There is a big upside for this Auburn Tigers team, which showed some definite signs of improvement from last year’s disappointing 3-9 campaign, in a Week 1 victory over Washington State. Though the Tigers are likely not ready to challenge the likes of Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M for the SEC West crown, folks on The Plains should have a lot more to cheer about in 2013.
The Tigers are making a case to reclaim the title of “Running Back U.” Auburn rushed for 295 yards against Washington State, led by Corey Grant’s 146 yards and Trey Mason’s 73. New addition Cameron Artis-Payne added 52 yards on the ground, giving the Tigers three solid options in the backfield. Quarterback Nick Marshall will provide a fourth rushing threat once he settles into the offense, and Gus Malzahn opens things up a bit.
Speaking of Marshall, the Auburn QB had a pretty decent debut, despite a lot of early in-completions. Most importantly, he protected the ball, and the coaching staff plans to let him do a little more this week.
There are still some questions on Auburn’s defense, which gave up 344 passing yards; but this unit was playing without starting defensive end Dee Ford, star linebacker “hybrid” Justin Garrett and defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker. This group did make some huge plays, including three interceptions, which is one more than the Tigers had all of last season.
What to look for in Week 2: How well will the Tigers defense deal with a run-heavy offense? Arkansas State leads the nation after racking up a ridiculous 509 rushing yards in Week 1. One thing’s for certain, Auburn’s defense is much better than that of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how well Malzahn’s bunch deals with the offensive talent he assembled at Arkansas State.