AUBURN, Ala. — It seemed Gus Malzahn’s football team was given the benefit of the doubt after its 14-6 loss at No 3 Clemson in Week 2.
And after an unimpressive 24-10 victory over Mercer on Saturday afternoon, Auburn benefitted again.
The Tigers held on to their No. 15 spot in the AP Poll and moved up one spot from No. 17 to No. 16 in the Amway coaches poll.
Auburn’s offense, which gave up 11 sacks against the defending national champions, struggled with ball security against a FCS opponent. The Tigers fumbled the ball five times (recovering just one) and quarterback Jarrett Stidham added an interception.
An outstanding and tough defense has become the main reason the Tigers remained ranked at all. Auburn’s defense is tied for fifth in the nation in total sacks (10.0) and is tied for No. 13 in scoring defense.
Malzahn’s team may have climbed higher in the polls with a more convincing win over Mercer, but hype surrounding the 2017 Auburn Tigers seems to be fading.
“The underlying thing that’s really carrying on with me is the five turnovers,” Malzahn said. “I’m the head coach and we have to solve that. It starts with me; I have to solve that. We’re going to get hard on that. It’s uncharacteristic, but if you put that aside, there’s some good things that you can carry on to conference play.”
Auburn travels to Missouri for the start of SEC play and then things will get interesting. Malzahn’s squad hosts Mississippi State, who upset LSU and moved into national polls (No. 17 in AP) on Sunday.
Games against Georgia (No. 11) and LSU (No. 25) are still to come as well as a November Iron Bowl against top ranked Alabama.