Smoke Monday

Auburn fans who have cringed at times this year watching their football team play defense have plenty of company across the Southeastern Conference.

As the Tigers prepare for game four this Saturday at South Carolina, believe it or not, they are ranked second in the league in scoring defense. Georgia is the leader allowing 12.3 points per game, followed by Auburn at 22.7 points along with Kentucky (24.3) and South Carolina (25.3).

Half of the teams in the league are giving up more than 30 points per contest and that includes the SEC’s highest ranked team, Alabama, which is allowing 30.3 points per contest, eighth in the league ahead of defending national champion LSU’s 32.3 average. Ole Miss is last in this category. The Rebels are surrendering a breathtaking 51.7 points per outing, which is not far away from a point per minute.

As Coach Gus Malzahn’s Tigers prepare for their second road trip of the season, there are two obvious issues that need to be immediately fixed on defense. The front four is not providing a consistent pass rush. Through three games, the Tigers have six sacks and eight quarterback hurries. Both numbers are not good enough because quarterbacks across the league have consistently shown they can put up big passing numbers when operating with nobody in their faces.

Combine Auburn’s pass rush shortcomings with a secondary and linebacker group that has struggled in pass coverage the past two games, and it is clear the Tigers need to tighten up defensively.

The same goes for Bo Nix and the passing attack. While the running game showed major improvement in week three, the quarterback is completing just 56.8 percent of his passes. Not only is that number below what he did as a freshman, the Tigers will arrive at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday morning with the lowest completion percentage of any team in the SEC.

Through three games the Tigers are averaging 21.7 points per game and are fortunate to have a 2-1 record. That type of scoring production was good enough to win a lot of games during some eras of college football, but this is not one of them. 

If Auburn doesn’t show more scoring punch, the Tigers are going to have trouble dealing with any of the seven opponents remaining on the 2020 schedule.

Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.

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