The Auburn Tigers are 2-0 on the season and ranked No. 8 in the country by the Associated Press. They are also one of only six teams in the nation with a quality win over a top-25 opponent.
It’s a little early to celebrate, but that’s at the very least encouraging and to be considered good news. Right? It would be difficult to prove that in a court of law judging by the dour looks upon so many Auburn faces.
I mean this in the best possible way, but being naïve can be very underrated. I miss the days when I could enjoy a win simply because it wasn’t a loss.
Most Tiger fanatics are deeply concerned because they are inescapably self-aware. They see a defense capable of dominating an opponent, but they also see an offense that is struggling to find its way. Tulane is undoubtedly a good team. However, Auburn managing only 20 yards on the ground in the first half raises an inordinate number of red flags.
One couldn’t help but think of the daunting schedule that awaits the Tigers each time the Green Wave defense resembled a modern-day Steel Curtain. The Auburn defense is good enough to keep the team in every game on the schedule.
What about the offensive production? If it doesn’t improve, will it be good enough to beat LSU, Georgia or Alabama? In a word, no. Truthfully, it more than likely won’t be good enough to beat Texas A&M, Florida or Mississippi State.
While all that sounds rather dire, it’s actually business as usual for Auburn under Gus Malzahn. His teams have notoriously gotten off to slow starts but usually begin to click three or four games into the season. I’m certainly not saying I like this formula, but it has been pretty consistent.
Auburn’s offense didn’t really hit its stride until several games into the year in 2013 and 2014. It was considered one of the best offenses in the country at times during both seasons.
Most recently in 2016, the Tigers looked completely dysfunctional to begin the year and lost games to Clemson and Texas A&M. The offense finally came together in Week 6 against Miss State and began to look dominant until Kamryn Pettway was injured.
In 2017, the offensive line gave up 11 sacks to an outstanding Clemson defense and struggled to beat Mercer in Game 2. I remember writing a column about how it wasn’t a fluke. The Mercer defensive line won as many battles as it lost against the Auburn offensive line that day.
We all felt like Auburn was destined for oblivion.
Again, the offense came together the next week against Missouri on the road in a 51-14 shellacking. The Tigers went on to hammer No. 1 Georgia and soundly defeat No. 1 Alabama winning the Western division.
When a Malzahn offense comes together, it usually happens fast and typically explodes for lots of yardage and points.
2015 and 2018 are the outliers when the offense never seemed to find its way the entire year. Auburn really struggled running the football both those seasons. That’s the key.
The Tigers have to find a way to run the ball more effectively and consistently taking some pressure off Bo Nix. He hasn’t played badly, but he’s not ready to be responsible for the entire offensive production.
The upcoming game against Kent State won’t provide much clarity on the Tigers offensive dilemma, but the trip to College Station, Texas, in two weeks should be very illuminating.