1. Sean White and Kamryn Pettway will be good to go on Monday. In what way does that impact the offensive strategy for Auburn?
It changes things exponentially over what you saw in the final three games of the season. I have doubts over whether White is 100% and has full velocity on his passes, but even then he’s more effective as a passer than the other options. If he can throw the ball, though, that opens up the talented freshmen receivers Auburn has. They were starting to get bigger roles early in the year until Pettway became the one-man wrecking crew and Auburn started relying heavily on him to kill clock and yards over the 6-game winning streak.
With the both of them healthy, Auburn will be a bit more balanced. Look for more of the over-the-middle passes from White. He’s been at his best at getting Auburn out of 3rd and 7-9 yards. That’s when we go over the middle to Kyle Davis or Tony Stevens. The bellcow will still be Pettway, though. I suspect Gus Malzahn will attempt to limit White’s passing as much as he can and hope that the Tigers’ ground game with Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, and Stanton Truitt can get the yards and keep the ball out of the hands of Baker Mayfield.
2. Most college football fans know about Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, but who else on Auburn’s defense has been causing problems for opposing offenses this season?
Deshaun Davis at linebacker. He’s probably the lowest-rated recruit on that defense, and he’s become an absolute head-hunter at linebacker. Auburn had a grad transfer in T.J. Neal from Illinois that most (myself included) thought would step in and start given the inexperience at the position going into the year. Davis took the spot during the Clemson game and never let go. He exemplifies Auburn linebacker coach (and former Tiger great himself) Travis Williams’ philosophy of “run through the ball carrier’s soul.”
3. How does Oklahoma’s offense stack up against other units Auburn has faced in 2016?
Auburn has not faced an offense like Oklahoma’s this season. The closest in terms of passing attacks would be Ole Miss, but Ole Miss has zero running game. Chad Kelly was still able to carve the Tigers’ defense apart, though, which worries me considerably about what Mayfield may be able to do.
4. The Auburn’s receivers have been overlooked in the discussion leading up to this matchup. Who is someone at the wide receiver position who can cause problems for Oklahoma’s secondary?
Tony Stevens has the height and speed to do a lot of damage, but he has sometimes had stone hands in his career. Even though Auburn fans still complain about him, he’s actually been pretty good overall this year. He’s the leading receiver even though he missed multiple games.
I would like for someone like freshmen Kyle Davis or Darius Slayton. Davis is an impressive physical specimen and at one point was the #1 WR in last year’s recruiting class. Davis will be the guy that goes deep or over the middle. Slayton will play closer in and take the screen passes and short passes. He has the moves and speed to create more yards after the catch.
5. What do Auburn fans hate most about Nick Saban?
I can’t speak for everyone, but what bugs me is the hypocritical nature of some things he’s said in the past. He didn’t like hurry up offenses and wanted the rules changed. Now he’s using one. Then, when he’s doing things like the former players as scout team players, he acts like other people are whining for wanting to change rules they don’t like.
In the end, though, I give him credit for doing what it takes to win and adjusting when things don’t go his way (like the hurry-up stuff). So, what I don’t like about him, is that he’s just so dang good. He really is one of the best coaches of this era - if not THE best - and I can’t stand that he’s at Alabama. I respect him for his ability to do his job, but I just wish he were doing it anywhere but there.
6. What’s your favorite Auburn tradition – The Tiger walk, the eagle flight, or rolling the trees at Toomer’s Corner?
Now that’s a tough one. Tiger Walk is a lot of fun and we call it “the most copied tradition in college football.” We were the first to do it, but now it seems like half the teams in the country do it. The Eagle Flight is really something else and is always fun and neat to see. I’ve only missed it once at games I’ve attended since they started doing it, and I always make sure to tell opposing fans to get in the stadium in time to see it, too (14 minutes before kickoff for future reference).
I’m going to go with Toomer’s Corner, though. It’s a fun atmosphere and you see all kinds, there. There’s the drunk frat boys and sorority girls. There’s the older folks just watching. There’s the parents teaching their kids how to throw for the first time (little bit tailing off, grip it up under where the paper is coming off the roll, and make sure to roll it off your fingers as you release). It’s just a gathering of every generation from young fans, to current students, to young alumni with kids, to the older alumni watching the tradition carried on. It’s a fun, special atmosphere, and it’s even better when after the really big games the current players, coaches, former players, and even the band comes up and joins in.
7. The SEC is perceived to be down this season. Despite this, do you think the SEC is still the best conference in college football?
This year, I do not think the SEC is the best conference in the nation. It really has been a down year, and a lot of that stems from quarterback play. I think that could change next year as young QBs mature and new QBs arrive, but the SEC is not the best in the country this year.
8. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 1000 duck-sized horses?
Are we talking hand-to-hand, or do I get a weapon of choice? If hand-to-hand, I go with the 100 duck-sized horses. I can kick, throw, punch, etc, although they may wear me down in the end with their little teeth and hooves. If I can have a weapon, then I’m going to say give me the horse-sized duck and let me have a .700 Nitro Express. We’ll end this quick.
9. This is probably the most intriguing non-CFP matchup in my opinion because of the contrasting styles. How do you think this game is going to play out? What does Auburn have to do to win? Finally, what is your final score prediction?
I think Auburn’s defensive front is going to provide a little bit tougher of a match-up than Oklahoma has faced for much of the year. Carl Lawson and Monty Adams want to leave a legacy of returning Auburn back to a team known for defense, and they see this as the perfect opportunity to make that statement. Ole Miss was able to counter that by throwing a ton of really quick passes, though, and I can see Mayfield being able to do the same.
I don’t think Auburn will be too worn down by the pace of the game, because Auburn practices against that every day. My head says the combination of a balanced attack by Oklahoma plus a not-quite-100% Sean White means Oklahoma is able to come away with a 1-2 score victory. My heart says the defense is able to do what Houston and Ohio State did and Auburn’s offense controls the ball and pounds away on the ground to squeak out a victory thanks to the leg of the best kicker in the country, Daniel “Legatron” Carlson.