Even taking into consideration that Auburn’s opening day opponent is likely to finish the season as one of the weaker FBS teams in the country, there was plenty to like in the season opener. First and foremost during Bryan Harsin’s debut as head coach of the Tigers, the home team kept mistakes to a minimum while playing with a lot of energy.
It certainly helped that there were 83,821 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, making for a much better experience for the players who were not fans of playing in front of mostly empty seats in 2020.
No turnovers plus no issues with penalties for a team playing its first game with a new offensive system really stands out from opening night as did the play of the starting QB. Bo Nix hit 20-22 passes with one of his throws dropped on a night he set an Auburn record for passing accuracy while he calmly managed the offense, showing his two seasons worth of experience as a starter.
Overall, the receivers put together a solid night, the backs ran hard and the offensive line handled an opponent from the Mid-American Conference as would be expected from a solid SEC team.
The first half defensive performance for Derek Mason’s group was very good. The second half the Tigers weren’t as sharp, but the energy was there for four quarters.
There is room for improvement with the kicking game, but looking at the big picture there is a lot to like with the Tigers winning 60-10.
Around the SEC
Going into opening week I wasn’t buying that LSU was as good as its No. 16 national ranking because of questions about Coach Ed Orgeron’s defense. The Bayou Bengals were exposed on opening night in Pasadena, losing 38-27 to UCLA. Prior to that contest it had been 13 years since a ranked SEC team lost to a team from the Pac-12 Conference. Maybe this is the year the (Auburn) Tigers will win a game in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1999.
As bad as LSU’s loss was, Vanderbilt tops the list for disappointing performances by an SEC team with a 23-3 loss to East Tennessee State. Not only is ETSU a team that plays at a lower level, the Bucs entered the season unranked in the FCS Top 25.
Elsewhere around the league, Mississippi State was lucky to escape with a one-point win over Louisiana Tech, Alabama looked sharp against Miami, Georgia’s defense scored the game’s only touchdown in a win vs. Clemson and one of the most interesting stories of week one was the play of South Carolina’s Zeb Noland.
With projected starting quarterback Luke Doty injured, new South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer decided to put Noland in the starting lineup.
Noland joined the team this year as a graduate assistant coach, but he still had a season of eligibility remaining. He started it in style by throwing four touchdown passes in an easy win over Eastern Illinois.
The week two schedule features the first SEC matchup with Missouri traveling to Kentucky. That is likely to be a very high scoring game on Saturday night.
The other interesting matchups are Texas A&M at Colorado, North Carolina State at Mississippi State and Texas at Arkansas.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.