After a sluggish start last weekend, the Auburn football team beat the brakes off of Alabama State as the Tigers cruised to their first back-to-back 60-point game since the 1930s.
This week, the Tigers will hit the road for the first time this season to take on Penn State. Auburn is 1-1 all-time against the Nittany Lions, having beaten them 13-9 in their most recent matchup.
Auburn comes into the game 2-0, with a 60-10 win over Akron and a 62-0 shutout of Alabama State. Penn State comes into the game 2-0 as well after skirting out a win and narrowly beating Wisconsin in their opener and taking care of Ball State last week.
Offense: Get Bo Nix Comfortable
The statistics for home Nix and away Nix over his first two seasons are stark. At home, Nix has a 22-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while in away games he has a 10-10 touchdown-INT ratio.
Nix has struggled mightily on the road but Penn State is a ripe opportunity for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and staff to see if they have developed Nix. Through the first two games of 2021, Nix has thrown for 383 yards and five touchdowns. He has also stayed in the pocket much more often and has made better reads.
The offensive line will play the biggest role in keeping Nix comfortable. If the line can give Nix a solid pocket, expect him to handle the game well. If the line struggles and Nix has to run for his life, then he has shown that his ability to make quality decisions goes down.
Defense: Shut Down the Pass
While the Tigers have proved that they have good edge rushers and a solid linebacker crew, they need to make sure that they improve their pass defense against the Nittany Lions.
Through its first two games, Penn State has proved that their niche will be the pass as the run is to Auburn. The Nittany Lions have passed for 500 yards in the first two games but only have three touchdowns to show for it.
The ground game hasn’t been able to take off for them either as they only have 290 yards rushing compared to Auburn’s 680. The Tigers need to make sure it stays that way.
The Tigers have shown some weakness against the pass, but they also have not been tested much. Penn State will be the first team to show Auburn’s true defensive colors. So far, the Tigers are tied with Georgia in leading the nation in scoring defense. But Penn State is not Alabama State nor Akron and this unit needs to continue to generate a solid pass rush and coverage in order to maintain success.
Overall: Block out the Noise
Penn State versus Auburn will be the infamous “white out” game for the Nittany Lions, generally reserved for their toughest home game of the season. It will be rocking and it will be loud.
Auburn has lost nine out of its last 10 road games versus a top-10 team, but coach Bryan Harsin will be trying to rewrite the narrative. Auburn fans have enjoyed the success of the first two weeks, and while the two opponents were not great, Tiger fans have already warily raised expectations.
Most of the game of football is not physical, it is mental, and Auburn needs to win the mental battle of blocking out the noise and expectations and getting down to playing the game of football and executing well to pull out a win Saturday.
Auburn will face Penn State in Beaver Stadium with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on ABC.