Auburn is looking to put a disappointing 2012 campaign behind it under new head coach Gus Malzahn. A 31-24 victory over Washington State in Week 1 was a step in the right direction.
The Tigers face Malzahn's former team, Arkansas State, on Saturday in Auburn.
Arkansas State lit up FCS opponent Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Week 1, 62-11. In the win, the Red Wolves posted 509 rushing yards (that's not a typo).
Of course, Auburn has a better defense than Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and the unit should only improve as its youth develops.
Here's a preview of the action, complete with my prediction.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
When: Saturday, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3
Spread (via Bovada): Auburn -10.5
Arkansas State Injuries (via USA Today)
No injuries to report
Auburn Injuries (via USA Today)
Justin Garrett, LB, Questionable (Foot)
Jonathan Jones, DB, Questionable (Knee)
Dee Ford, DE, Questionable (Knee)
Jeffrey Whitaker, DT, Doubtful (Leg)
Will Auburn Have Trouble with Arkansas State's Running Game?
Auburn's pass defense was solid against Washington State, but the run defense was gashed.
Cougars running backs Teondray Caldwell and Marcus Mason combined for 96 yards on just 13 carries. Sophomore Jeremiah Laufasa also plunged into the end zone twice.
Given Arkansas State just rushed for 509 yards in a single game, my guess is that Malzahn is focusing on stopping the run this week in practice. Four different Red Wolves rushed for more than 100 yards against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It's Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but that's still impressive.
Will Arkansas State Have Trouble with Auburn's Running Game?
Arkansas State—which lost top tackler Nathan Herrold in the offseason—wasn't tested much against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Week 1.
The Red Wolves will face a much more daunting challenge against Auburn's rushing attack in Week 2.
Junior running back Tre Mason—who rushed for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns last season—posted 73 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries against the Cougars in Week 1. He also ran back a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
But the Red Wolves will also have to watch out for junior Corey Grant, who exploded for 146 yards and a touchdown in just nine carries. That included a 75-yard touchdown run.
Arkansas State allowed 4.08 yards per carry in 2012, ranked 60th in the nation. Was holding Golden Lions lead back Jamie Smith to 36 yards on 10 yards a mirage or a sign of things to come?
This game will likely answer that question.
The Development of Nick Marshall
Much is expected out of junior college transfer Nick Marshall under Gus Malzahn's wing this season. The dual-threat quarterback has flashed the ability to be a strong starter in the FBS.
That being sad, Marshall didn't have a great debut against Washington State.
Marshall went 10-of-19 for 99 yards against the Cougars. He bobbled the snap and took a four-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. His first pass attempt sailed over the head of his intended target.
On the other hand, he didn't turn the ball over and looked better in the second half. He also flashed a bit of his dual-threat ability, adding runs of seven and eight yards during the game.
Auburn quarterbacks averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt in 2012, ranked 58th in the nation. The program is certainly hoping that can improve in 2013.
Prediction: Auburn 27, Arkansas State 24
Who will win?
Arkansas State's rushing attack figures to at least cause some problems for the Tigers.
On the other hand, Tre Mason and Co. will also prove to be a handful for the Red Wolves.
I expect Nick Marshall to have a better game in this one, given his improvement in the second half against Washington State and his overall talent level.
This will be a close game, but I see Gus Malzahn eventually emerging victorious over his former team.