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Opponent Q&A: Auburn

Checking in on the Tigers/Plainsmen/War Eagles.

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It’s been six long years, but the South Carolina Gamecocks and Auburn Tigers are linking up again for some football this weekend. Since it’s been a minute, we checked in with the good folks over at College and Magnolia for some insight on what we might expect.

Were it not for a fortuitous call by the officials against Arkansas, Auburn would be 1-2 in what has been a very strange season already. How’s the fan base feeling about the state of the team right now?

James: [insert TheAuburner’s screencap where Shed is right there] This is when the whistle was blown. You can’t guarantee Arkansas gets that ball. The refs screwed up, but don’t tell me the game was over.

Josh: Auburn was the beneficiary of a premature whistle Saturday near the end of the game. In the third quarter, Arkansas was the beneficiary of a missed Offensive Pass Interference call that led to an Arkansas touchdown a few plays later. The fumble/grounding call will obviously be remembered more due to the time on the clock, but that missed call led to 3 points for Auburn. The missed penalty led to 7 points for Arkansas.

I can’t speak for everyone here at College and Mag, but a hint of optimism has been restored in the days following the game. It’s a strange season indeed, so I can forgive some execution mistakes that might have been reduced with a full non-COVID offseason (tackling, that kind of thing).

Quarterback Bo Nix, reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, hasn’t quite gotten off to a rip-roaring start, but of course remains dangerous. What’s the story behind his performance so far this year? Is there any concern of a sophomore slump?

James: Bo hasn’t looked great, but he also isn’t getting a lot of help. He looked good against UK when given time. He was given zero chance of success against UGA other than missing a couple of deep balls, which doesn’t really do anything but make his stat line look better. Then against Arkansas, his best receiver drops 4 passes, including a touchdown. TL;DR: he’s not great, but he’s not getting any help either.

Josh: I am concerned that Auburn doesn’t have the physical man-power on the offensive line to protect our quarterback against the conference’s most elite talent. The increased pressure on Bo Nix has forced him to make some rather quick decisions. He is very, very, extremely turnover-conscious, almost to a fault. I think Nix will have a similar season to 2019 with plenty of ups and downs, so it would be a stretch to refer to it as a slump. If the offensive line gets clicking, though, Nix could put up some impressive numbers, especially considering Chad Morris’s history with passing statistics.

Aside from Nix, South Carolina fans are also quite familiar with Tank Bigsby, given the recruiting battle for him that went down between our programs. Who else should Gamecock fans be looking out for that maybe isn’t on the radar?

James: Is the JJ Pegues Wildcat (aka HAM NEWTON) on everybody’s radar now? I would think a 300lb freshman “tight end” having an 11 yard run where he spins away from one defender and hurdles another would be widely available now.

Josh: He’s probably already on your radar, but Anthony Schwartz. He may be the fastest human in the United States, and it looks like Auburn is finally starting to figure out how to get him the ball. There’s still work to go, because Flash’s potential is sky high, but I like the progress.Another name is Roger McCreary. The Auburn Observer’s Justin Ferguson has been hyping him since well before the season started as one of the players with the most potential, and he’s already making an impact at defensive back. His interception against Kentucky was a game changer.

Which units would you say are Auburn’s biggest strength and weakness right now?

James: Strengths: Tank Bigsby and special teams.Weaknesses: covering someone other than the main receiving weapon. Throwing to anyone other than Seth or Schwartz.

Finally, care to make a prediction?

James: will have my thoughts Friday (gotta keep the crowd wanting more!)