10 Auburn - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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10 Auburn

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

The offense has a chance to be good if [Jarrett] Stidham, [a 6'3", 214-pound sophomore transfer quarterback] is as good as advertised. When he played at Baylor, he could sling it. The question is, will they run him as much as they ran Nick Marshall? They may not have to with those backs [juniors Kamryn Pettway, 6-foot, 235, and KERRYON JOHNSON 6-foot, 212]. It was clear what they could do when Pettway was healthy last year. Gus Malzahn does a good job of making mismatches with formations, and they keep you off guard because you can't just load up to stop the run. If you dedicate too much to it, they'll burn you over the top. They like to get the ball to the perimeter a lot too. So you've got to tackle in space.

They've got a really good defensive front. They play physical. They play with their hands. They play low. They lost some good players on the interior line, but I know they have some guys they feel good about. [Defensive end] Marlon Davidson was a big-time recruit, and he started as a freshman last year. At 6'3", 282, he's only going to get better. We'll see if [former No. 1 recruit] Byron Cowart can give them anything as a [6'3", 283-pound junior] defensive end. They're very athletic in the secondary. There are not a lot of favorable matchups. Tray Matthews, the [6'1", 209-pound senior] safety is everywhere.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % (53RD)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT (49TH)

COMPLETION % (32ND)

YARDS PER CARRY (17TH)

SACKS ALLOWED (25TH)

TURNOVERS LOST (12TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE (37TH)

YARDS PER PLAY (37TH)

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % ALLOWED (23RD)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT ALLOWED (17TH)

COMPLETION % ALLOWED (58TH)

YARDS PER CARRY ALLOWED (25TH)

SACKS (71ST)

TURNOVERS GAINED (88TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE ALLOWED (17TH)

YARDS PER PLAY ALLOWED (24TH)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RATING

52

Auburn's trip to Clemson (9/9) will offer an early test, but October will decide the Tigers' fate. They host Ole Miss (10/7) and then travel to LSU (10/14) and Arkansas (10/21). If all goes to plan, Auburn will host Alabama (11/25) with the SEC West title on the line.

THE PLAYER TO KNOW

If Auburn's offense improves as expected, the key to competing for the SEC title will be avoiding a drop-off on defense after several losses on the front line. Enter defensive end MARLON DAVIDSON. In 2016 the 6'3", 282-pound Davidson became the first true freshman in 30 years to be a Day One starter on Auburn's defensive front. He finished the season with 38 tackles and six tackles for loss, but he'll need to spend more time in the backfield this year. Along with tackle Dontavius Russell and linebacker Jeff Holland, both juniors, Davidson will have to keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks to take pressure off Auburn's athletic-but-thin secondary.