Led by preseason All-Americans RT Calvin Throckmorton and LG Shane Lemieux, the Ducks have one of the best O-lines in the country. It’s officially game week for the Auburn Tigers as they look to open up their 2019 season in Dallas against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday, Aug. 31.
Despite the Ducks being ranked higher in the AP preseason poll, the Tigers are currently 3.5-point favorites. Regardless, the neutral site game should provide a strong test for Auburn as they look to improve on the disappointing 8-5 season a year ago.
There are various things that Auburn will need to do if they want to come away with a victory against the Pac-12 favorites.
Get the run game going
The Tigers uncharacteristically struggled to find consistency in the run game last year. This year, if Auburn wants to compete with the big boys, it’s going to need to get back to running the ball effectively.
The Ducks have solid talent on defense including star linebacker Tony Dye, however, despite a strong group of LB’s, the Ducks d-line is a bit more of a question mark.
The Tigers will be starting true freshman Bo Nix at quarterback. While Nix might be supremely talented, a top 15, neutral site matchup isn’t the easiest way to start your career.
The Tigers will desperately need Nix to get settled in quick. One of the best ways to do that is to get the run game going.
With JaTarvious Whitlow, Kam Martin, Shaun Shivers and others in the backfield for the Tigers, they definitely have the talent to run effectively early and often.
Putting less pressure on Nix and making sure there isn’t too much on the shoulders of a true freshman is imperative for the Tigers.
Take advantage of Ducks’ offensive injuries
After the departure of No. 1 wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, the Ducks already had to deal with question marks at receiver. To make matters worse, Oregon has had to deal with serious injuries to senior Brenden Schooler and star freshmen Mycah Pittman and JR Waters while also enduring more minor injuries to Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson and freshman Lance Wilhoite.
The injuries mean the Ducks will have to lean on 5-foot-8 wideout Jaylon Redd in the passing game. Luckily for Oregon, they have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Justin Herbert but with his list of targets are slowly becoming more and more depleted, Auburn needs to take advantage.
The Ducks struggled with dropped passes last year (52 drops on the season) and as the position group gets thinner, an opportunity presents itself.
The Tigers weren’t great at defending the pass ranking seventh in the SEC last year. However, the team returns the majority of its talent at corner and safety and Noah Igbinoghene, Daniel Thomas, Javaris Davis and the other AU defensive backs have the chance to swing the tide of battle in the Tigers favor.
Win the battle in the trenches
A lot has been said about the Auburn defensive line — and rightfully so. The Tigers have a talented trio that includes seniors Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson and redshirt junior Nick Coe — a group that is among the most talented in the country.
However, with all that has been said about the Auburn D-line, the unit they’ll be going up against, the Oregon offensive line, is equally impressive.
Preseason second team All-Pac-12 and 6-foot-6, 325-pound left tackle Penei Sewell adds yet another road block for Coe, Brown and Davidson to get through.
The battle in the trenches will be a bloody one — an unstoppable force up against an immovable object.
If the Tigers' defensive line can generate pressure on Herbert and stop runners in the backfield early and often, it’ll certainly take pressure off of the rest of the defense and give more opportunities for the Tigers' offense.