What: Georgia Southern at Auburn
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium; Auburn, AL
TV: SEC Network
Folks, it’s time. It’s time to see just what Tyson Summers’ second Eagle squad looks like. Don’t expect it to look like last year’s team. Offensive Coordinator Bryan Cook is bringing the triple option – or some form of it – back to Statesboro. He’s going to be running an offense that only the seniors were recruited for and running it with a freshman quarterback.
Who will be their first test? Oh, just the #12 (or somewhere in the Top 15 depending on the poll) Auburn Tigers. A team returning most of a highly-ranked defense. A team returning every major skill player from an offense that was pretty stout until the QB got hurt and now added a top-ranked dual threat QB with legit NFL talent.
As you can probably tell, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Tigers. Well, a little more than a soft spot. It’s my alma mater. I grew up with Georgia Southern and Auburn football. I know a pretty large amount about both teams. I even did a Q&A with myself about the game for an Auburn site I used to run.
That being said, I’m going to try to keep this overall game preview as fair as I can.
When The Eagles Have The Ball
Georgia Southern will be starting a brand new freshman QB in Shai Werts. The last time they went to Auburn with a freshman QB, things went fairly well through halftime. The Eagles led 17-3. That was a team coming off two national championships in a row (and a trip to one the year before those two) that was well-versed in running the triple option.
This will be a team learning a new offense. That Auburn team was, well, not that great. They were ok, but nothing special. This Auburn team is a Top 15 team and has the talent – at least on paper – to back it up.
The good news for the Eagles is that they still have LA Ramsby and Wesley Fields in the backfield. Those are excellent running backs. Some big-play wide receivers are gone, but there are some speedy and excellent replacements in Malik Henry and Myles Campbell.
They’ll have to use that speed, though, as Auburn’s Front 7 is pretty loaded. They’re rolling 2-deep with 4 or 5 stars at pretty much every position. Even with the loss of Carl Lawson and Montravious Adams, there is plenty of talent on the line. The linebackers may be even better.
Led by Tre Williams and Darrell Williams (no relation between them, or between defensive lineman Andrew Williams and linebackers coach Travis Williams; don’t get me started on all of the Davis’, either), this is the best core of linebackers Auburn has had in years. Oh, and the secondary is the best – and fastest – it’s been in years, too.
The option relies on establishing the running game. The onus will be on Georgia Southern’s offensive line to get a push against that Front 7. If the Eagles can’t get the dive working and have to go to the outside more often, they’ll be up against one of the quickest defenses they’ll see all year and risking mistakes on the pitch that almost always happen in the first game or two of the year much less the first time running the option in a few years.
For Georgia Southern to have a chance in this game, Shai Werts isn’t going to be the major key. The key is going to be the big guys up front. If they can’t get the blocks, then it’s going to be a long night for the Eagles’ offense as they attempt to move the ball against the Tigers.
When The Tigers Have The Ball
Georgia Southern replaces a lot in their defensive Front 7. They’ll be going against an offense that – when everyone was healthy – produced a ton of yards on the ground last year. It may not be the running offense that the Eagles need to be worried about. New offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey was brought in to revolutionize the Tigers’ passing game.
He has the perfect weapon to do that in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. I expect the Tigers to air it out more often than many think. Fortunately, for the Eagles, the secondary may be the best part of the Eagles’ defense. They’ll get a big test against Auburn, but Joshua Moon & Company should be up to the challenge.
They’ll be facing a corps of extremely talented wide receivers, but not many of them have a whole lot of experience. That could make this matchup a bit more of a push than many think.
There are rumors out there that a few players may miss some playing time for Auburn, too. That includes running back Kamryn Pettway, the biggest piece of those big running games. Georgia Southern’s Front 7 may be undersized compared to the average SEC line that Auburn will face, but they’re quick, and if Pettway’s time is limited, that could help them put a stop to the run.
I don’t know what the punter situation will be like, here, but I can tell you that when it comes to place kicker, Auburn has a clear advantage. Daniel Carlson may be one of the best kickers to play college football in years. He’s been a Lou Groza finalist two years in a row and only gets better it seems with every season.
What To Do In Auburn
So, I’ve lived in Auburn for about 1/4 of my life. I was there for four years as a college student and lived there for 4.5 years working for the ROTC department until last October. So, I know a pretty good bit about the town. Here are the things you can’t miss:
Make sure you get some of the famous Toomer’s Lemonade. It’s located at the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue. It’s what gives that intersection – the intersection of town and campus – the name “Toomer’s Corner.”
Speaking of, be sure to see the new Oaks. It’s a shame the originals aren’t there, but some asshole Alabama fan ruined that.
Erk Russell’s Diamond
Auburn has a lot of diamond-shaped plaques in town, mostly along College Street. On the south-east side of College Street – just down from J&M Bookstore – in front of a brick wall with “War Eagle” painted on it is former Georgia Southern head coach Erk Russell’s diamond. It has all four of the sports he lettered in on it.
Go see the tradition that started it all. The most copied tradition in College Football. It’s two hours before kickoff and runs down Donahue to the southwest corner of the stadium and the intersection of Heisman Drive.
The Eagle Flight
Get to your seats no less than 20 minutes before kickoff. You won’t want to miss Auburn’s pregame show that starts with the Eagle Flight and goes into the band entrance. The band even has their own hype video.
Where to Park
All over the place, really. You can park fairly close to the stadium for free in various places. For a complete Gameday Guide, check out Auburn’s site.
I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m forgetting right now, but hit me up in the comments or on Twitter at @AU_GS_Walt and I’ll try to help!