The 6th ranked Auburn Tigers begin their 2015 campaign with a match up against Louisville in the Georgia Dome, where they hope to be vying for an SEC Championship come December.
Auburn limped through the end of the 2014 season, dropping four of their last five games including a bowl loss against Wisconsin. The Tigers defense surrendered 41 points per game in those final four defeats, and head coach Gus Malzahn responded by hiring former Florida head man Will Muschamp to be the defensive coordinator.
“Will has done a great job, and the defense has really taken on his personality,” Malzahn said. “He has the guys well prepared and playing extremely hard.”
Muschamp and his young defense have had to prepare multiple game plans this week for four possible Cardinals quarterbacks. The favorite to start for Bobby Petrino’s crew appears to be Reggie Bonnafon. However Kyle Bolin, Will Gardner and Lamar Jackson could see action too.
Offensively, the Tigers will be led by junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson, a dual threat weapon who threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns while backing up Nick Marshall in 2014.
“We’ve worked extremely hard on our passing game, and I thought we made some strides this fall,” Malzahn said. “But we’re a run-play action team, we like to run the ball and need to be able to do that effectively too.”
Gone from the Auburn ground attack is NFL draftee Cameron Artis-Payne, so expect the rushing load to be divided between a trio of players. Roc Smith is listed first on the depth chart, but Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson should see carries as well. They will aim to establish their up-tempo offense against a Cards defense that ranked sixth in the country in total yardage allowed in 2014.
The Tigers have a 32-19 record the last four times they have opened as a top 10 team, finishing seasons unranked twice and only ending in the top 10 in 2006.
Kickoff from the Georgia Dome is set for 3:30 on CBS.
CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO FROM GUS MALZAHN