War Eagle Extra has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 4 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Auburn-Louisiana Tech breakdown

I never really settled on what kind of a game breakdown I wanted to do on the blog, so for this week at least, I'll give a preview of what will be in tomorrow's paper:

Also, follow the blog on Twitter.

Louisiana Tech (0-0) at Auburn (0-0)
  • Where: Auburn, Ala.
  • When: 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • Last game: Auburn 52, Louisiana Tech 7, Oct. 9, 2004
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs return almost everyone on offense, with running back Daniel Porter (1,164 rushing yards, 9 TD), wide receiver Phillip Livas (607 yards, 2 TD) and quarterback Ross Jenkins (6-2 as a starter) leading the way. Louisiana Tech is also one of 13 Football Bowl Subdivision teams to return all five starters on its offensive line, which should help their no-frills, no-mistakes game plan.

Auburn: The Tigers will give fans a first look at Gus Malzahn's fast-paced offense, with hopes that it doesn't resemble Tony Franklin's purportedly fast offense from last year. Chris Todd is the starting quarterback again and is out to prove that last season's struggles can be attributed to a nagging shoulder injury that was corrected by offseason surgery. Just who he'll throw to remains a mystery. Auburn's receiving corps is young and beat up right now.
EDGE: Push
Louisiana Tech: Seven starters return on a defense that ranked 13th in the country against the run last year, allowing only 103.8 yards per game. Tech's front seven is the strength of the unit, led by defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith, who had 65 tackles and five sacks last season. Antonio Baker, an All-WAC safety, will help lead a secondary that lost both its starting cornerbacks.

Auburn: The Tigers are talented but thin across the board. Defensive end Antonio Coleman, linebackers Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens and safety Zac Etheridge have All-SEC potential, but rotating in reserves is a problem. Auburn has three junior college transfers, two redshirt freshmen and five true freshman on its two deep, including newcomer Daren Bates, who's been on the Plains for a month and is already starting at safety.
EDGE: Auburn
Special teams:
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs were tied for second nationally last season with eight non-offensive touchdowns, five of which came from special teams. Return man extraordinaire Livas had three of them, taking back two punts and a kickoff for a touchdown. Tech's problems come at kicker and punter, where a pair of freshmen — Matt Nelson and Cade Glassgow — are the starters.

Auburn: Auburn's strong special teams effort last season was overshadowed by place-kicker Wes Byrum's struggles. He is looking to bounce back from an 11-for-19 season and early indications from practice are that the junior has solved some mechanical problems. Mario Fannin is a game-breaker who will be a factor on punts, while the speedy Onterio McCalebb should get a look on kickoff returns.
EDGE: Auburn
Louisiana Tech: Derek Dooley has taken a team that went 3-10 the year before his arrival to 8-5 last year, leading the Bulldogs to their first bowl victory since 1977. He's had several mentors along the way, from his dad, Hall of Fame Georgia coach Vince Dooley, to Nick Saban, with whom he coached at LSU and with the NFL's Miami Dolphins. He knows the game, that's for sure.

Auburn: Gene Chizik seems every bit as polished, having worked under Tommy Tuberville and Mack Brown before getting his first head coaching gig. But things went horribly at Iowa State, where Chizik was 5-19 in two years. Although it's likely few could have fared better in difficult circumstances in Ames, it's a fact that will sure to be brought up if Auburn struggles out of the gate this season.

EDGE: Louisiana Tech
Key matchups
Offense: Ryan Pugh vs. D'Anthony Smith. Pugh is back home at center, his natural position, and will have his hands full trying to move the 300-pound Smith to clear some holes for Auburn's running backs. Pugh bulked up in the offseason, adding more than 20 pounds to get up to 289 this season. He's hoping that extra weight will help him against bigger defenders, something he didn't have going for him when the Tigers' linemen slimmed down for Franklin's offense last year.

Defense: Josh Bynes vs. Daniel Porter. Porter is Louisiana Tech's go-to option on offense (he’s only the ninth 1,000-yard rusher in school history) meaning Auburn will have to keep him in check. That job starts with Bynes, the Tigers' middle linebacker who thrived after taking over for Tray Blackmon last season, making 53 tackles in eight starts. The Tigers' front will have its hands full with Tech's veteran line, meaning Bynes might be the one having to stop on Porter.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech is a feisty non-BCS school that pulled an upset — or was it? — of Mississippi State in Ruston, La., last year. But that was at home. Historically, the Bulldogs have struggled on the road against SEC teams, and they haven't beaten Auburn in 11 tries, salvaging one tie in the series. Despite the fact that Auburn will have to get adjusted to a new coaching regime, it is the more talented team. Provided the Tigers don't make a series of mistakes, they should previal. Auburn 24, Louisiana Tech 17.


Chad said...

You do a great job with these posts. As an Auburn expat living in Clemson/SC country, the internet is my only real source of Auburn footballs news -- especially in a down year when the national pubs do little more than relay blurbs from the wires.

Buck said...

hey extra...
nice review. thanks for doing the research. it's tough to gather from last year's stats which players are returning and will make an impact. this is definitely helpful for watching the game.
i think, though, that when comparing teams it's best to compare the advantage of one offense versus the other defense, and vice versa. these are the elements that go head-to-head on the field, not the offense versus offense and defense versus defense.
war eagle!

Andy Bitter said...

I agree, but this is the format we do for our paper, so I've got to conform.

Maybe for the blog I could do an Auburn defensive line vs. opponent offensive line type breakdown. Thanks for the suggestion.