Time for Biggest Game of the Season No. 2. Is this when Nick Marshall steps up?
Will Nick Marshall take another step forward against Ole Miss?
That’s likely what it will take for Auburn to beat Ole Miss on Saturday. That’s what it took for Auburn to win Biggest Game of the Season No. 1, the 24-20 victory over Mississippi State.
Marshall led the game-winning drive against Mississippi State in almost-textbook fashion, carrying Auburn 88 yards in the final moments. He, like the rest of Auburn’s offense, did not appear ready for the moment in the first half against LSU.
Did the apparent gruesomeness of Jaylon Denson’s injury jar the offense? Or was Auburn not prepared for the big stage of Baton Rouge on a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium?
Auburn is certainly more than equipped to handle Jordan-Hare Stadium on a Saturday night. The home crowd and a consistent performance by Marshall would likely be enough to give Auburn a victory over Ole Miss.
Problem is, Auburn has not put together a consistent offensive performance this season. We’re still waiting for one.
Saturday night would be the ideal time for many reasons. One of them is that a victory would put Auburn in position for a strong finish in Gus Malzahn’s first season.
Will it happen?
I think the off week for Auburn, coupled with what surely had to be a physically taxing loss for Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa, might be the difference.
Auburn is far from a great team, at this point. It might, however, be on the cusp of becoming a team that maximizes its potential.
Check out the two-deep depth chart entering the game. Looks as if Malzahn and others might be trying to make a statement with some of their moves.
Marshall, though, is the key. I’m banking on improvement at quarterback after the off week.
It’s a shaky nod, but I’ll call it Auburn 31, Ole Miss 27.
Here at the Hurry-Up, No-Huddle, we’ll look at this week’s game and the rest of the season.
THINGS TO LIKE
1. Auburn’s ability to run the football - It’s the essential ingredient to any successful season.
2. The kicking game - Aside from a dropped punt snap in the rain, Auburn has shown that it is still as good as any team in the conference in special team. Auburn needs to be, with a defense that has allowed lots of yardage in the first half.
3. Injured players who appear ready to return - Auburn needs cornerbacks Chris Davis and Jonathan Jones.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
1. The dynamic potential of Nick Marshall - He has shown flashes. Will he show more?
2. A more productive passing game - The potential is there.
3. Something from the Malzahn book of tricks - Can he resist trying to outduel Hugh Freeze, his old buddy?
THINGS WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH
1. An inconsistent pass rush - Pressure is just a recruiting class or two away.
2. A stadium that just can’t quite sell out - Until Auburn starts winning big games more consistently or plays a marquee opponent with a large fan base, those corners in the east upper deck won’t fill up. Wouldn’t Saturday night be a good time for the first home sellout?
3. A sports media that has trouble getting it right - Did you see what Nick Saban said Wednesday about having a ‘‘tremendous amount of respect’’ for Paul Finebaum? Is there really any reason to pay attention to media celebrities anymore? I think not.
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