We spoke with College and Magnolia, SB Nation's site for all Auburn news about the upcoming Birmingham Bowl. Managing Editor Walt Austin was kind enough to answer a few of our question about the Tigers versus Tigers matchup on Wednesday.
1. Sean White is practicing, but he has not played in a game in quite a while. Will he go the whole way, or should be expect to see Jeremy Johnson as well? Which quarterback is the best option for Auburn at this point?
If Sean White is healthy enough to play, I think he should be the starter and go the whole way. You'll probably still see Jeremy Johnson on some inexplicable play near the goal line or on a Wildcat play lined up wide, though. Sean White definitely gives Auburn the best chance, though. His accuracy is amazing. The struggle for Auburn when he's played has been receivers holding on to the ball.
Of course, Auburn could throw a wrench into everyone's plans and start Jason Smith at QB and run the Nick Marshall package. Wouldn't that be something?
2. SEC teams that have a disappointing season are notorious for not showing up for bowl games. Do you expect Auburn to come in with something to prove in this game, especially with it being played in the state of Alabama? Or will they show no interest in playing in this bowl?
I think Auburn will show up for this one. They don't want a losing season. The seniors haven't won a bowl game in their career. Gus Malzahn's only losing season as a coach was his very first year as a high school coach in 1992. Auburn hasn't lost to a team who was in a P5/BCS conference at the time of the game since Brett Favre was at Southern Miss. There's a whole lot of pride riding on this game for Auburn, and I think they'll come ready to play.
3. With the defense playing very up and down this season, what do you see from Auburn in trying to stop the passing attack of Paxton Lynch and company at Memphis?
Auburn is going to have to generate some form of pass rush and try to get Lynch out of rhythm. Having Carl Lawson 100% healthy is a key to that. Byron Cowart has come on strong in bowl practices, too. Auburn has some good defensive backs, but not a lot of depth and experience. Lynch is probably the best quarterback they've faced this season, so it's going to be a real struggle to slow/stop Memphis' offense.
4. Memphis is not exactly the most impressive defensive team in the country. How do you expect the Auburn offense to attack Memphis in this game?
If Auburn is smart, they'll attack with a heavy dose of the PB & Js. That's Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and Kerryon Johnson (they both have "J"s, get it? I'm bad at puns). Auburn will need to establish the ground game. I want to say they're going to need to grind the clock, but I do want Auburn to get in its rhythm of playing fast, though. That's something that hasn't happened much this season because of the need to substitute and because Auburn seems to run it up the middle on every single first down and not get the 5+ yards Gus likes before he kicks it into gear. IF Sean White is healthy, then you can also expect to see a bit more of a dynamic passing game. If Jeremy Johnson starts, there will be a lot of quick screens and very few passes further than 5-10 yards down field.
5. How do you see this game turning out? Prediction and a player of the game.
If Sean White plays, I think Auburn can pull out a very close win. He really does raise the level of play that much (and opens up the playbook considerably more). If he doesn't, then I expect Memphis will win, and maybe even win big. If Memphis wins, Paxton Lynch will be the player of the game. If Auburn wins, I suspect it'll either be Sean White, Jovon Robinson, or someone on defense like true freshman Carlton Davis, who will be a true shutdown corner before he leaves Auburn.