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No. 10 Auburn aims to rev up offense against Southern Miss

September 28, 2018
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Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) take off running against Arkansas during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The Auburn Tigers are still trying to get their offense going, but that won’t likely be an easy task against Southern Miss.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham and the 10th-ranked Tigers (3-1) face a Top 10 defense when the Golden Eagles (2-1) visit on Saturday.

Even though Auburn’s only loss came by one point (22-21) against No. 5 LSU, the offense still hasn’t clicked in three games against FBS opponents. Southern Miss ranks ninth nationally in total defense, giving up just 271.7 yards per game though without playing an opponent from a Power 5 conference.

“They put a lot of pressure on the offense,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.

There’s already plenty of pressure on the offense, which ranks 10th in the Southeastern Conference in yards per game. The running game hasn’t produced a big performance against FBS competition, Stidham has had some struggles since the opener and the offensive line is coming off a rough game .

The low point statistically came a week ago when Auburn produced just 225 total yards against Arkansas. The Tigers still won 34-3 thanks to the defense and several big special teams plays but dropped a spot in the rankings.

Having the nation’s No. 3 scoring defense doesn’t hurt.

Southern Miss has given Auburn some close calls over the years. The teams used to play regularly until the early 1990s but they haven’t met since 2008. The Tigers are favored by 26-1/2 points in this one.

“At Southern Miss we play SEC teams every year,” Golden Eagles coach Jay Hopson said. “That’s part of our DNA. We know they’re an athletic football team and a good football team.

“We’re going to prepare the same way we always do. That’s what we always have done and always will do.”

Here are some things to know about the Southern Miss-Auburn game:

LEAVING HOME

The Golden Eagles are playing their first road game. The Sept. 15 game at Appalachian State was cancelled because of Hurricane Florence.

LINDSEY ON USM

Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey got his first job running a college offense at Southern Miss, where he worked from 2014-15.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time there,” Lindsey said. “We were in a situation where we were trying to rebuild the program a little bit and were able to do that. It’s very rewarding. The people there love football.”

He left for Arkansas State before returning to Auburn, where he was an offensive analyst on the Southeastern Conference championship team in 2013.

SERIES

The teams are 4-4 in games decided by seven points or less. Brett Favre led Southern Miss to back-to-back one-point wins in 1990 and 1991. Auburn does lead the series 17-5.

ABRAHAM’S CHALLENGE

Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham is completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,048 yards. Three straight opposing teams have completed less than 50 percent of their passes against the Tigers, though.

GROUND GAMES

Auburn’s running game hasn’t been great, even with redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow managing two 100-yard games. Southern Miss’s has been far less productive. The Golden Eagles are averaging just 3.6 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns. Top runner Tez Parks has 36 carries for 107 yards.

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