Let's cut to the chase: How good is this Auburn team that'll be visiting Penn State?
Somewhere in the recesses of the state of Alabama where college football fans don’t worship Nick Saban or throw “Roll Tide” into every third sentence — you know, Tiger Country — Auburn fans are wondering: How good is this Penn State team?
The Lions are next up on the docket for Auburn, which is 2-0 and back in the Top 25 after blowing out Akron and Alabama State.
Tigers fans, jazzed up about their team’s start under new coach Bryan Harsin, are probably doing some rationalizing right about now.
Penn State? Overrated!
Meanwhile in Happy Valley, and all the Nittany Nation outposts around the land, Lions fans are probably doing some similar mental gymnastics. How good is Auburn? A lot better than it was 2 weeks ago, at the least. But what have the Tigers proven?
The back-and-forth might go something like this:
Tiger Nation: Penn State is still the team that went 4-5 last season. Wisconsin gift-wrapped the opener to the Lions, and all MAC schools are cupcakes, so we’re discounting your 44-13 win over Ball State.
Nittany Nation: Auburn is still the second-tier SEC program that went 6-5 in 2020 and sent Gus Malzahn into exile. And we’ll see your cupcake and raise you one. No one is impressed by your nation-leading 61 ppg and 613 ypg. (Okay, maybe a little impressed). You’re about to face a real defense and a road environment for the first time this year. We got 105,000-plus and a White Out waiting for ya.
Tiger Nation: We play games every other year at Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.
Nittany Nation: You generally lose those games. You included A&M because they’re the only 1 of the 3 you’ve beaten on the road since 2010. It’s been a decade now since Cam Newton.
Tiger Nation: Y’all don’t do so well against Ohio State. And Harsin is here. It’s a new era. … And we’re guessing that photo above is stirring some bad memories.
Nittany Nation: You’re new coach came from Boise State. Sure, the Broncos are the greatest thing on blue turf and usually fun to watch, but he’s taking quite the step up in class. Your Tigers aren’t ready. Have we picked more than a few nits with James Franklin over the years? Sure. But we’ll take our 8th-year coach with more SEC chops (3 bowl seasons at Vanderbilt) than your guy. … And as for that photo, your QB Bo Nix didn’t score on that play and you only led Alabama State 20-0 at hafltime. Settle down.
Tiger Nation: We’re still not sold on Sean Clifford, new OC and QB guru Mike Yurcich, or your offensive line. The Lions’ offense sputtered after 1 quarter against Ball State and managed only 43 yards in the first half against Wisconsin.
Nittany Nation: Hey, we’ll concede it’s a work in progress on that side of the ball. But our guys have yet to turn the ball over (plus 5 in turnover margin), and star wideout Jahan Dotson might beat you all by himself. Did you see his nifty moves taking a simple swing pass to the house against Ball State? Or the deep ball over the defense against Wisconsin? No one posted gaudy stats against the Cardinals because we spread the ball around. We got a lot of weapons up here.
Tiger Nation: We got some serious offensive talent too. Those 122 points through 2 weeks didn’t score themselves. Nix, the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019, plays a more efficient brand of quarterback than your 3rd-year starter. And we’ll put up Tank Bigsby (SEC Freshman of the Year 2020) against any or all of the guys in your RB room. We even have a true freshman, Jarquez Hunter, averaging more than 120 rushing yards per game, just like Bigsby.
Nittany Nation: Well, I guess we’ll see if Hunter, and your team, is legit come Saturday night. It’ll be a good gauge both ways. Did we mention our defense is really good?