More than just the name of their mascots, host Auburn and visiting Missouri have a lot in-common as they clash in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools Saturday.
Both teams finished 3-5 in SEC play last season, and both teams started 2-1 this season.
Also, both teams have suffered lopsided losses this season: Auburn fell 41-12 at home to Penn State while Missouri lost 40-12 at Kansas State.
So, this game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. is critical to the fortunes of both teams.
And there is this: Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz worked under Auburn coach Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State and Boise State, and considers him a mentor.
“You know Coach Harsin gave me an opportunity and believed in me when not very many other people did and really kept me in college football in 2013,” Drinkwitz said Tuesday. “And so, I’m very appreciative to him for that and will always be indebted to him.”
Auburn’s offensive line suffered multiple breakdowns against the Nittany Lions last Saturday while allowing six sacks and nine quarterback hurries.
“We didn’t play up to our standard to what I thought we were capable of doing,” Harsin said Monday. “Some of that was us, some of that was Penn State. Sometimes you get in a one-on-one match-up and you just get whooped. That is fundamental correction you have to make. We’ll let the guys compete on the O-line to get the best five out there.”
The quarterback position also remains a competition. T. J. Finley completed 11-of-19 passes for 152 yards, no touchdowns and an interception against Penn State, while Robby Ashford completed 10-of-19 passes for 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Saturday could be an opportunity for Ashford to win the job. According to multiple reports Tuesday, Finley will miss the Missouri game with an upper body injury. Backing Ashford up will likely be Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada.
Missouri used its tune-up game against FCS foe Abilene Christian last Saturday to get its offense on track.
Quarterback Brady Cook completed 21-of-30 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-17 victory. He added 42 yards rushing on six carries.
Receiver Dominic Lovett caught seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Lovett has 16 catches for 274 yards in three games after making 26 receptions for 173 yards all of last season.
“Incredible. Just a playmaker,” Cook said of Lovett. “I’ve said this a million times. It’s like beating a dead horse. But just get the ball to him and he makes crazy plays. Obviously, he’s a huge weapon.”
Like Auburn, Missouri will come into this game seeking much better offensive line play. With starting left guard Xavier Delgado sidelined by injury, Missouri took five holding penalties. Delgado is questionable and Drinkwitz, citing 13 offensive line penalties in three weeks, said job competition remains open.
–Field Level Media