We’re taking an early look at Auburn’s opponents for the 2017 regular season. This 12-part series will feature analysis and occasional insight from beat reporters who cover the 12 teams Auburn will play this year.
Game date & time: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Sept. 2 game time TBA
2016 record: (5-7, 4-4 Sun Belt)
Coach: Tyson Summers, second year
Betting line: Auburn by 35
Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense, 3 specialists
Most important returning players: RB Wesley Fields, RB L.A. Ramsby, WR Myles Campbell, DB Joshua Moon
Most critical departures: QB Kevin Ellison, RB Matt Breida, QB Favian Upshaw, WR BJ Johnson III, LB Ironhead Gallon, LB Ukeme Eligwe, K Younghoe Koo
Auburn story lines:
- Debut of Jarrett Stidham
Though he technically has to win the starting job, the widely accepted reality is Jarrett Stidham is going to be Auburn’s starting quarterback and for good reason. Stidham has a vastly superior skill set to Sean White and showed his arm strength on A-Day. How much Stidham stretches the field in the opening game will be an early indicator of what Auburn’s offense is capable of this fall.
- Differences with new offensive coordinator
Speaking of the offense, Chip Lindsey takes over as play-caller and should provide a boost to a passing game that ranked last in the SEC last season. However, don’t expect Auburn to abandon its identity as a power running team when Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson are in the backfield.
- Does a top wide receiver emerge?
It would be a lot to ask from the receiving corps in the season opener for one player to immediately emerge as the go-to guy but with Lindsey calling plays and Stidham throwing the ball it’s possible. Realistically, it’ll take time for a leader of the group to emerge but even getting a clearer idea of defined roles would be a big step in the first game. If Auburn is able to pull away quickly, any diagnosis of the receivers will become harder as the offense shifts to killing the clock.