It won’t be the first big test of 2022 for Penn State but it is the most hyped game on the schedule to this point.
Penn State will be playing at Auburn for the first time ever, and that’s kind of a big deal. No, this isn’t a great Auburn team, but it’s one that can still give Penn State fits or worse, especially at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Penn State has plenty of things going for and against it heading into Week 3, and here’s a breakdown of the positives and negatives.
WHAT PENN STATE HAS GOING FOR IT
This Auburn team isn’t one that will win an SEC title.
Coach Bryan Harsin’s squad crashed and burned in 2021, dropping its last five games and finishing with a 6-7 record.
Auburn then had an awful offseason that featured, among other things, the departure of veteran quarterback Bo Nix to Oregon and questions about Harsin’s competence and future as head coach.
Unlike Penn State, Auburn isn’t battle tested. Its played Mercer and San Jose State thus far, and that’s all. Auburn also didn’t look good against San Jose State last week, winning by single digits.
Stylistically, Auburn’s offense is one-dimensional.
If Auburn can’t run the ball well, it won’t beat Penn State.
Quarterbacks TJ Finley and Robby Ashford have combined to throw one touchdown pass and four interceptions against Mercer and San Jose State, so that should tell you all you need to know about how well Auburn can throw the ball.
WHAT PENN STATE HAS GOING AGAINST IT
As just about a billion people have already mentioned this week, Auburn has home-field advantage, and Jordan-Hare Stadium is loud.
Auburn has won 17 straight home games against non-conference opponents, with its last home loss to an OOC team coming against Clemson in 2016.
Although Auburn is one dimensional, that one dimension could be deadly if executed properly.
Tank Bigsby is a beast. Jarquez Hunter averaged 6.7 yards per and made an SEC All-Freshman team last year. True freshman Damari Alston was the No. 3 running back in the 2022 class according to Rivals.
Even quarterback Robby Ashford can run the ball, gaining 129 yards on 13 carries this year, good for almost 10 yards a pop.
Auburn’s defense is strong, and its pass rush is effective. Derick Hall had nine sacks and Colby Wooden had five. Penn State gave up five sacks against Ohio, so quarterback Sean Clifford could be in trouble if Penn State doesn’t clean up its pass blocking.
This is probably the toughest time I’ll have picking a Penn State game all season.
I believe Penn State is a better football team than Auburn, but the better team doesn’t always win, especially on the road.
I see this as a three-to-five point game either way, but because of the Jordan-Hare factor and because Penn State hasn’t proven itself against the run this season, I’ll take Auburn in a close one.