COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Last week was a bad week to be a Tiger in the Southeastern Conference.
LSU was blown out by Mississippi State, Missouri scored just three points in a loss to Purdue, and Auburn struggled mightily to put away FCS opponent Mercer.
No. 15 Auburn (2-1) and Missouri (1-2, 0-1 SEC) will now face off Saturday, with coaches Gus Malzahn and Barry Odom among the SEC coaches currently on the hot seat .
Auburn has struggled with a dormant offense, which posted just 117 yards against Clemson and committed four turnovers against Mercer. Missouri’s defense could provide a cure, since it has allowed an SEC-worst 443 yards per game this season.
“We’re hoping we get it going offensively,” Malzahn said. “When I look at (Missouri’s) defense, their defensive front is disruptive. Coach Odom now has taken over the defense. How much different will it be from earlier in the season, or even last year?”
So far, Missouri’s defense hasn’t changed much from its 2016 form but now its offense is scuffling, too. The Tigers mustered just 203 yards against Purdue in an eyebrow-raising 35-3 loss at home last week. Now, they’ll face a stifling Auburn defense that allows just 202 yards per game, second among FBS teams.
“We’ve just got to come out tenacious,” Missouri running back Damarea Crockett said. “We’re at home. Just play like that, just play comfortable and with confidence.”
Missouri’s offense will need a major performance boost to crack Auburn, which tops FBS leaderboards in nearly every defensive category. Auburn is the only team in the country ranked in the top 12 in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense.
“We’ve got an opportunity against a really good opponent this week to try to play and fix our problems,” Odom said.
Some things to watch as Auburn and Missouri try to bounce back from underwhelming showings:
Auburn is expected to get running back Kerryon Johnson back, giving Kamryn Pettway a slight breather. Pettway carried the load with 22 carries against Clemson and 34 against Mercer. Johnson has missed the last 10-plus quarters since sustaining a right hamstring injury in the first half of the opener against Georgia Southern.
GIVE ME TIME
Missouri likes to run an up-tempo offense. When the Tigers aren’t scoring, however, time of possession numbers become crooked. Last week, Purdue had the ball for 43:43, Missouri just 16:17.
“As long as you’re scoring points, time of possession - I’ve got a little bit of a different feeling on,” Odom said.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw for 364 yards on 32-for-37 passing against Mercer, exhibiting an efficiency not seen in his first two games.
“I made a mistake and went back and watched his time at Baylor,” Odom said. “That’ll cause you not to sleep, because that dude can make every throw really efficiently.”
Former Auburn backup quarterback Sean White was dismissed from the team earlier this week following his arrest on a charge of public intoxication. Malik Willis is now Auburn’s only scholarship quarterback, leaving Auburn’s quarterback situation interesting if Stidham gets hurt. Willis hasn’t played in a game but did go through spring with Auburn. Receiver Ryan Davis was also expected to get some practice snaps at quarterback, where he played in high school.
Missouri’s MVP this season has been its punter, Corey Fatony. With Missouri’s offense struggling, Fatony has been given plenty of opportunities to show off his leg. He punted nine times for 434 yards against Purdue, an average of 48.2 yards per punt.
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