We’ll see how real the Auburn Tigers are this season when they head to Beaver Stadium at University Park on Saturday night for a primetime showdown with the Penn State Nittany Lions. It has been smooth sailing for a Tigers team that absolutely destroyed Alabama State and Akron en route to a 2-0 record to start the season. But Penn State has clearly faced the tougher path in knocking off Ball State and Wisconsin to remain unbeaten.
Will the Tigers live up to the hype?The Tigers fee-fi-fo-fum’d their way over Alabama State and Akron by a 122-10 scoring margin. Yes, I know it’s Alabama State and Akron, but at the end of the day, Auburn did exactly what they needed to do.
They pounded them into the dirt with absolute ease.
But now it’s time to see how the Tigers respond when someone pounds them a bit, too. The Penn State Nittany Lions weren’t fazed in a brutal season-opening challenge with Wisconsin, and then they handled their business against Ball State as well. Now, they have to deal with one of the scariest dual-headed threats at running back with Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby. Those two thumpers out of the offensive backfield are providing the fee and fi to Auburn’s recent dominance.
The fo and fum comes from pass rushers T.D. Moultry and Marquis Banks. They’ve helped the Tigers climb all the way to ninth in the country in sacks (9). If they can put the heat on Sean Clifford, it’s going to be a long night for Penn State. They really haven’t been able to get their run game going, and so much of their success runs through the quarterback making the right throws and avoiding turnovers.
Speaking of turnovers, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has yet to throw it to the other team. He has 383 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions on the season. The latter is the most important statistic heading into a game against a stingy Penn State defense that already has four interceptions on the season.
A real trap game for Penn StateI know everyone is pretty much chalking all of the Auburn hype up as nonsense, but Penn State better not be taking part in those conversations. The Tigers are a real threat on the ground, and Bo Nix is finally becoming more confident in the pocket. There’s also the fact that Auburn can go toe-to-toe with the Nittany Lions in defensive dominance.
This game is no joke.
But it also has to be said that Nix’s feet haven’t really been held to the fire yet. Both of his wins over Alabama State and Akron were in the comfort of Auburn’s backyard at Jordan-Hare Stadium. That won’t be the case on Saturday night at University Park. How will he fare in enemy territory in front of a rollicking Penn State fan base? It’s too bad that Bonnaroo got canceled, but you could probably do better by flipping it on the channel for this game because Beaver Stadium will look like a rock concert.
Nix has been known to throw erratically on the road. Take last season for example when he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Penn State’s defense is going to need to make plays to come away with a victory, and they have already proven they’re capable of doing so with a pair of tough games right out of the gates.
And Sean Clifford needs to remain poised in the pocket against an aggressive Auburn defense. The hounds will be ripping and clawing to get to him, but he needs to keep everything in front of him and avoid panicking out of desperation to make a play. Penn State doesn’t need Nix and the Auburn offense generating points on a short field.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Tigers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.
- Tigers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Tigers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games on grass.
- Tigers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 road games against a team with a winning home record.
- Nittany Lions are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games against teams in the SEC.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
This Auburn team is nothing to snub your nose at this season. I’m not saying they’re going to be a legitimate playoff contender or anything like that, but they’re going to make life rough on a lot of opponents, including Penn State. They have the defense to make every touchdown drive feel like a trip on foot across all of Westeros for Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lions’ offense.
And they also have a pair of bulldozers in their offensive backfield with Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby to keep the Penn State linebackers honest. Perhaps the biggest advantage heading into this game is the fact that Bo Nix looks more comfortable than ever before under center. If anything, those two warm-up games have helped him settle into a rhythm that will keep him from getting rattled on the road at Penn State.
He hasn’t thrown a single interception, and he’s completing 74.4 percent of his passes. And let’s not pretend like this Auburn team doesn’t know what real competition is all about when they play in the toughest conference in football. This will be one of those games that comes down to the final drive and a razor-thin margin of victory.
I’m taking the points.
Full-Game Total Pick
Auburn is currently leading the nation with an average 61 points per game in the first couple of weeks. That number is obviously going bye-bye in Saturday’s clash with the unbeaten Nittany Lions. Bo Nix and company have handled their business well against inferior teams, but now, they’ll be faced with the conundrum of having to pick on someone their own size. Make no mistake, they’ll be up for the task against a Penn State team holding opponents to only 11.5 points per game, despite coming off tough head-to-head meetings with Wisconsin and Ball State. One thing is certain: Touchdowns will be hard to come by for both teams. Give me the under in this one.