#5 Auburn at #20 Kansas State Preview and Predictions

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Sep 6, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (44) scores a touchdown past San Jose State Spartans cornerback Jimmy Pruitt (8) during the second quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to the Game:

Key for Auburn: Capitalize on scoring opportunities. Auburn has been great in the red zone this season. The Tigers have been in the red zone 11 times and have scored 10 touchdowns and a field goal. However, this is the first road game against easily the best team Auburn will face this month. The Tigers have had some fumbling problems early this year, as Auburn runners have lost three fumbles in the first two games. In a big road game, Auburn can’t afford costly turnovers or stalling on crucial drives. Avoiding the mid-game slump is key for this offense as well.

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  • Key for Kansas State: Discipline. Last week, at Iowa State, Kansas State was penalized 10 times. As a result, they nearly lost to a mediocre Cyclone squad. Beyond penalties, the Wildcats were just sloppy, allowing a punt return touchdown and a trick play touchdown along with the ten flags. This game is all about discipline for the Wildcats. Assigment discipline on defense is crucial when going up against an offensive system they’ve never faced before. No matter how good a defense is (and K-State’s is consistently among the best in the Big 12), they can get torched by Gus Malzahn’s offense if they lack any discipline whatsoever. Odds are, K-State will be far more disciplined in this big game than they were in last week’s morning kickoff trap game.

    Auburn Player to Watch: Nick Marshall. Interestingly, as Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee points out, was heavily recruited out of junior college last year by Kansas State. Bill Snyder personally wrote letters to Marshall, proclaiming him to be their starting quarterback, but Marshall opted for Auburn instead, and the rest has been history. Now, he takes on the Wildcats in a game that has a lot riding on it. Marshall’s play in this game will be heavily-scrutinized in the coming weeks, so it’s crucial that he connects to his elite receiving corp, show off his athleticism, avoids turnovers and, most importantly, leads Auburn to a big road win.

    Kansas State Player to Watch: Tyler Lockett. The Wildcats’ All-American wide-out is sure to be keeping Auburn cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson up at night. Against Iowa State, Lockett caught six passes for 136 yards, including a 57-yard catch and a big 23-yard reception that kept K-State’s game-winning drive alive. Auburn’s defense in recent years has relied on strong defensive line play for success, as the secondary has been a work in progress and, so far this year, continues to look that way. Auburn’s secondary has some talent, but is there anyone who can cover Lockett one-on-one? My gut feeling is… no.