It’s Week 4 of the college football season and the Auburn football team is in a position it would prefer to not be.
Yes, being saddled with the 22-21 loss to LSU hurts.
Now, not only is the margin for error razor thin to accomplish goals of getting to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game and into the College Football Playoff, there’s more.
From here out, how Auburn wins games will be important and it starts Saturday against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks are 1-2, having lost two in a row against Colorado State (34-27) and North Texas (44-17). The loss last week to North Texas was particularly troubling as Arkansas quarterbacks threw six interceptions. North Texas has been to consecutive bowl games, but beating an SEC team like that should not happen.
Auburn beat Arkansas 52-20 last season and 56-3 in 2016. The Tigers need that type of performance Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Yes, Gus Malzahn and first-year Razorbacks coach Chad Morris are friends, but if there’s ever a time for Auburn to not take its foot off the gas against an opponent, it’s this week.
The 22-21 loss last week still lingers. Everyone wants to see Auburn play a complete game and execute for a full quarters and not for a quarter here and there.
On Sept. 29, Southern Miss visits. The Golden Eagles are 1-1 with a lopsided win against an FCS opponent and a one-point loss to Louisiana-Monroe. For reference, Texas A&M beat Louisiana-Monroe 48-10 last week and piled up 530 yards of offense.
Auburn needs to follow suit. The victory recipe the next two weeks is straight forward:
- Score plenty of points — 40-plus in both games should be the goal.
- Jump out to big, comfortable first-half leads.
- Score with a mix of back-breaking drives and long runs and passes.
- The defense suffocates Arkansas and Southern Miss both weeks.
- Don’t allow the big play on defense.
- Cut down on turnovers and create turnovers.
The age of the College Football Playoff begins and ends with two things: wins and impressive wins. Only four teams make the Playoff and one sub-par performance, one ugly win when matched against another contender could be the tipping point.
Make no mistake: The Auburn football team has a tough road ahead. Winning will be first and foremost. Style points are needed against ranked teams Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. Winning is enough.
It’s the other games — the ones Auburn should win with ease — when style matters.
Let’s see how the Tigers respond Saturday.