After weeks of anticipation (or months for some of us), game week has finally arrived for the Auburn Tigers as they will travel to Arlington, Texas to take on the Oregon Ducks on Saturday.
The game has great significance for both fan bases but is also of national significance being the only Top 25 matchup on the weekend.
While season openers always carry with them great excitement, this weekend’s Kickoff (not so) Classic was a good reminder to keep things in perspective. Florida and Miami both struggled with penalties, turnovers and tackling or lack thereof. Teams often stumble coming out of the gate and underperform causing an all too predictable overreaction. It also works the other way around.
No. 21 Texas A&M bludgeoned No. 9 South Carolina in the 2014 opener 52-28 and the Aggies jumped all the way to No. 9 the next week. Quarterback Kenny Hill became the Heisman frontrunner. Texas A&M went on to be 8-5. South Carolina was 7-6 that year.
Some teams are overrated and some teams are underrated. We’ll find out who’s who in the coming weeks.
Oregon is ranked as the No. 11 team in the country by the preseason Associated Press poll. Auburn is ranked as the No. 16 team in the country by the same poll. Are the Ducks overrated? Underrated? What about the Tigers? The truth is we probably won’t know for sure no matter what the outcome of Saturday’s game.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t learn a lot about both teams.
For instance, Saturday should be a good indication of how improved Auburn’s offensive line play is going to be in 2019. The same can also be said for the Ducks. Many pundits believe they have one of the best offensive lines in the country and return all five starters. If they get the better of Auburn’s defensive line, they will certainly dominate their Pac-12 competition.
All eyes will be on Auburn true freshman quarterback Bo Nix to see if he can handle the pressure of a much-hyped game on national television against a quality opponent. On the other hand, Oregon senior quarterback Justin Herbert is considered a top NFL draft pick. If the Tiger defense shuts him down, it could be a big boost to their confidence.
It’s not always reliable to use what a team did last year as a predictor of what it’ll do this year. Teams are different from year to year even with the same players. However, Auburn and Oregon both return so many starters it’s worth noting.
The Ducks finished last season 9-4. Auburn was 8-5. Oregon’s worst loss was undoubtedly a 44-14 thrashing at the hands of Arizona. The same Arizona team that went 5-7 last season and lost to Hawaii on the island Saturday night to open 2019. Auburn had a pretty ugly loss itself last year falling to Tennessee 30-24 in Jordan Hare; that was against the same Vols team that went 5-7.
Oregon protected Herbert extremely well giving up less than two sacks a game and only five tackles for loss. Auburn was Top 20 in causing tackles for loss and sacks last year. Oregon threw for nearly 250 yards a game. The Tigers gave up almost 220 yards a game through the air.
These are the matchups that will determine the outcome. These are the matchups to watch.
I have no doubt both teams are confident they will be victorious. One of them is going to be very disappointed.