San Jose State goes on the road to face Auburn and get to know them we bring in College and Magnolia to answer some questions about the Tigers.
1. Auburn had high expectations coming into the year but things have not gone as planned. What was the hype due to and subsequently the downside?
1) The high expectations were due to the past history of Gus Malzahn with the offense and because Jeremy Johnson had looked brilliant in every appearance before. That's what made his performance so shocking. I can only imagine that he was more relaxed in the three other games he appeared in because he knew it was Nick Marshall's job. Once the pressure was all on him, he couldn't handle it. That's only an opinion based on not understanding otherwise how someone who had looked so amazing suddenly looked horrible.
I think another issue is that no wide receiver has emerged as a deep threat. Malzahn is constantly having to sub blocking WRs in for pass catching WRs. That does two things: kills the pace, and tips the play. Combine that with a defense that looked horrible through most of the first three games was a recipe for disaster. The offense was turning the ball over and beating itself through penalties, but not making up for it with really any "explosive" plays that get things back on track.
Then there are the injuries. The two running backs who were expected to be 1-2 on the depth chart have spent most of the year injured. On defense, super star Carl Lawson was wrecking fools against Louisville in the first half, but then left the game with a hip injury and hasn't played since. Other injuries have hampered the defensive backs and linebackers. Or if they're not hurt, some of the seniors have been loafing and Muschamp replaced them with true freshmen, so we're playing real young. It really has just been a perfect storm to ruin the season.
2. Auburn is sticking with Sean White at quarterback, is that due to what he showed last week or could it be to see how well he can command the offense going up against a lesser team in San Jose State?
2) I think it's entirely due to what Sean White showed last week. Sean played loose and confident, which is what the offense needs, right now. They need a leader who is excited and believes in himself. He's going to make some freshmen mistakes, but for taking on a Manny Diaz defense in his first ever collegiate action, he led the offense well. Auburn moved the ball up and down the field with ease at times, but just couldn't get it done in the red zone. Four trips to the red zone and 6 points out of them is never going to win you a game.
3. San Jose State has a pretty good running back in Tyler Ervin is averaging 160 yards per game -- including 300 yards last week -- and nine touchdowns to lead the nation. So, what will the Tigers rush defense which is 109th in the country plan to slow down Ervin this week?
3) Pray? If there's one thing that really has me worried about this week it's Ervin. The kid is special, and Auburn hasn't done very well against the run this year. They did shut down Dak Prescott and Mississippi State, but MSU hasn't had a real feature back take over this year.
I can only hope that the adjustments in personnel that Muschamp made last week work. I think if linebackers Tre Williams and Justin Garrett can stay healthy, Auburn will be able to limit the damage. Tre was hurt last week, though, and I'm not sure of his status (he's supposed to be back in practice Tuesday). As for Garrett, he's been extremely injury prone his whole career. He was healthy last week, though, and it made a difference. He's probably the best run-stopping linebacker we have, right now.
4. What has the hiring of Will Muschamp done for Auburn's defense?
4) It's given them an attitude. He doesn't take any crap or allow anyone to take a play off. Rudy Ford was highlighted on TV all week after the LSU game for his lack of effort on the big Fournette touchdown. Ford was the leading tackler last year. He was leading Auburn in tackles so far this season. He barely played against MSU. Muschamp started a true freshmen ahead of him.
If they weren't aware that they needed to give their all on every play, the removal of two starting senior linebackers and a starting junior safety sure seemed to make them aware. They played with an intensity I'm used to seeing from a Muschamp defense, and hopefully turned a bit of a corner.
5. Who are the key players on offense and defense that San Jose State should be aware of?
5) On offense, Peyton Barber is quietly having an excellent season at running back. He's not going to burn you with speed, but he is going to pound away for yards. He has 100+ yards in every game but the LSU game (where he only had 8 carries). Duke Williams is, of course, someone to watch if we ever decide to start targeting him, again. Freshman running back Kerryon Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance, as well. He's fast, agile, and is really good coming out of the backfield for passes. I would also say watch Sean White. I think he'll take a big step in his second week as the starter.
On defense, the two defensive tackles are beasts. Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell do a great job of penetrating the middle. The problem is the ends haven't been a worry for defenses, so they can double team or focus on the tackles. If Tre Williams is healthy, he's a head hunter at linebacker, as is Justin Garrett. As for the DBs... I really don't know. Michigan transfer Blake Countess is probably the best of the group and you'll see him move around a bit from Corner to Safety, to Nickel, probably.
6.What is your prediction on this game?
6) This game will hinge on whether or not Auburn's defense can get off the field and if the offense can convert in the red zone. If they can't keep the ball away from Ervin, then it could end up looking a lot like the Jacksonville State game. In that game, the offense played fairly well, but catastrophic turnovers killed momentum, and the defense couldn't get off the field to give them more chances to atone for the turnovers. If Auburn can slow SJSU down and the offense can find a good rhythm with Sean White, then I think it'll be somewhere in the neighborhood of 31-17. If not, then SJSU could very well walk out with the victory.