Nineteen days from today the Arkansas State Red Wolves come to the plains to play the Auburn Tigers. This has not been a pleasant trip for opposition teams traditionally, conference or otherwise.
These two teams have met once in 2006 with Auburn winning 27-0. There are not many that predict this year’s visit to be a lot different. Auburn is a 30.5 point favorite.
While this might not seem important, it is.
Voters in various polls across the country look closely at the odds. If a team constantly meets or exceeds those odds, they will get looked at more favorably in the polls. This same Arkansas State team held back a pretty good Iowa Hawkeye team in 2009 when they played them very close. Iowa eventually prevailed 24-21, but the perception of that game was a factor in holding Iowa back in polls all year.
Beating any team by five scores is a difficult task. Beating a team in the first game of the season by five scores compounds that task significantly. If the 2010 Auburn Tigers are ready to meet their goals, they must attempt to do exactly that.
If Auburn is only concerned with winning, this does not mean much. If they are concerned with winning a championship, they must win as expected more often than not.
No team even came close to beating Arkansas State by five scores in 2009. This is a team that finished 4-8, but played Iowa, Nebraska, Middle Tennessee, and Troy. All were 2009 bowl teams.
They lost their eight games by an average of less than 12 points or two scores. Vegas has laid down the gauntlet by expecting Auburn to win by almost triple that total. Neither Nebraska nor Iowa, both teams ranked higher than Auburn, were able to do in 2009 what Vegas odds makers are predicting for this game.
Arkansas State was able to accumulate almost 300 yards of offense against Nebraska and Iowa in 2009, two of the better defensive teams in the nation. Both Iowa and Nebraska were able to accumulate more than 400 yards of offense on the Red Wolves.
Auburn has been issued a tough task for their first game. They must achieve this task if they want to garner early respect in the polls.
Arkansas State returns eight starters for 2010. They also have a new offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze. Some might remember him from his days at Ole Miss prior to the Houston Nutt era.
They are converting to a pass-oriented spread offense that runs at an accelerated tempo. Auburn’s defensive backfield will get tested in this game. The attack will be similar to what the Tigers faced in the 2010 Outback Bowl. This will be a good early challenge for the Auburn defense.
If Auburn does come out and meet this challenge, I can see them climbing as high as five to seven places in the coach’s poll. This would be a great start toward earning some respect in the polls across the nation.
Auburn needs to climb as much as possible during the first four weeks of the season. After this, the polls become more gelled as the initial BCS Poll comes out. It is important to climb as far as possible before the first BCS poll.
The Arkansas State game will be televised on FSN South at 6:00 PM.