8 things Auburn can do to avoid another loss
The Auburn Tigers are 6-2 (3-1) on the season, and they’re coming off the bye week with the hopes of keeping things going against the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday.
The Tigers have been in every game, as their the two losses were by a combined 12 points.
To avoid another loss, Auburn must do its best to accomplish these eight things:
1. Keep the running backs healthy
Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway make up one of the SEC’s best units at running back.
Last season, they combined for 2,119 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. This season they already have gained 1,028 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The problem this season has been getting them both healthy at the same time. Johnson has missed two games this season and Pettway has missed three.
Auburn needs both for the tough stretch ahead.
2. Improve the turnover margin
Auburn has a balanced roster for the most part, but the Tigers haven’t been very good at forcing turnovers, or at preventing them on offense.
The defense has only grabbed four interceptions (tied for No. 108 in the country) but it has recovered nine fumbles (T-10th).
Auburn should improve its plus-1 turnover margin if the Tigers want to finish the season without a third loss.
3. Cut down on sacks allowed
The Achilles’ heel of this Auburn team has been its inability to adequately protect the quarterback.
In only eight games, the Tigers’ offense line has given up 22 sacks — or 2.75 per contest. That average is tied for 103rd in the country.
Texas A&M is up next and the Aggies rank second in the nation in sacks (30).
Following that game, Auburn plays Georgia and Alabama in two of the last three weeks of the regular season. And they have the top two defenses in the conference.
4. Continue to build depth along the defensive line
As bad as Auburn’s offense has been at allowing sacks, the Tigers’ defense has been equally as good getting after opposing quarterbacks.
Auburn has 25 sacks; its 3.13 average is tied for No. 12 in the nation (third in the SEC).
Edge rusher Jeff Holland has been the biggest contributor; his eight sacks are tied for fourth-most in the country.
The Tigers are also only allowing 124.4 rushing yards per game — putting them No. 24 overall.
The even better news is that guys such as Derrick Brown, Nick Coe, Dontavius Russell and Andrew Williams have emerged to give Auburn a lot of depth to go along with stars such as Holland and Marlon Davidson.
5. Get better on coverage units
Whether on kickoffs or punts, Auburn has been atrocious in special teams coverage this season.
They are ranked No. 115 out of 129 eligible schools in yards given up per punt return (13.38) and they are dead last in the nation in yards allowed per kickoff return (29.88). Opposing teams have two touchdown returns (one punt and one kickoff).
The coverage units have to get better. It’s as simple as that.
6. Get Will Hastings more involved offensively
Auburn should use Hastings more in its offense. He is second in the SEC in yards per route run (3.53).
Jarrett Stidham and Will Hastings have built a pretty strong rapport in 2017.
Hastings has made his routes count this year. pic.twitter.com/5WXXVWI4Zb
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) October 25, 2017
The problem is, he is only on pace for 25.2 receptions in the regular season.
Hastings has turned his 17 receptions into 357 yards and three touchdowns, but that just isn’t enough usage for a guy who shows a high level of chemistry with starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
7. Make Jacob Fromm beat them
Georgia has already faced four teams that are currently 34th or better in the nation in pass defense — Mississippi State (No. 4), Tennessee (No. 1), Vanderbilt (No. 11) and Florida (No. 34).
But none of those defenses forced Fromm to beat them.
In those four games, the Bulldogs averaged 303 rushing yards. To further the argument, Fromm only averaged 11.3 attempts per game for 122 yards and 1.5 touchdowns.
Auburn’s defensive front can limit Georgia’s rushing attack, and if the Tigers do so they’ll force the true freshman to beat them with his arm — not an ideal situation for the Bulldogs.
8. Bring their A-game against Alabama
To this point, Alabama hasn’t played a really difficult schedule. With the three best teams (besides Alabama) in the SEC West coming up within the next four weeks, that’s about to change.
Auburn has the talent — both offensively and defensively — to give Alabama quite a bit of trouble.
The Tigers also get this Iron Bowl game at home, which only furthers their chances of pulling the upset.
It’ll take a collective effort from the entire team, but Auburn has as good of a chance as any — given all the circumstances surrounding the game — to hand the Tide their first loss of the season.