How bout them Auburn Tigers?
The first half of the season was unpredictable, but at the halfway point Auburn is 4-2, ranked in the Top 25 and, dare I say, appears to have finally figured out things.
Now that we know what we’re dealing with, here are a few predictions for the rest of the season.
Johnson, Pettway will both rush for 1,000 yards
Auburn had its issues offensively through the first four games of 2016, but Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway didn’t contribute to the dysfunction in any way. They put the team on their backs and led the resurgence.
The dynamic backfield duo has the Tigers rushing attack ranked No. 10 nationally. At the season’s halfway point, Johnson has 538 yards rushing on 105 carries, and Pettway has 505 yards on 91 carries. Best of all, both seem to be getting better.
I think it’s realistic to think that the Tigers will have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in its midst by the end of the season. Auburn has had 1,000-yard rushing duos in the past — most recently Tre Mason and Nick Marshall in 2013 — but never with a tandem of running backs. The closest runners were Cadillac Williams (1,165 yards) and Ronnie Brown (913) in 2004.
It’s a stretch, and we’ve yet to see if Johnson’s ankle injury suffered in the team’s win at Mississippi State in Week 6 will have lasting effects, but Johnson and Pettway have provided unbelievable balance to Auburn’s offense all season and both reaching the 1,000-yard plateau will be a perfect testament to that.
Stevens will have 7-plus TD receptions
Over the past 10 years, only four Tigers have caught at least seven touchdowns in a season: Sammie Coates (2013), Philip Lutzenkirchen (2011), Darvin Adams (2009, 2010) and Emory Blake (2010).
Tony Stevens only has three receiving touchdowns this year, but with increased chemistry between him and Sean White, I think he’ll join that list. Much like Johnson and Pettway, Stevens is getting better game-by-game, and has established himself as the No. 1 threat on the outside, adding an extra dimension to Rhett Lashlee’s offense.
In Auburn’s traditional run-first scheme, it’s sometimes difficult for receivers to stand out and make a significant impact. However, Lashlee is putting Stevens in favorable situations since taking over the play-calling duties and the senior has taken full advantage of it.
For Stevens to reach that milestone (by Auburn’s standards), White will have to have a strong final six games. But both have been playing outstanding football as of late and I believe that accomplishment is within the realm of possibility.
White will lead the SEC in completion percentage
Don’t look now, but after barely winning the starting job in the preseason, Sean White is one of the most efficient passers in all of college football.
The production of Johnson and Pettway on the ground has without a doubt lightened his load. But at the end of the day, a 69.7 completion percentage is a 69.7 completion percentage. For that, White deserves our respect. His 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn’t too shabby, either.
If Auburn’s offense continues its stellar play, I don’t see a reason why White’s efficiency won’t carry over for the rest of the season. White is playing confident, he’s making great decisions and the Tigers are rolling because of it.
Auburn will be 8-3 entering the Iron Bowl
Coming off the bye, I like Auburn at home this week against Arkansas. The Tigers’ Oct. 29 game at Ole Miss will be tough, but after that, I think the Gus Bus will reel off three straight wins against Vanderbilt, Georgia and Alabama A&M before heading to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 26.
As for the Iron Bowl, this Alabama team is just as tough as its predecessors, and Jeremy Pruitt’s high-scoring defense is as good as it gets. Auburn will have its work cut out, but this is the Iron Bowl we’re talking about — anything can happen.
History has shown that this matchup can go either way, and although Alabama will be the heavy favorite, the Crimson Tide are beatable if the Tigers play their best.