Homecoming weekend should go smoothly for Gus Malzahn and the Tigers.
Sitting third in the SEC West with a 2-2 record, Auburn’s postseason aspirations are still very much alive, but the team still has to clean up some little things if they want to be recognized as legitimate contenders.
This weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, they’ll have the chance to do just that.
As college football’s opening month winds down, here are four things I want the Tigers to focus on Saturday and beyond.
4. Visible progress
The Tigers failed to reach the end zone against LSU, but played well enough offensively to give Rhett Lashlee a solid foundation to build on in Week 5.
Be that as it may, it shouldn’t take an elaborate game plan for Auburn to run up the score against the Warhawks. With Louisiana-Monroe surrendering almost 35 points per contest, Saturday is poised to be a productive day at the office for Lashlee’s bunch.
Even with a potential blowout on the horizon, the Tigers shouldn’t be looking ahead to Mississippi State. This game gives Auburn a great mid-season opportunity to clean up some of its offensive issues, which is crucial considering six of its next seven games are against SEC teams.
Things won’t get easier for the Tigers, and it’s important for that offense to take full advantage of this tune-up opportunity and continue to take steps forward as a unit.
3. An emphasis on execution
Fans are quick to point their fingers at the coaches when things aren’t going well, but to be fair, play calling is only half the battle. Players have to be held accountable from an execution standpoint.
So against Louisiana-Monroe, I challenge Sean White and the Auburn offense to put together a complete game from start to finish. If they can manage to do that, the points will come easy.
That means no drops, no breakdowns in pass protection, no head-scratching turnovers and capitalizing on every downfield opportunity. Also, it would be great to see some red zone touchdowns for once, which brings us to No. 2…
2. Less Daniel Carlson
In theory, the Tigers can score more than 40 points Saturday without ever setting foot in the red zone. Realistically though, Auburn’s offense will probably find itself deep in Louisiana-Monroe territory early and often.
Daniel Carlson has been automatic, but if the kicker starts to struggle at some point this season, the Tigers will be in big, big trouble. For Auburn to be successful in the long run, its offense has to start turning these long drives into six points — not three — and it all starts with better execution in the red zone. The less Carlson we see Saturday, the better.
I expect Lashlee to get creative with his play calling inside the 20 and experiment with different packages. Who knows, maybe this is the game John Franklin III gets into the end zone.
1. More takeaways
As good as the Tigers have been defensively, Kevin Steele’s unit can only be credited with three takeaways in 2016.
The best way for any defense to help a struggling offense is by creating scoring opportunities off turnovers, and while Auburn’s defenders aren’t necessarily ballhawks and strip-sack machines, surely they’re capable of generating a little more chaos.
The Tigers can do much better when it comes to forcing opponents into mistakes. I’m hoping the defense can find a way to score points against a lesser Louisiana-Monroe team, and start to make some real noise.