Auburn is 2-0, but the Tigers have failed to impress in a big win against overmatched Mercer in Week 1 and a game that was way too close for comfort against San Jose State last time out. A win over No. 22 Penn State would make their start to the season feel much more legitimate.
By Steve Wright
Here are my three keys to a Tiger victory:
The Run Defense Continues to be Ace
This is one of the weekend’s best matches as Penn State plays a true road game at Auburn. The Nittany Lions are 2-0 and have got there through being balanced. They have passed for over 300 yards per game and have an explosive and consistent rushing attack under former Vandy head coach James Franklin.
Auburn, however, doesn’t let teams run the ball. They were dominant in the front seven last season, which has carried over. Auburn has allowed less than three yards per rush, and last season they held Penn State under 100 yards on the ground. That defensive front has to show up on Saturday.
Tank Takes Over
T.J. Finley will do some good things through the air, but this game is going to be all about if the combination of Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter on the ground can carry the Tigers over the line. This will be low scoring and tight, with Bigsby, in particular, having to come up with a few key plays on third down when an unblocked defender stands between him and the yardage needed for a first down. The Tigers are No. 8 in the country in yards per rush against a couple of bad teams. That needs to continue here against a much better opponent.
Feed Off of the Fans
The Nittany Lions will become the first ever Big Ten team to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. Obviously, the Penn State players will have played at some of the biggest stadiums in the country (Michigan, Notre Dame), but they will not be prepared for what they are about to walk into in SEC country. Jordan-Hare will be absolutely rocking on Saturday afternoon, and it is up to the players to use that noise to their advantage.