Oct. 26, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. – A week ago, Auburn’s football team took a giant step toward making this season one to remember, going on the road to knock off then-No. 7 Texas A&M 45-41 at Kyle Field.
Tonight, they face a different kind of test. After a week filled with praise for what they did, they will take the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium as four-touchdown favorites against Florida Atlantic. Will they play with same passion they have shown in going 6-1 and climbing to No. 11 in the polls?
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn says it’s important that they keep the edge, that they play even better than they played at Texas A&M. Will they do it?
Breaking it down:
Florida Atlantic is no Western Carolina
Two weeks ago, the Tigers took care of business against FCS foe Western Carolina, romping to a 62-3 victory. But Florida Atlantic is a different animal. Though the Owls are 2-5, they have some talent. Their record easily could be better. They lost on the final play of the game to Marshall. They lost in overtime at Middle Tennessee State. They lost 18-14 at Rice, holding the other Owls to their lowest point total of the season. Rice has lost only to Texas A&M and once-beaten Houston.
Size advantage on the offensive line
Auburn’s offensive line will have a massive size advantage over Florida Atlantic’s defensive line. The Owls go 250, 225, 260, 238 across the defensive front. Can they stop Auburn’s much bigger offensive line from opening gaping holes for running backs Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant? If they can’t, it will be over early.
Owls should be well-rested
While Auburn was beating Texas A&M in a dramatic, physical and intense game, Florida Atlantic players were taking last Saturday off. With an extra week, it’s reasonable to expect Auburn will see some things on both sides of the ball that haven’t shown up on video.
Another chance for Jeremy Johnson?
Freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson made his debut against Western Carolina, throwing four touchdown passes. He played three snaps at Texas A&M, handing off once and throwing two incomplete passes. Auburn coaches would like to give him another extended opportunity tonight, but that will depend on what is happening on the field.
Will Pat Miller return tonight?
Sophomore right tackle Pat Miller, who started the first five games, has missed the last two because of an off-field issue. Avery Young has taken his place and earned praise from his coaches. Malzahn said Miller rotated with Young in practice for the past week. He did not say if he will play. If Miller doesn’t play tonight, it’s virtually certain he will be back in good standing next week.
Running short in the secondary
With the loss of safety Joshua Holsey for the rest of the season, the Tigers are getting frighteningly thin in the secondary.
When Holsey was injured at the end of practice Thursday, senior Ryan White moved from cornerback and played in his position against Texas A&M. White will be there again tonight. That means freshman Rudy Ford and sophomore Jonathan Jones will be the backups at cornerback. It will also likely mean more playing time for junior Trent Fisher at safety.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: