Husky Haul reached out to Fly War Eagle expert Rob Maxwell for an Auburn perspective of Washington Football team leading up to clash this Saturday
As the Auburn Tigers and Washington Huskies prepare for the season opening showdown, it is more than a clash of two teams. This is the Pac-12 versus the SEC. As such, neither fanbase is very familiar with the other.
To remedy the situation, we at the Husky Haul reached out to Fly War Eagle’s Rob Maxwell. Our goal was pretty modest. We want to give our fans the Auburn Tiger pespective. What we gained was some incredible insight to our opponent this weekend, and solid takes on their look at the football schedule they face.
The interview went very well. So well that we decided to break it up for you into three parts. This is part one. In additional articles, we’ll probe deeper into what makes Auburn tick. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Husky Haul: What is the biggest challenge to Auburn this season?
Fly War Eagle‘s Rob Maxwell: That’s easy. It’s the schedule. Opening with No. 6 Washington in Atlanta is a difficult way to start the season. But Auburn also has road trips to No. 19 Mississippi State, No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama. Win three of those and reaching the playoffs should happen.
Husky Haul: A great deal is said about Jarrett Stidham returning for this offense. Just how much of an impact will his play make in this game against Washington?
FWE Rob Maxwell: It’s huge for a Malzahn-coached team. He’s only the second Auburn QB in school history to throw for 3,000 yards (he had 3,158 last season) and the first one to return the following season. Since Malzahn arrived in 2013, only once has he had his definitive starting quarterback return the following season. Stidham learned a lot from the Week 2 loss against Clemson last season and that game set him on a different path. I expect his presence Saturday to be huge for Auburn.
Husky Haul: Auburn has tough sledding in the SEC with their schedule. If they hope to get to a bowl game this year, which aspect of the team must exceed expectation: offense, defense, or special teams?
FWE Rob Maxwell: I think Auburn will be very good on defense, around top 15 in the country. The Tigers will be very good on offense, too, but that might be a work in progress early in the season. But Auburn lost all-everything kicker Daniel Carlson, who is the SEC’s all-time leading scorer. His younger brother, Anders Carlson, takes over and by all accounts, could be on the same level. But that’s asking a lot. Auburn brought in an Australian punter after a dismal punting year in 2017. Kickoff and punt returns have been mediocre, at best.
Husky Haul: Will we see more passing or running offense from Auburn in their season opener?
FWE Rob Maxwell: History says you’ll see more running. Every season opener since Malzahn has been Auburn’s coach, the Tigers have run the ball at least 13 times more than passing it. In fact, 66 percent of Auburn’s offensive plays in season openers under Malzahn have been running plays. But to throw a curve ball, this is the first time the Tigers have a proven passer taking snaps. Expect more running, but it will be more balanced than year’s past.
Husky Haul: The Auburn defense looks very much intact. But the offensive line appears to be “rebuilt” this season. Just how good are they for the opener?
FWE Rob Maxwell: The offensive line was a concern in spring practice and early this fall, but it didn’t take long for things to take shape. Auburn has four players with starting experience, so it’s not as sketchy as some think. Both guards — Mike Horton and Marquel Harrell — have started games and Auburn has a lot of faith in those two. Left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho is a future NFL player, but he didn’t pick up football until late and still is learning after starting some games last season.
Auburn picked up grad transfer Jack Driscoll from UMass at right tackle and he impressed from the start, forcing coaches to move 5-star redshirt freshman tackle Calvin Ashley to backup guard. Center is the shakiest of all five spots. Kaleb Kim gets the start. He’s been with the program three seasons, but has limited experience. After Auburn allowed 11 sacks against Clemson in Week 2 last season, there’s certainly some anxious fans wanting to see if this line can avoid that sort of meltdown.
We have more two more articles from the interview with Fly War Eagle’s Rob Maxwell. And be sure to stop over at their website to check out my perspective about their team in advance of the huge game this weekend.