For the Auburn Tigers, a trip to Happy Valley couldn’t have come at a better time, especially while they’re still breaking in a new head coach. What makes this game against Penn State intriguing, besides the “whiteout,” is that Auburn is still so unknown. Who is this team and what will they bring to this game that they haven’t shown before? These are questions that James Franklin has been working on as he prepares for the big moment.
“They’ve blown out the first two opponents, so you don’t have a lot of legitimate game tape from this year,” Franklin said. “You’ve got a new head coach, got a new offensive coordinator, got a new defensive coordinator, and not having two games to really be able to figure [Auburn] out.”
Now yes, Auburn has played two inferior opponents to open the season, but that might also play in their favor. Surely Auburn hasn’t had to break out the entire playbook against Akron and Alabama State, teams they beat by a combined score of 122-10. This is part of the reason James Franklin and his staff have had to piece together film from Brian Harsin and OC Mike Bobo.
“You’re looking at film from Auburn, you’re looking at film from South Carolina, you’re looking at film from Boise [State], you’re looking at film from really all over the place to try to figure out who and what they’re going to be,” Franklin said. “That’s why early season games can be challenging.”
Don’t forget the Auburn defense, which is now led by former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason. This group didn’t have to rely on many different schemes over the past two weeks. They especially didn’t have to give away many of their blitz packages, which has forced Franklin to rely on game film from Mason’s previous head coaching stop.
“I know Derek, obviously very well, not only personally, but also professionally. I think the biggest challenge for us with these guys is the way their first two games have played out and the type of people they have played.”
Currently, Penn State is a 4.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel.
The way Penn State’s front seven is able to get pressure on the quarterback, could cause problems for Bo Nix on Saturday night, something Brian Harsin is well aware of, as he prepares for the battle upfront.
Harsin complimented the way his opponent plays on the line: “I think Penn State’s front is very good. I think their front seven, they do a very good job. I think their linebackers are very good players. That’s a program that’s historically had some very good linebackers in it, and their D-line plays hard. I think schematically they do things with them that creates a challenge”.
As we get closer to kickoff, the one thing that still gives me a bit of worry for Auburn is how they will handle the environment. Some of these players will be experiencing an atmosphere like this for the first time, as the Tigers haven’t played in a true hostile environment since battling LSU in Baton Rouge during the 2019 season.
Brian Harsin discussed the noise, especially for the offense. “The new thing will be the noise and some of the other things you have to do on the road from that position. And those guys, they’ve worked on it. They’ll do it all week, and I think Bo is going to handle that just fine. It’s just a matter of — like everything I’ve said really applies back to him as well, as far as, ‘Let’s get ourselves ready to go.'”
So, as we get closer to kickoff, the anticipation will keep rising until it reaches a boiling point on Saturday night, as both teams enter a rocking stadium of over 100,000 people.
If you do anything on Saturday night, make sure to watch the opening five minutes of the broadcast. You won’t be disappointed by the sights and sounds of College Football.
I can’t promise you anything else.