Game 2: Auburn vs Arkansas State Matchup and Predictions

After a close loss to Clemson to start the season, it’s time to turn our attention to game number two, which features Arkansas State coming into town.

Arkansas State opened up the season with a very disappointing 31-10 loss to Toledo.

Who: Auburn vs. Arkansas State

When: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, Ala.

TV: SEC Network

Line: Auburn – 19

Weather: 94/71 – 10% chance of rain – 6:45 p.m. sunset

The Tigers had every chance to upset the number two team in the country, but a terrible offensive game plan from Gus Malzahn prevented the upset. We’ll see how he adjusts in week two against a Red Wolves’ defense that gave up 30 points a game in 2015 and 30 points in week one.

Malzahn has already named Sean White as his starting quarterback. He also mentioned that John Franklin III would be mixed in. We’ll see if he continues to make the quarterback position a revolving door, or gives one quarterback a chance to get in a rhythm.

Gus Malzahn spent a year at Arkansas State where he went 9-3 before getting the head coaching job at Auburn.

The Red Wolves are always good in the Sun Belt, and are one of the favorites to win the conference this year.

Even though Auburn is a 19 point favorite, don’t sleep on this Arkansas State team. I don’t think they’re as bad as they looked in their loss to Toledo.

Regardless, this is a game that Auburn should easily win if Gus Malzahn can draw up a simple game plan.

Arkansas State

Oct 3, 2015; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Chad Voytik (16) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas State Offense vs. Auburn Defense

Even before Gus Malzahn showed up to coach Arkansas State, they were a solid offensive club. Over the past six years they’ve averaged between 29 and 40 points a game, with last year being their highest total over that stretch at 40.

That’s why it was a little surprising to see them struggle so badly against a Toledo defense that was rebuilding. In that game they managed just 266 yards of offense and 13 first downs.

They didn’t have any turnovers or a lot of penalties, they just simply got shut down offensively.

They have a veteran quarterback in Chad Voytik. He was a starter at Pittsburgh before losing his job and transferring. He did not have a good first game for Arkansas State completing just 11 of his 24 passes for 124 yards.

Voytik also ran the ball 18 times for just 38 net yards. He did have one long run of 20 yards.

They also brought in sophomore quarterback Justice Hansen for a series, but he was immediately taken out. It’s possible we see both quarterbacks in this game as well.

The Red Wolves have a very good offensive line, but they allowed four sacks in the game. Arkansas State did rush for a solid 142 yards.

Arkansas State just doesn’t have any playmakers at the skill positions right now.

Sophomore running back Warren Wand was the lone bright spot against Toledo picking up 77 yards on 12 carries.

Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Artavis Scott (3) is taken down by Auburn Tigers defense during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Auburn defense had an outstanding performance against Clemson in their opener holding them to 399 total yards and 19 points.

The defensive line was every bit as good as advertise. They bottled up the run game holding them to just 3.4 yards per rush attempt.

Auburn’s secondary struggled at times, but made some big stops when they needed to. The most impressive thing about the secondary in this game is that they tackled well in open space. The top four tacklers were from the Auburn secondary.

Darrell Williams, Tre’ Williams and Deshaun Davis played pretty well at linebacker. You would expect them to have more tackles against Arkansas State.

Auburn didn’t get any sacks against Clemson, so I expect them to get after the Arkansas State quarterback in this one. We also only had three tackles for a loss to Clemson’s 14!

I think the Auburn defense has a big day on Saturday. I expect us to hold them to 17 points or less, 350 yards or less and get at least 3 sacks.

Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) carries up the field past Clemson Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware (10) during the third quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn Offense vs Arkansas State Defense

The Auburn offense was embarrassing on Saturday picking up just 37 totals yards in the first half against Clemson. They had more penalty yards in the first half than they had totals yards.

The main reason was because of the ill-advised rotating of quarterbacks, and subsequent bad play-calling.

At times the offense would get in a rhythm, and then Malzahn would change quarterbacks. I think he’s admitted that was a terrible game plan and will adjust going forward.

Auburn finished the game with 13 points and 262 yards of total offense.

The running game picked up with John Franklin III at quarterback. The threat of him running the ball kept the defensive ends from crashing down on the running back. That opened up some holes for Kerryon Johnson who finished with 94 yards on 23 carries.

Sean White was just 10-of-21 passing for 140 yards. Both he and Jeremy Johnson threw an interception.

I think we see Sean White as the primary quarterback against Arkansas State, with JF3 coming in periodically to get the read-option game going.

Sep 12, 2015; Jonesboro, AR, USA; Arkansas State Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson celebrates after an interception against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at ASU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Arkansas State defense has given up 30 points a game the past two seasons, but were expected to be improved this year. That wasn’t the case against Toledo as they gave up 556 total yards and 30 points.

A missed field goal and a fumble early kept Toledo from scoring even more in that game.

Arkansas State stacked the box against Toledo to stop the run, and that worked early in the game. Once Toledo completed a couple of passes downfield it opened up their run game and it was over from there.

The Rockets scored on five straight possessions against the Arkansas State defense.

The Red Wolves do have a solid defensive front with Alabama transfer Dee Liner at defensive tackle, and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones at defensive end. Xavier Woodson-Luster is a name to watch out for at linebacker.

Don’t just look at the stats from the Toledo game and think Auburn’s offense is going to roll over this defense. They are much better than how they played last Friday night.

Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Sean White (13) passes against the Clemson Tigers during the third quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview and Prediction

In order for Auburn to win this game they will have to be successful in the short passing game. Toledo used all kinds of screens and quick slants against Arkansas State.

The Red Wolves have the front seven to shut down a running game, but if you can open up the passing game and spread them out, they can be beaten. Don’t think Auburn can just run it up the gut and have success against this defense, that won’t work.

That means Sean White is going to have to make some throws. We didn’t see it against Clemson, but I know he’s capable of opening up the passing game with some short passes.

Auburn also needs to get their young receivers involved. We didn’t see anything from Nate Craig-Myers or Eli Stove against Clemson. Those two, along with Kyle Davis, need to be involved in the game plan.

I don’t have much worries for the defense going into this one. Arkansas State showed me nothing on offense against Toledo that would worry me.

The Auburn defense should have a big game this weekend

The only way Auburn doesn’t win this game is if they can’t get the passing game going to open up the run, and if they turn the ball over.

If Gus Malzahn can draw up a half decent game plan, Auburn should cover the 19 point spread in this one. Quite frankly, if he doesn’t, his hot seat will be just as warm going into the Texas A&M game.

The plan to win should involve Sean White at quarterback, throwing easy screens and slants to open up the run game for JF3 and Kerryon Johnson.

Auburn: 31

Arkansas State: 13

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