During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.
Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' season-opener against Oregon:
The opening game will be very unusual for two or three reasons.
First, it is only the second time that I remember Auburn playing Oregon. The one I remember was the National Championship of 2010/2011.
Second, it is probably the first time we’ve played in Dallas/ATT Stadium.
Third, it is one of the few times that both Auburn and the other team were ranked in the top 15. The downside is Auburn is only one 7 or one 8 against ranked teams in the season-opener. But, we are not playing a SEC powerhouse like UGA or LSU.
I think our defense will play well, with a very good defensive line, and apparently more speed in the defensive backfield.
Since it is the first game of the season, both conditioning and depth will be crucial. A major college team needs both first and second teams that can, if needed, play an entire game.
Oregon is a highly-ranked West Coast team that will probably underestimate our offense, Bo Nix, and our defense. Because of that Auburn 28 – Oregon 14.
James Sprayberry, local attorney
and longtime Auburn season ticket holder
Quack. The Auburn Tigers are gearing up to face the Webfoots of Oregon for the second time in school history, this time in the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, also known as Jerry’s World, as college football begins its 150th season.
As all Auburn fans know, we squeaked out a three-point victory over the guys in the hideous yellow neon Nikes nine seasons ago on a Wes Byrum field goal with less than three minutes left to bring home our second national championship, the first since 1957. With our amazing pied piper Cam Newton calling the plays that had been designed by then offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the victory in Glendale capped off a miraculous 14-0 season. (The highlight of that game for me was watching Kodi Burns, who had once been the signal-caller himself, run down the sideline for a touchdown.) What a night!
However, as the saying goes, that was then and this is now. Cam Newton is long gone; Kodi Burns is now coaching our wide receivers; Gus Malzahn is entering his seventh year as Auburn’s head coach, and the former Webfoots are called the Ducks. (Actually, they’ve been called the Ducks for about 50 years or so.)
We will, once again, be playing Oregon on a neutral field; however, this time it’s the first game of the season, not the last, and we have an untested true freshman quarterback for the first time since 1948 when Travis Tidwell called the plays while Oregon’s senior QB has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. The Ducks are ranked five spots ahead of us, but the betting odds are pretty even, with Auburn being favored by 3.
A win against Auburn would really pave the way for Oregon to have a dream season. Its road ahead will be much less challenging than Auburn’s as we will be playing five more teams ranked higher than we are in the coming three months. One Oregon sportswriter said that a win over Auburn would make the rest of the Ducks’ season look like a cake walk. Not so for Auburn, which has Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida and Texas A&M, ranked from No. 2 to No.12, all left on its agenda.
With ESPN’s GameDay showcasing the match-up, it’s a huge game for both teams for very different reasons. Oregon, like the Washington Huskies last year, will be trying to prove to the country, with not only the eyes of Texas but those of the whole nation watching, that the PAC 12, which has been called the weakest power conference in the country, is not intimidated by the SEC. Auburn needs another opening game win against the top team in a rival conference to set the tone for what will be a very challenging season.
It’s a true momentum-building game for both teams with a lot riding on the outcome. If Auburn’s experienced defensive line, most of whom gave up going to the NFL to return for their senior season, can get the upper hand on Oregon’s talented offensive line and if Bo Nix can lead the offense with the poise that he showed in high school, we not only secure a win but also gain the confidence needed to handle No. 12 Texas A&M in College Station in our first big SEC road test three weeks from Saturday.
Let’s hope the Tigers step up and send the Webfoots (aka Ducks) waddling back to Eugene, Oregon with their first loss of the 2019 season. Roaring tigers can dominate noisy ducks any day of the week.
Auburn 24 – Oregon 21 Quack. Quack. Quack.
Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan
Our college football season is here and Auburn has the toughest schedule two years running. Opening up with Oregon in Jerry’s World is no easy task. Our opponent, the Oregon Ducks, has one of the top QBs in the nation. He maybe the first or second QB taken in this year’s NFL draft. Their offensive line is one of the best in the country.
Everyone in the SEC is so excited because all our teams are undefeated, even Florida. The expectations in the SEC are so very high with four teams in most all preseason polls. Some of them are overrated and will fall by the wayside as season goes on. Auburn has a great opportunity to showcase its talents Saturday night on primetime ABC network. The PAC-12 doesn’t face physical teams like Auburn, especially our defensive front.
This is a new season and we are returning a great defense and a lot of talent on offense. I don’t think the Ducks will face a defensive front as good as our Auburn Tigers this season. We have had a great battle between Nix and Gatewood for the QB position. I think Bo Nix will be fine. Gatewood will play Saturday and hopefully he will make a contribution. Gus will be calling the plays and he is good at calling plays.
I think you will see a much faster game than last year with our hurry-up offense. Not sure how much of the playbook Gus will open up with a true freshman QB. Bo is a smart kid and has run this type of offense in high school. If Bo turns out the way I think he will and our offensive line can stay healthy, we will be OK. Bo Nix will be a star before he leaves Auburn.
There is so much pressure on Gus to win this season. This is his seventh season at the Plains and he has no consistency in winning. He has had only two seasons with 10 or more wins and several seasons with five losses. This is not acceptable at Auburn. The last contract he received was during a time that our leadership went through a temporary state of insanity. No Coach of Gus’s caliber deserves that kind of salary. Ten or more wins with this schedule will be difficult. I am pulling for Gus, he is probably the best coach we can get at this time.
I’m excited about our first game. We will take a lot of fans to Dallas. We have to run the ball, throw conservative passes, no turnovers and not fall behind score-wise early in the game to win. We have not played the Ducks since our National Championship in 2010.
Oregon will score but not enough. Auburn 21 –Oregon 10'
Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard
Opening the season more than 700 miles from home in an unfamiliar stadium against the nation’s No. 11 team is a tough assignment for any team.
Starting a true freshman quarterback only adds to the degree of difficulty.
But that’s what No. 16 Auburn will face Saturday against Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
If the Ducks have an advantage, it might be on offense where they return senior quarterback Justin Herbert, a likely high draft pick who put up big numbers — 3,151 passing yards, 29 TDs and only eight INTs — as a junior.
Herbert will lead an experienced offense, most notably on the offensive line and at running back. The receivers’ corps looked like a possible weak link until Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson arrived in the spring.
The Duck defense isn’t nearly as scary since it lost several key parts from 2018, and PAC-12 defenses aren’t usually on par with the SEC’s best.
Overall, this looks like a good matchup for an Auburn team that’s talented and experienced along both the defensive and offensive lines.
The defensive line will feature returning starters Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe, rated by some as the SEC’s best. Auburn’s perceived weakness on defense is at linebacker, but it’s for lack of starting experience, not talent. The secondary, both in talent and experience, may be the best in Coach Malzahn’s tenure.
Oregon isn’t the super fast, slippery team that Auburn beat in the 2010 national championship game, and its out-of-conference schedule the past few years has been, frankly, pathetic. It’s a good bet the Ducks haven’t seen a defense, especially a line, as rugged as the one Auburn will bring to Texas.
Oregon may have the edge in experienced skill players on offense, but Auburn has SEC size and speed on defense. That will ultimately be the difference as the clock ticks deep into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers hope to sustain an offense behind a line that returns every starter (all seniors) from 2018.
The concern on offense, other than lack of experience at quarterback, may be the lack of a superstar running back, and depth at the position.
As for the offense and Bo Nix’s unsurprising start at quarterback, one only has to recall that crisp sunny Auburn afternoon of Nov. 20, 1993 when his father, a veritable rookie, calmly threw one of the most famous touchdown passes in Tiger history.
Like father, like son?
With that bit of history from more than a quarter century ago, make it:
AUBURN 24, Oregon 13
Bob Lowry, a retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers
Oregon second-year head coach Mario Cristobal will be leaning heavily on quarterback Justin Herbert, who helped the Ducks go 9-4 and win the Redbox Bowl but had just five successful covers in 2018. Herbert surprised everyone by returning to Oregon despite throwing for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns, and is an intriguing +2000 option to win the Heisman Trophy.
Yet, while the Ducks are almost certain to let it fly on offense on the strength of Herbert’s NFL-caliber arm and a bevy of talented wide receivers, they have a lot of work to do on defense despite showing vast improvement in 2018 under Jim Leavitt. Andy Avalos takes over a defensive unit that returns nine linemen and four of last year’s five primary defensive backs.
As for Auburn, combine an underachieving offense with one of the best defenses in the country, and it’s no surprise that the Tigers went 5-8 O/U last season. But it’s a different record –— specifically, Auburn’s 8-5 mark –— that the team will be focused on in 2019. And this team has major question marks at QB, where freshman Bo Nix will be called upon to improve the Tigers’ offensive fortunes.
So with the passing game in doubt and the defense once again expected to shine, the Tigers’ 2019 prognosis might ultimately come down to how well the rush attack performs. Bo Nix set all the Alabama passing records last year. However, a few need to emerge from Auburn's receiving corps. And Auburn has a major wild card in this regard: Quarterback-turned-wide receiver-turned-running back JaTarvious Whitlow had 787 rushing yards last year in his first taste of backfield action. If the tigers can achieve balance and not be so predictable on offense, it could be a special year.
For this game I am hoping it will not be another ranked opponent opener for which we seem to grind out a victory in the end. Rather, it would be refreshing to see a dominating performance in the opener from Auburn. And since hope springs eternal I'm going ………. Auburn 29 – Oregon 20
Barry Mask, Auburn’s first “Friend of Aubie,” director of marketing for River Bank & Trust.
Once again the Auburn Tigers are featured in the marquee opening weekend game as they face off against the Oregon Ducks in Dallas, Texas.
The Tigers and Ducks are a study in dichotomy at the QB position. Where Auburn will be starting a true freshman in Bo Nix, Oregon’s signal caller, Justin Herbert, is perhaps the top draft-eligible QB in the country and a surefire top-five draft pick.
At the risk of sounding cliche, this game will be won or lost in trenches. Oregon returns all five starters on the offensive line from a year ago while AU has arguably the best D-line in the country. Oregon’s O-line gave up 22 sacks last season in Pac-12 play, which is good news for the Tigers. Herbert is a big boy, so getting him down will be no easy task, but getting him outside the pocket and making him uncomfortable will go a long way in limiting his impact.
The injury bug has hit the Ducks’ receiving corps this preseason. Their top receiving target as well as two backups expected to contribute have been ruled out of the game. This could be big for the good guys.
As for Auburn on offense, run the football behind one of the conference’s best offensive lines and scheme to give Bo Nix some easy throws early … and play fast.
In the battle between the SEC and the Pac-12, Auburn needs to win this game. They are bigger and faster and if they hope to compete for the Western Division and a playoff berth, they don’t have any business losing this game. In this rematch of the Duel in the Desert, Auburn wins 27-17.
Brandon Hughes, Lee County
Well, here we go again . . . sort of. The first game of the season sees Tigers vs. Ducks Part II and if that isn’t enough to get things going then playing at Jones Stadium ought to take care of that! Next to Auburn, my favorite group of players are “The Boyz!" Always loved watching Meredith, Staubach and company. OK, enough of that and back to business at hand.
You can bet that Coach Cristobal and his brace of ducks will be ready to give us a fit in Dallas and they have a bunch of guys from last year who have lots of experience. PAC 12 teams generally like to throw footballs and this group will be no exception thanks to QB Justin Herbert and their primary lead duck receiver Juwan Johnson. Expect a lot of running around and flying footballs from the Autzen Nest folks.
Our Donahue Drive bunch is bringing some familiar faces to the Metroplex as well on Saturday and a defense that should be pretty decent against the Quack attack.
Things are going to get interesting having a second generation Nix in the mix as well. It’s not often that a team brings a true freshman in to direct the point generator side of the ball. The last time we did was 1946.
I think the battle between the Duck’s offense and the Auburn defense may be a significant factor in this one.
If the Tiger O-line keeps the birds out of our backfield and gives our youngster a chance to get in the groove, then we will be just fine.
I think “War Eagle” will be a popular yell come late Saturday night at the home of “The Boyz” Auburn 24 – Oregon 21
Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff
Editor's note: Check back in next week's Villager to see the panel's take on Auburn's home-opener against the Tulane Green Wave in Jordan-Hare Stadium.