We caught up with Jay Coulter over at fellow SBN Blog Track 'Em Tigers for this week's Q & A leading up to tomorrow's SEC season opener against the Auburn Tigers.
UPDATE: Make sure you read our responses to their questions too.
FWtCT: Was it possible that the Tigers were looking too far ahead and simply overlooked Utah State, or were they that good?
TET: I wish that was the case. What we saw last week was more than overlooking an opponent. This is an extremely talented Auburn team, but experience is almost non-existent, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. It was startling how the Utah State offense pushed around Auburn's defense all afternoon. Truthfully, it's hard to imagine Auburn improving enough in a week to be in a position to stop Miss State tomorrow.
FWtCT: Auburn had to replace close to 30 starters and/or seniors on both sides of the ball. Talk about some of the players that will step in to the spotlight this year.
TET: You have to start with quarterback Barrett Trotter. He was one of the few positives last week. He's been around the program a long time and knows offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's offense better than anyone. He's going to give Auburn a chance each week. There are a couple of new names at wide receiver. Travante Stallworth had a tremendous performance last week and coaches have been praising him all during fall camp. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Trovon Reed. Coaches believe he's going to be a star in the league.
On the offensive line, Reese Dismukes is going to be key. A true freshman, he was ranked the top center in the country coming out of high school. He'll anchor a line that was pushed around badly last week.
Defensively, all eyes will be on the line. They all have a lot of stars out beside their names from high school, but a senior-laden Utah State offensive line had their way with these guys last Saturday. Miss State will be a huge step-up in talent. It will interesting to see how this group performs against one of the better units in the SEC. The guys up front to keep an eye on include, Nosa Eguae, Jeffrey Whitaker and Corey Lemonier.
I expect Miss State to try and capitalize on Auburn's defensive secondary. Neiko Thorpe has moved from cornerback to safety and he's still a work in progress. Freshman Jonathan Rose will now get time at cornerback. He'll be joined by sophomore T'Sharvan Bell who played extensively last season and is regarded as the leader of the group.
FWtCT: The Auburn offense looked good under QB Barrett Trotter. Is he a mobile QB like Newton was, or is he more of a pocket passer and not much of a run threat?
TET: There's no comparing Trotter to Newton. Obviously, he doesn't have the mobility of Newton (who does?), but he can run when needed. He's going to stay in the pocket most of the time, but he can be a rollout threat on occasion. He was very accurate last week and cool under pressure. That coolness will be tested at another level when State arrives on campus.
FWtCT:Mississippi State sees this game as a chance to set the pace for the rest of the season. Does Auburn view it the same way?
TET: Absolutely. This week starts a stretch of games that include Miss State, Clemson and South Carolina over the next four weeks. A win sets Auburn up nicely when it goes on the road to Clemson next week. A loss could mean big trouble. This is a young team that needs to have success early. Beating a ranked team tomorrow will be huge for this group. A big loss could be devastating for the rest of the way.
FWtCT: How do you see this game playing out? Will it be a track meet or more of a classic defensive struggle? What is your score prediction?
TET: I look for a lot of points in the game. I don't see Auburn's young defense being a match for Chris Relf and company. I believe Gus Malzahn's offense will turn it up a notch and put some points on the board. I'd like to sit here and predict an Auburn victory, but I think it's going to be tough this early in the season.