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September 23, 2011

Auburn-Florida Atlantic: Who has the edge?

Time for the weekly matchups post. I’m sure you’re all been on the edge of your seat waiting for this one.

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Florida Atlantic at Auburn

  • Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
  • When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
  • TV: FSN
  • Records: Florida Atlantic 0-2, 0-0 Sun Belt; Auburn 2-1, 1-0 SEC
  • Series: First meeting

FAU passing game vs. Auburn secondary

The one good thing on quarterback Graham Wilbert‘s resume is that he hasn’t thrown an interception. But he hasn’t thrown for many yards either, just 122 in two games. FAU’s leading receiver, Nexon Dorvilus (great name), has four catches for 57 yards, so it doesn’t appear the Owls will be going deep on Auburn. The Tigers are trying to regroup in the secondary after giving up 386 yards and four passing touchdowns to Clemson last week. CB Chris Davis got banged up twice in that game but should be a go Saturday night. We’ll see if Auburn simplifies things like it said it will, going with a more man-to-man look. Edge: Auburn.

FAU running backs vs. Auburn linebackers

Alfred Morris is a pretty good running back, having run for 2,320 yards and 18 touchdowns the previous two seasons. But the holes just aren’t there for him this year.  He’s run 24 times for 37 yards in two games, a 1.1-yard average. Auburn’s linebackers haven’t been great, although Daren Bates is starting to get in on more plays. He had 12 tackles against Mississippi State and 10 against Clemson. Jonathan Evans (shoulder) has been day-to-day all week. His status for Saturday is up in the air. Edge: Auburn.

FAU offensive line vs. Auburn defensive line

The Owls’ starting line has a season’s worth of starts under its belt, with all five players up front have made at least 12 starts. But they haven’t been too sharp so far, allowing five sacks. FAU’s running backs have a 1.04-yard average, which means they aren’t getting much room to run. Auburn’s defensive line has struggled. The group has two sacks through three games and isn’t supplying the kind of pressure Auburn fans grew accustomed to last year. Jeffrey Whitaker has done OK, according to defensive line coach Mike Pelton, but Angelo Blackson (4 tackles, 1.5 TFLs) has impressed in limited playing time. It might be time for the 6-foot-2, 325-pound freshman to get more snaps. Edge: Auburn.

Auburn passing game vs. FAU secondary

Quarterback Barrett Trotter‘s lofty completion rate came back to earth against Clemson. The junior completed only 50 percent of his passes and threw an untimely pick near the end zone in the fourth quarter. Auburn fans have to be wondering what happened to Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen last week. Blake’s only catch, a 36-yard touchdown, came in the first quarter. Lutzenkirchen, a strong red zone threat with five touchdowns in his last seven games, didn’t have any catches, or many targets for that matter. Look for both to be prominently involved. Safety Marcus Bartels leads a young FAU secondary that ranks 95th nationally against the pass (2585. ypg). Bartels is four tackles shy of being the program’s all-time tackle leader for defensive backs. Edge: Auburn.

Auburn running backs vs. FAU linebackers

More Mike Dyer? That’s what the coaches are saying, although it would be surprising if the Tigers trot him out for a 20-carry day in a game that should be decided by halftime. Dyer had only 16 carries last week, but he had 151 yards and two touchdowns, with runs of 52 and 45 yards. Onterio McCalebb hasn’t thrived as an every-down back, which means freshman Tre Mason, who is 20 pounds heavier than McCalebb, could have an expanded role. The Owls have switched to a 3-4 defense this year, mostly because they have been able to find quality linebackers over the years. David Hinds (17 tackles, 2 TFL) and Andrae Kirk (12 tackles 1 TFL) rank second and third on the team in tackles. Edge: Auburn.

Auburn offensive line vs. FAU defensive line

The Tigers have been able to establish the run the last two weeks after struggling in the opener, but the line had some communication breakdowns in pass protection that led to Trotter getting clocked a few times last week. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes didn’t say if any new guys would play this week. It might be the cutoff point for players like Greg Robinson and Christian Westerman, with two straight road games coming up and four ranked SEC opponents on the schedule. Those aren’t great times to get your feet wet at the college level. This game might be. Defensive tackle Jared Givens is centerpiece on FAU’s three-man front. (The game notes say he squats 815 pounds.) The fifth-year senior has only one tackle this year, though. It was a sack for a loss. Edge: Auburn.

FAU return units vs. Auburn coverage teams

Willie Floyd has a 26.0-yard average on 10 kick returns this year, with a long of 53. As for punts, FAU hasn’t forced many. The Owls don’t have a punt return this year. Auburn hasn’t had to cover many kickoffs. Kicker Cody Parkey has 12 touchbacks in three games. The Tigers had 13 the two previous years. Punter Steven Clark has been coming on. He has a 43.2-yard average, 23rd nationally, and nine of his punts have been downed inside the 20. Edge: Auburn.

Auburn return units vs. FAU coverage teams

Kick returner Tre Mason had a quiet day against Clemson, with four returns for 63 yards. He’s still averaging 29.4 yards a return. Look for him to bounce back. Also, coaches have been encouraged by Quan Bray in the return game. Punt returner Trovon Reed has caught the ball well but has made some bad decisions. He retreated to catch a ball in the end zone against Clemson and only returned it to the 4, a major no-no. FAU hasn’t been good at covering punts (97th nationally), although punter Mickey Groody has been decent this year.  He finished fifth nationally last year with a 45.8-yard average. Edge: Auburn.

Kickers

Parkey is 3-for-3 this year with long of 43, although he looks like he could be good from 50-plus. Vinny Zaccario has FAU’s only points this year ,a 27-yard field goal against Florida. He missed his other chance, a 34-yarder. Edge: Auburn.

Coaches

Two national championship coaches will be on the field Saturday. Only one is at the top of his game, though. Gene Chizik will have his work cut out for him getting his young team to fix all the mistakes it has been making the first three weeks, but he’s only nine months removed from a national championship. He’ll figure it out. FAU’s Howard Schnellenberger is winding down a Hall of Fame career. He built Miami into a force in the early ’80s, winning a national title in 1983. And he’s built FAU’s program from the ground up, the only coach in the football team’s 11-year history. The 77-year-old is 57-65 at FAU and led the team to the Sun Belt championship in 2008, only its second year at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. The Owls haven’t had a winning season since 2008, however, and don’t seem primed to do so this season. He’s retiring at the end of the year. Given all he’s accomplished, its unfortunate that things are sputtering to an end. Edge: Auburn.

Prediction

It’s not going to be close, but it’s not going to be about the result. It’s going to be about fixing mistakes for Auburn, which has to get things right before a brutal October schedule that includes games at South Carolina, Arkansas, vs. Florida and at LSU. I don’t think auburn will be able to magically fix everything that has plagued it defensively in a week’s time, so I’ll give the Owls a touchdown in this game. But the Tigers will roll. Prediction: Auburn 56, Florida Atlantic 13.

8 Comments

  1. Our goal should be to shut them out to prove that the defense has made appropriate progress. Missed tackles will be scrutinized, I’m sure, by all the critics.

    If we can tackle properly, I see no reason why South Carolina is unbeatable. Heck, if we had tackled at Clemson, we would have beaten them.

    I read your live chat notes. Onterio needs to turn upfield as soon as possible, even if the line fails to make a hole, rather than juking further out and back. A one yard gain is better than a three yard loss. I recall Bo telling Dyer the same thing and his running/gains immediately improved.

    Comment by TigerEyez13 — September 23, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  2. It was actually Onterio that Bo talked to. He talked him to cut up field instead of running out of bounds, and in the last few games he greatly improved. Especially Georgia where he had three TDs including one where he bulldozed over the defender, but this year he’s reverted back to his old ways.

    Comment by mab — September 23, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  3. Auburn will have difficulty in stopping FAU and it will be a close game. It will require a full year of maturity, development and change in entire defensive coaching staff to see a dramatic improvements. Prediction: Auburn 35 FAU 34.

    Comment by Leon Day — September 23, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  4. Actually Sir, Auburn will have the eye of the tiger this Saturday. I think the defense will soar like War Eagles against this team. Much to the credit of the defensive genius of The ROOF! Ted Roof. Auburn-56 FAU-0

    Comment by michael — September 24, 2011 @ 12:23 am

  5. Last week was the first time I have ever used the word “EMBARRASSED” when it came to Auburn in the 40+ years I have been an Auburn fan. I would like to never ever use that word again.

    Comment by ROBERT MILLER — September 24, 2011 @ 2:59 am

  6. “Change in entire defensive coaching staff”? Do you include Coach Chizik in there?
    All that’s needed is patience with a bunch of new players, the coaching staff is as good as it gets.

    Comment by MikeP — September 24, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  7. The word ‘genius’ and the name Ted Roof don’t belong in the same sentence.

    Comment by RJ — September 24, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  8. Auburn is magnificent in running the ball and their offense is much appreciated for gaining speed when speed is needed. The winner of this game tonight will depend on yards rushing and gained. The more rushing yards you get the easier it’s to pick the winner.

    Comment by alrozz — September 24, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

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