- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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For 27 Auburn seniors, Saturday will be the last time they play a game inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. It won’t be quite as dramatic as last year’s home finale, but this senior class will be extra motivated to finish strong in front of their fans.
“This is a very good group of seniors that has done a lot of great things for Auburn,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “So I’m really hoping our fans will show up, be loud and send these guys off on the right track.”
Auburn is 26-0-1 all-time against Samford and 91-47-2 against teams from the state of Alabama.
Key player: C Reese Dismukes
Dismukes, recently named a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy, has started more games (47) than any other player on Auburn’s roster. Saturday will be his 29th and final start at home. No player has meant more to the program over the last four years. He’s snapped the ball to six different quarterbacks. He’s blocked for four separate 1,000-yard rushers. And the last player other than Dismukes to start at center was Tunde Fariyike, who started in October 2012 against Ole Miss. Enjoy him while you can Auburn fans.
Key question: Which running back will gain the most yards?
There are four running backs who might have more than 100 yards on Saturday. Cameron Artis-Payne, the SEC’s leading rusher, is almost a lock to hit the century mark. He’s done it in seven of Auburn’s 10 games this season. Fellow senior Corey Grant has been quiet for much of the season, but he could see more touches against Samford and he’s liable to break one at any time. Then there’s freshmen Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber. It all depends on how many carries they get, but both are averaging more than 5 yards a carry this season.
Key stat: On runs outside the tackles, Auburn had its fewest carries (8) and yards (32) in a game under Malzahn last week against Georgia per ESPN Stats & Info.
How does a team that has scored 20 or more points in 23 straight games score only seven points last weekend? The stat above will give you the answer. Auburn was averaging nearly 150 yards per game on runs outside the tackles this season, but Georgia took that away. Why does that matter this week? It doesn’t really, not against Samford, but it’s important for Nick Marshall and the offense to find its rhythm before next week’s Iron Bowl. Also, Marshall needs only 78 rushing yards to become Auburn’s all-time leading rusher at quarterback.