Auburn Tigers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Auburn Tigers Biggest Key: Offense
The passing game has to work. To reiterate a previous point, Auburn had Anthony Schwartz, Seth Williams and Eli Stove, and it still only threw for 2,423 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Bo Nix and the passing game came up with three touchdown passes in the opener against Kentucky and in the blowout win over LSU – that was it for the multiple touchdown games.
While it’s never fun to compare anything to that other team, Alabama only averaged fewer than nine yards per pass twice, and Auburn only got above the mark against LSU.
To be fair, Nix was a bit more consistent and there weren’t quite as many rough patches, but with road games at Penn State, LSU and Texas A&M on the slate, along with home dates with Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama, the offense needs more firepower even with the loss of the star receivers.
Auburn Tigers Biggest Key: Defense
Third down stops – come up with a few. The Auburn defense wasn’t bad overall, but it could use more of a pass rush, and a little more production against the top teams – okay, a LOT more production – would be delightful, but it all starts with simply getting off the field.
The Tigers were dead last in the SEC and among the worst in the nation on third downs, allowing teams to hit a whopping 50.3% of their chances. Mississippi State and LSU struggled, but everyone else converted 40% or better, and worse yet, six teams converted at least 60% of their tries.
How awful was that? The 2019 defense allowed offenses to convert on a mere 29.9% of the time with only Alabama, that LSU juggernaut, and – don’t scoff, the O was great – Kent State to get past 30%.
Auburn Tigers Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Bo Nix, Jr.
And/or TJ Finley. The 6-6, 242-pound LSU transfer might bring a bit more of a push for the job than you’d think.
It’s a new coaching staff that’s going to want to establish its own identity right away, and that might mean getting through the honeymoon first year – if there is one – by developing the big bomber.
Simply put, Auburn can’t make a jump forward without better quarterback production.
However, Nix has the skills. He has the size, moxie is hardly an issue, and he’s got the arm that made him such a massive recruit for the program. After completing 59% of his throws for just under 5,000 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 picks in his first two seasons, now he has to do more.
That’s almost single year now for a 2019 Joe Burrow or 2020 Mac Jones.
With that said, there’s a shot that it was all a function of the attack. It was one of the criticisms as the Gus Malzahn era went on, especially when he had Jarrett Stidham in 2018 – the O just didn’t turn it loose. We’ll see what the new coaching staff does.
Auburn Tigers Key Game To The 2021 Season
at Penn State, Sept. 18
All first year head coaches should get a bit of a free pass – there’s usually a reason a new guy has to take over – but the Auburn coach is always supposed to beat Alabama.
He’s always supposed to have a team that does big things in the SEC.
There’s going to be a ton of pressure on Bryan Harsin from jump in conference play – going to LSU to kick things off before dealing with Georgia – so as much as it can possibly be, the road trip to Penn State is a free space game.
Lose, and okay – it’s a rebuilding year under a new regime. Win, and it’s a huge victory for the SEC and gives Auburn a fantastic win to build on.
2020 Auburn Tigers Fun Stats
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents (7-of-15) 47% – Auburn (3-of-11) 27%
– Fumbles: Auburn 10 (lost 2) – Opponents 7 (lost 4)
– Punt Return Average: Auburn 9.11 yards – Opponents 2.75 yards