Oregon Ducks at Auburn Tigers Pick – 8/31/19
Oregon Ducks at Auburn Tigers
When: Saturday, August 31st, 2019 – 7:30 PM ET
Where: AT&T Stadium
Point Spread: Ducks +3.5 / Tigers -3.5 (Bovada)
I’m writing this with College GameDay on in the background, and while I don’t think I can match the enthusiasm that crew is showing as they kick off college football’s 150th season, I am excited to get his season started. The Week 1 slate has a lot of powerhouse v. cupcake match-ups, but that is not
the case for Oregon and Auburn as they prepare to tangle at AT&T Stadium. The Ducks enter the season ranked 13th with the Tigers at 16th to make this tilt the most meaningful of any game on Saturday, and the winner is going to take a big step toward a potentially strong season.
Both teams have are long on experience with many vital contributors returning from last season and the consensus is that this will be a close game. Auburn was listed as six-point favorites to open betting, but that line has been halved with the Tigers now a slimmer 3.5-point fave. The over/under total is hovering around 57 or 58 and could see a lot of action with both teams averaging at least 30 points per game in 2018. Oregon has not been good outside of the PAC-12, going just 1-4 against the spread in their last five non-conference games. Auburn is riding a similarly poor trend out of conference with only three ATS wins in their previous eleven games against a non-SEC opponent.
Oregon was 25th in points scored last season, and they should be among the top offenses in the game again behind senior QB Justin Herbert. He finished with 3,151 passing yards in 2018, throwing for 29 touchdowns. Herbert took care of the ball with just nine interceptions, but his completion percentage fell to 59.4% last season, the lowest rate of his career. Second-year coach Mario Cristobal knows offensive line play, and he has Oregon’s line performing at an NFL level. That line will need to be playing near their peak as they face an Auburn defensive front that is among the best in the nation and features DT Derrick Brown. The Ducks most versatile OL, Calvin Throckmorton, is dealing with an ankle injury and his status remains in question for Saturday.
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CJ Verdell leads the Oregon run game, he rushed for 1,018 yards, added 315 receiving yards and notched 12 total scores. He did all that as a redshirt-freshman and should only be a more significant part of the offense this season. Travis Dye cracked 700 rushing yards as the primary back-up, giving the Ducks a chance to have two backs reach 1,000 yards this season. Oregon rushed for 29 touchdowns a team last season, and that balance makes them a tough team to defend. Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson bolsters the receiving group. He was a top-20 recruit coming out of high school and comes to Oregon after catching 79 passes over the last two seasons at PSU. Jaylon Redd (38-433-5) was the second-leading receiver last season and will be looking to increase his role as he heads into his junior year. Jacob Breeland is a reliable outlet as a senior tight end and also provides a big boost in the run-blocking scheme.
The Ducks defense underperformed last season, and DC Jim Leavitt was removed in favor of Andy Avalos who ran the defense at Boise State. Avalos had the Broncs in the top-25 in terms of turnovers is six of seven seasons, and they were a top-10 team in sacks last season. Oregon has talented defenders, most notably, LB Troy Dye who led with 115 tackles and DB Jevon Holland (5 INT) but coming together as a complete defense will be key if the Ducks want to do better than the 9-4 mark from last year.
Auburn wants more than the 8-5 record they posted last year, and Gus Malzahn’s seat is getting awfully warm with the Tigers just 2-4 in bowl games during his tenure. True freshman Bo Nix was named the starting QB just about a week ago. He is an Alabama kid, and his job at Auburn was almost assured after his dad played ball for the Tigers. Nix racked up 12,000 total yards and 160 touchdowns during his high school days but gets a big test in his first collegiate action. Joey Gatewood is reported to have a role in the offense still, but that may just be coach speak to keep the four-star recruit from transferring. Auburn’s offensive line is filled with road-graders, and they all have experience so Nix should be able to operate from a clean pocket, and the run game should be just fine against an Oregon defense that allowed 150 rushing yards per game.
Boobie Whitlow averaged 5.3 yards per carry while totaling 787 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2018. He should see an expanded role with senior Kam Martin and Shawn Shivers serving as complementary backs. Shivers has NFL speed and could be an X-factor this season if Auburn can get him the ball in space. The Tigers have some question marks at receiver after the departures of Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton, but Seth Williams will provide a big-play threat after averaging nearly 21 yards per catch last year. Anthony Schwartz is a 4.4-40 guy and likely the fastest player on the team. He saw 49 total touches last season, notching 568 yards and seven scores. He broke his hand in camp and could miss the opener.
The Auburn defense is the big-play unit and finished 2018 ranked 14th in points allowed at just 19.2 per game. Derrick Brown will be playing on Sundays soon, and he logged 10.5 tackles for loss with 4.5 sacks last season. The Tigers were top-40 in rushing and total yards allowed, and they have eyes on disrupting Herbert in the passing game. It is doubtful that Oregon can simply line-up and beat the Auburn front seven, so a lot hinges on the play in the trenches on Saturday night.
Ted’s Pick Against the Spread
Someone is going home with a resume builder for the College Football Playoff, and someone is going back to reset expectations for the season. Oregon is just 4-8 straight up in their last twelve games outside of Eugene, and five of those losses have been by ten points or more.
Auburn is routinely tested against those top-notch SEC foes, so they have a slight advantage in terms of playing a primetime opponent. I think Gus Malzahn will protect his young QB by running the ball which will also keep Herbert on the sidelines and limit his ability to take over the game. Both lines should be able to move the ball against the other, but I don’t see a shootout as both teams also are working in some new playmakers. I think it is a one-possession game for sure and that hook looms very large as I believe Auburn gets the win but only by three, so Oregon is my pick with the 3.5 points. I think the under is the play as the game tops out in the mid-fifties with Auburn taking a 26-23 kind of game.
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