San Jose State Spartans (2-2) vs. Auburn Tigers (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Kickoff: Sat., Oct. 3, 4:00 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Weather: Kickoff temperature will be 65 degrees with a 56% chance of rain (Accuweather)
Line: Auburn -20½ (VegasInsider.com)
By the numbers
Auburn will face the only player on an FBS team to rush for 300 yards this season. San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin carried the ball 42 times for 300 yards in a 49-23 win over Fresno State this past Saturday.
Auburn’s run defense allowed 270 rushing yards per game before the team turned it around against Mississippi State. The Tigers gave up just 56 rushing yards, and held the Bulldogs to 17 points.
Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp made changes to the starting lineup prior to last Saturday’s game and those changes paid off.
It is important for the Tigers to have another good performance this Saturday and not revert back to the team we saw in their first three outings.
San Jose State is 117th out of 128 FBS teams in rushing yards allowed per game with 236.3, and the Tigers are coming off one of their best rushing games of the season.
Auburn had a season-high 201 rushing yards in its loss to Mississippi State last Saturday.
Has the running game finally come around?
We’ll see, but the statistics say the Tigers should have their way running the ball on Saturday.
Auburn has an SEC-worst eight offensive plays of 20 or more yards this season. Big plays had become a staple of coach Gus Malzahn’s offense in past seasons.
The struggles at quarterback have been part of the issue, but the running game was not clicking before last week.
With new quarterback Sean White leading the offense, Malzahn said he felt the offense was in “rhythm” for the first time all season.
White should be more comfortable in his second career start on Saturday, so Auburn may take some more shots down the field.
Storylines to watch
How will Sean White play in his second career game?
White was 20-for-28 passing for 188 yards and no touchdowns in his first start. He had a critical red zone interception on his first drive, but he was able to move Auburn’s offense down the field.
White played well for it being his first career game, but Auburn only scored nine points because of poor red-zone execution.
There was speculation that Malzahn could bench Jeremy Johnson for White for this game against an inferior opponent, but he made the switch a week earlier for a key conference game against Mississippi State.
White should benefit from having a game under his belt going into this Saturday.
Does wide receiver Duke Williams have a big game?
Williams came into the season with high expectations after leading Auburn in receptions (45) and receiving touchdowns (5) in just 10 games last season.
However, it has not panned out for Williams.
Through four games he has a pedestrian stat line of 11 receptions for 130 yards and one touchdown. Williams has been double covered throughout the season, but his ineffectiveness has been surprising.
“He’s one of the impact players, there’s no doubt, and we need to find a way not only to get the ball to him; but there’s three or four others that I really feel like we need to do a better job of getting the ball to also,” Malzahn told reporters earlier this week.
If Williams has a breakout game, Auburn will likely win by a large margin.
Will Auburn’s defense step up again?
Auburn’s defense went from getting manhandled by running back Leonard Fournette and LSU in Week 3, to holding Mississippi State to 56 rushing yards in Week 4.
The decision to insert linebackers Tre’ Williams and Justin Garrett into the starting lineup helped Auburn’s run defense last week. Linebackers Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy were benched, but both came into the game and played well.
The decision to start freshmen cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson was also a good move. Davis was beaten on a touchdown pass early, but he forced a fumble later in the game to set up an Auburn field goal.
San Jose State scored a combined 92 points in its two wins this season. In the Spartans two losses, they scored a combined 37 points.
Will we see the Auburn defense from the first three weeks of the season or the one that showed up last week?
The Tigers should be able to build on last week’s offensive success, especially against a weak defensive opponent.
Auburn’s defense will face a good challenge in Ervin, but the performance against Mississippi State was encouraging.
Ervin will be held in check and Auburn’s offense will finally look like the teams we have been accustomed to seeing under Gus Malzahn.
Auburn 34, San Jose State 20