Seth Williams

Creeping toward the edge of a losing season after dropping a home game against Tennessee, the Tigers responded last weekend, picking up a key victory on the road over Ole Miss. 

Once again, youth on offense, solid special teams play and a stingy defense kept the Tigers afloat. 

Underclassmen accounted for 242 of the Tigers' 269 rushing yards, as well as all three rushing touchdowns. Boobee Whitlow was the star of the day, running for a career-high 170 yards on the ground. The same held true in the passing game, with underclassmen pulling in 141 of the team's 215 receiving yards and the lone passing touchdown.

For the season, four of Auburn's top five rushers are underclassmen, and they've tallied 13 of the offense's 17 rushing touchdowns.

Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis lead the offense statistically through the air, with 332 yards and 321 yards, respectively on a combined 59 catches. But they've only scored one touchdown.

It's the combo of Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz that has provided most of the big-play offensive spark the Tigers lacked early in the season. They've combined for 572 yards and four scores on only 26 receptions, with both averaging more than 21 yards a catch.

That's solid production and points toward the need for more targets for the true freshmen from Jarrett Stidham going forward.

For the most part, special teams play has also been a strength of this year's team — the Tigers are tied for the lead in the nation with five blocked kicks or punts, including blocked field goals in three straight games by Marlon Davidson.

The punting game has also been a team strength, with first-year starter Arryn Siposs averaging 45 yards a punt and frequently pinning opponents inside the 20. His targeted punts have enough hangtime that the Tigers have been able to quash opponent punt returns, with six returns going for only 30 yards through eight games. 

The Tigers would probably be better served bringing Siposs onto the field to pin opponents deep instead attempting long field goals with placekicker Anders Carlson, who's 11 of 21 on the season and struggling with attempts over 50 yards, missing seven. 

The field position battle will become even more important in the Tigers' last three SEC games against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. If the offense stalls, Auburn can't afford to give those teams short fields to work with.

Despite struggling against Mississippi State and Tennessee, the Auburn defense is still one of the best in the SEC and can keep the Tigers within shooting distance in any game, as they're only giving up 16.5 points per game.

The defensive line has played like one of the better units in the league, registering 15 of the team's 24 sacks, including six from buck end Nick Coe. 

The defense as a whole has played behind the line of scrimmage, making an SEC-leading 66 tackles for a loss, with 11.5 coming from Coe and 9.5 from Deshaun Davis, who, despite being banged up recently, has emerged as one the top linebackers in the SEC —he's tied for third in the league in tackles with 76, only six fewer than he made all of last season.

The Tigers will need the front seven to continue playing at a high level, while the secondary needs to do a better job limiting big plays if Auburn is going to finish better than 1-3 down the stretch.

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