There will be a lot of firsts this Saturday when the Auburn Tigers take the field to face off against the Akron Zips. It will be the first time Auburn plays under head coach Bryan Harsin, the first time the Tigers take on Akron this century, and the first time Jordan-Hare Stadium will be open to full capacity since 2019.
Auburn will be looking to get the Harsin-era off on the right foot as Akron will be looking to spoil an SEC team's opener on the road. Auburn is 1-0 all-time against the Zips, having beaten them 42-0 in 1988.
Offense: Establish a Passing Game
Auburn has spent nearly 10 years operating under the Malzahn philosophy of offense and it will be intriguing to get a glimpse of what the offensive identity will be like in action this Saturday. The hybrid between offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and head coach Bryan Harsin will reportedly feature a more downhill running philosophy, which both Shaun Shivers and Tank Bigsby have been excited for.
Auburn’s offensive line should dominate against Akron, or the Tigers will truly be in for a long season. That means Auburn can take more time to focus on the passing game against a live defense. With quarterback Bo Nix learning a new offense and the Tigers not having any clear frontrunners at the receiver position, it will be vital for the rest of the season that Auburn takes this first game or two to focus on the passing game as much as they will be tempted to run the ball.
Defense: Wreak Havoc on the Quarterback
Auburn’s largest hole in the defense is right upfront at the defensive line. The Tigers have consistently had at least one if not two defensive linemen who demanded attention but this year that player is not apparent.
The line was so depleted that they had to move star tight end J.J. Pegues played defensive tackle and that was before senior Tyrone Truesdell decided to transfer. The defensive line needs to step up and prove themselves in this game, or like the offense, it will be a long season of SEC running backs getting to the second-level with ease.
Overall: Find a Reason to be Motivated
The Tigers should beat Akron but it isn’t guarantee — that’s why you have to play the game.
That being said, this Auburn team has a lot more question marks than answers. What will the offense look like under Mike Bobo? How has Bo Nix developed under Harsin? Is there a wide receiver who can step up to take Seth Williams' place? This game against Akron will have the full force of a Jordan-Hare crowd who haven't witnessed this atmosphere in years, so the volume will not be a question.
Whether the Tigers are able to deliver in this game will have implications for what the rest of the season looks like. For head coach Bryan Harsin, he is excited to take the field and in particular for his two captains, Owen Pappoe and Chandler Wooten, to lead the team against Akron.
“You know, for all of us in that moment, a little bit of chills just excited for them and know that they're going to do a tremendous job.”
Auburn will face Akron in Jordan-Hare Stadium with kickoff set for 6 p.m. on ESPN+ and SEC Network+.