Auburn is set to take on Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, so here are some storylines and predictions for the Tigers ahead of the game.
A great middle of the season was bookended by an inauspicious start and bad ending for Auburn, ending with an 8-4 record after the injury bug bit both quarterback Sean White and SEC leading rusher Kam Pettway. Luckily for the Tigers, both of them will be back and the offense should be rolling again, and putting that with an excellent defense, Auburn looks to start 2017 with a bang against Oklahoma.
Here are five thoughts and predictions as the Tigers take on the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl on January 2.
The Tigers were deadly on the ground when Pettway was healthy and on the field this season, and thoroughly missed him other times. With him back, and along with Kerryon Johnson at the running back position, the Tigers should be able to pound the ball against the Sooners, who allowed 160.75 yards a game on the ground.
White Playing for Job?
With the signing and enrollment of former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham in December, it is almost predetermined that he will be the man under center when the Tigers open the 2017. White could, with a big game and excellent spring, at least put some pressure on Stidham for the starting job. Likely, though, he will begin as the backup next season, which for head coach Gus Malzahn, is a luxury to have.
Secondary Stepping Up
For the entire month, the Auburn secondary will have to hear and talk about how electric Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westbrook are. Will they step up their game and keep them from going off? That could decide the game.
It has been no secret that defensive end Carl Lawson will be going pro after this season. Now, in a marquee bowl game against a talented Oklahoma offensive line, he could improve his draft status with a big game. Look for him to pressure Mayfield all night.
If the game comes down to a battle of field goals, Auburn will win, as Daniel Carlson remains one of the best kickers in the game. Carlson’s longest successful attempt came from 56 yards. Who knows how far he can go in a dome.