When Auburn rallied to upset No. 7 Texas A&M last Saturday, it put the Tigers back on the national stage. They’re now 6-1, 3-1 in the SEC, and they debuted at No. 11 in the initial BCS standings. But despite the win and all of the accolades, the only thing on first-year head coach Gus Malzahn’s mind is Florida Atlantic.
“We’re happy that people think that highly of us, but we’re on to next week and that’s our only focus,” he said.
“The only thing we have talked about is this week and Florida Atlantic. We aren’t talking about anything else or thinking about anything else. We’re going to keep the same approach. That is what got us here so far. We have not looked ahead. We’ve not talked about anyone else. We’re playing an opponent who is a solid opponent this week.”
The Owls, who made the move from the Sun Belt to Conference USA in the offseason, are 2-5 on the year.
What Auburn needs to do to win: Florida Atlantic will provide a more difficult test than Western Carolina two weeks ago, but the Tigers shouldn’t be worried about an upset. If all goes well, the game will give some of the younger players more experience, including freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson who made his debut against the Catamounts. On offense, Auburn will likely lean on its rushing attack which is tops in the SEC and ranked No. 8 nationally, averaging 300 yards per game. The defense will play its second game without starting safety Joshua Holsey, who suffered a season-ending injury in practice last week.
Players to watch
RB Corey Grant: Tre Mason is the team’s feature back, but after 27 carries a week ago, he’ll likely be handed a lighter load, giving way to both Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne. Grant hasn’t had more than five carries since Week 3, but he showed flashes against the Aggies. He’s also expected to replace Mason as one of the team’s kick returners.
CB Jonathan Jones: Injuries have plagued Auburn all season, but it sounds like the Tigers are getting Jones back at the perfect time. The sophomore was expected to compete for a starting job in the fall, but a broken bone in his foot kept him out of the first four games. He returned against Ole Miss only to get hurt again. The coaches are hopeful he can suit up Saturday.
“We talked about being physical at every position, and that was just part of it. He is a strong guy and we are starting to get there. We are not there yet, but we are starting to get more physical and play the type of football that Auburn expects,” -- Malzahn on the stiff-arm (or throw-down) by wide receiver Sammie Coates against Texas A&M