The season is right around the corner and Auburn’s schedule is expected to be among the toughest in the country in 2016. What’s in store for the Tigers? SEC Country previews Auburn’s four non-conference opponents and provides a prediction for the upcoming season.
2015 record: 9-4, 8-0 Sun Belt
Coach: Blake Anderson, 3rd year, 16-10 overall
Returning starters: Offense (6); Defense (7)
Game time: Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Who to watch for Arkansas State
Arkansas State loses a lot of production on offense, especially in quarterback Fredi Knighten and four of the top receivers no longer on the roster. The quarterback position will get the most attention, especially with transfers Justice Hansen of Oklahoma and Chad Voytik of Pittsburgh. The quarterback battle — which included up to five players in the spring — should come down to those two transfers and Hansen’s duality could prove fruitful, though it appears Voytik is receiving much of the chatter heading into preseason camp.
Arkansas State also gets a new offensive coordinator in former Middle Tennessee State play caller Buster Faulkner, whose offense averaged 34 points per game last season. He has quite the show to follow after Arkansas State set the record for touchdowns last season in the Sun Belt.
Defensively, the Red Wolves should be better despite losing a first-team defensive lineman. Up to 11 players return with starting experience along the defensive line and Dee Liner, an Alabama transfer, will certainly be a player to watch when this game arrives. The secondary and linebackers, which include the top two tacklers from last season, return plenty of experience, too.
The problem? Arkansas State ranked 86th nationally in scoring defense (30.2 points per game).
Why Auburn can win
The unknown at quarterback, along with a could-be strong defensive line, should worry Auburn. Then again, this should be a victory for the Tigers as they continue to work out the kinks on offense. Auburn’s defense should be up to the challenge of facing Arkansas State’s offense, which should be explosive despite a loss of several big-time playmakers.
Auburn 38, Arkansas State 17
Auburn’s non-conference opponents
- Arkansas State
- Alabama A&M