#22 Auburn (2-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. #10 Penn State (2-0, 1-0 B10)
It is mighty Auburn’s first-ever trip to a Big Ten university since the SEC was formed, and they picked a perfect place to start. Whited-out St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver Field will be rocking, and Penn State head coach James Franklin has offered to purchase Hall’s throat lozenges for any fans who yell so loud and long on Saturday that they will require treatment on Sunday. And yes, ESPN College Football Gameday will be in town and Adam Taliaferro will be the honorary captain. Big game atmosphere!
Both combatants are coming off easy wins. the Tigers blanked Alabama State 62-0 last week, while the Nittany Lions easily handled Ball State, 44-13. Before that, while Penn State was schtruggling to beat Wisconsin 16-10, Auburn was kicking ass at home against hopeless, hapless Akron, winning 60-10.
Penn State is 1-1 against Auburn all-time, and 23-23 against current members of the SEC.
It is silly to look at stats when opposition has been so feeble, so I won’t. Franklin had to go back to last year’s “tapes”* to try to analyze Auburn. Speaking of Franklin, let us now turn our attention to the major dischtraction.
Franklin on USC short-list? (I digress…)
Deny, deny, deny. Stonewall it, Henry! Let’s take the elephant in the room and sweep it under the proverbial rug, shall we? With Clay Helton’s ass finally being fired after Covid-19 gave him a brief respite, our boy James Franklin is once again on the short-list at USC. Urban Meyer has already said he won’t give up his lucrative NFL job working for billionaire Shahid Khan in Jacksonville. USC is desperately seeking a high-profile replacement. The bloom is off the rose at the once-fabled program, where the past three head coaches have been fired mid-season.
Having fired Helton two games into the season after an ass-kicking at home by unranked Stanford, methinks that the bigwigs at USC will play out the season while taking their time to find a replacement. Donte Williams will assume the interim job with the understanding that regardless of results, USC will be conducting a full search. So, promoting the interim guy like they did the last time doesn’t appear likely.
Aside from Franklin, others mentioned in connection with the fun job at USC are Cincinnati’s head coach Luke Fickell and Clemson OC Tony Elliott, who is from California. Rumors have also included Mario Cristobal, of Oregon, and Bill O’Brien, now Nick Saban’s OC at Alabama. Right now, we’re at the lotta bullshit/little fact stage.
So, you can expect Franklin to continue dodging related questions for the remainder of the season. He’ll continue to pay lip service to sidestepping the distractions and concentrating on going 1-0 this week.
Back to Auburn
With an offense built around a couple of speedy running backs Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby, plus Junior quarterback Bo Nix, Auburn has romped over two weak opponents. Nix is 29-39 for 383 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions thus far. However, last year, he was picked off seven times. What’s worse for Nix is his abysmal road record where he’s been intercepted twelve times in his college career. And what’s the toughest road environment one can choose? Don’t answer that.
But with a new head coach and something to prove, we’re liable to see Auburn’s A-game, if indeed they can reach that level. To do so, those two running backs will have to perforate what has been a stodgy Penn State rushing defense.
Defensively, Auburn is just as stingy, but again, the dearth of weighty opposition thus far leaves us in a quandary. Are they as good as they looked while shutting out lowly Alabama State? Will Penn State’s running game once again stumble? Will DE T.D. Moultry, who has four TFLs and 2.5 sacks, get into Sean Clifford’s head?
The Sanguinarians are upset that tOSU lost because that will make our win over Ohio State less meaningful with respect to getting a playoff berth. They’re crying in their beer while I’m elated that the Ducks handled the Bucks. They’re already looking past Auburn and Iowa to the showdown with tOSU.
The Auburn Radio Network’s sideline reporter is Ronnie Brown, who you might remember from his performance in the 2003 Capital One Bowl against PSU, which Auburn won 13-9. I was there and it wasn’t pretty. Brown ran for 184 yards, shredding the vaunted Penn State defense as The Dark Years (cue cello) waged on.
Hot, mid-September day in State College predicted – 80 degrees with a stray afternoon thundershower. I don’t perceive a benefit to either side.
Da Bottom Line
Now, it’s time for the Nittany Turkey’s own signature Official Turkey Poop Prediction. Penn State now favored by five after opening at seven, with bettors indicating their sensitivity to the Franklin to USC rumors. The over/under is 53. Working it out mathematically, the break-even happens at PSU 29 Auburn 24.
Penn State needs to establish the run and Clifford’s passing accuracy downfield needs to improve. If these things happen and if they continue with their excellent turnover ratio by getting Nix to cough it up on the road, they will be 3-0. Can they? If they can’t contain Bigsby and Hunter, fuggedaboudit! Ideally, it will be a close game. where things like IITOP and punting count for something. Get the running game going. Make some defensive plays. Hold that line! Rah rah, sis boom bah! We want the Lion! Penn State 20, Auburn 13 — take the under. (I haven’t been right on the o/u thus far, so why believe me now!??!?!)
(I’ll be back after the game with some quips and comments. In the meanwhile, enjoy the white-out!).
*OK, what is a “tape”? How long has it been since we have used videotape to record football games? Franklin could have just as easily called what he reviewed “films”, which would have been an even more egregious archaic misrepresentation. What’s wrong with “videos”? It is suitably generic, resistant to upgraded technology, and it quells my Asperger’s driven hypercritical nit-picking prerogative.