No. 15 Auburn will try to use an FCS opponent this Saturday to get over a disappointing SEC loss and prepare for its biggest rival.
The Tigers, coming off last week’s 21-14 home defeat to Georgia, will play host to Samford (5-6) of the Southern Conference. Auburn (7-3) next week will play rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl at Auburn.
“We’re gonna turn the page,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Our goal now is to win 10 games, which is extremely hard to do with a schedule like we have.”
Win No. 8 should be a formality as Auburn holds a 27-0-1 all-time record against Samford, with the tie occurring in 1927. The Bulldogs are 2-77-3 all-time against SEC teams.
Much of Malzahn’s weekly Tuesday press conference centered on the loss to Georgia rather than looking ahead to Samford. That’s because Tigers fans and media continue to search for answers following SEC losses to Florida, LSU and Georgia.
Quarterback Bo Nix threw 50 passes (completing 30) against Georgia, with 21 attempts coming in the fourth quarter when the Tigers tried to overcome a 21-point deficit.
“Through the first three quarters, we were close to 50/50 (run/pass) … the way game the unfolded, that’s what we needed to do (in the fourth),” Malzahn said. “For us to be the best we can be, we need to be balanced. We need to take what the defense gives you,”
Nix also was Auburn’s leading rusher — 42 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries — against Georgia.
“In a big game, you got to do whatever you got to do to win the game,” Malzahn said. “I thought Bo ran the ball extremely well and was a run threat. When our quarterback is a run threat, that opens up other things.”
Still, Nix probably won’t be Auburn’s leading rusher against Samford.
Unlike last week, when they faced the nation’s third-ranked run defense, the Tigers will oppose another group of Bulldogs who are No. 105 (out of 124 teams) in FCS total defense, surrendering 448.8 yards per game. They are No. 111 in rushing defense, giving up 230.5 yards per game.
Samford won 31-13 at conference foe Western Carolina last week, when junior quarterback Liam Welch completed 9 of 19 passes for 115 yards and a TD, also running 20 times for a team-high 105 yards. Welch competes for playing time with South Florida transfer Chris Oladokun as head coach Chris Hatcher often rides the hot hand.
“Liam played steady and he didn’t make any mistakes,” said Hatcher, whose team will be completing its season Saturday. “We were running the ball really well and he led us to a big win.”
Samford ranks 29th (430.0 yards per game) in FCS total offense. The Bulldogs have played four overtime games (1-3), including a triple-OT loss at Mercer.
Junior wide receiver and return specialist Montrell Washington was named the Southern Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week after he returned a punt 59 yards for a score in the win at Western Carolina.
–Field Level Media