the running game to improve that side of the offense?

While creativity is fun and mixing in more Joey Gatewood could be interesting, the biggest change that the Tigers need to make for the ground game is simply to commit to it. They did that in the second half against Tulane and began to dominate that game. The running game needs to be a focus from the start and they need to allow the passing game to work off of the running game and not the other way around. Play fast and pound the run game, Kent State shouldn’t be able to keep pace. The game will be over in a Flash (pun intended).

5. Final score?​

Auburn 38, Kent State 3. The Tigers are simply a better team in every area. the Vegas line for this game is fairly high and I don’t think that it will quite get there because Auburn will be running the ball so much. Regardless, this game should be effectively over by halftime if not before and anything else should be considered a failure for Auburn.​

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