NEW ORLEANS, La. – Entering the month of November, the Auburn Tigers had a 6-2 record, were still in contention for the Southeastern Conference title, and closing in on a spot in the third annual College Football Playoff.
But, the final month of the regular season did not go as planned.
Starting Quarterback Sean White played with an injured shoulder against Georgia and missed the Iron Bowl completely. As White went, so did Auburn’s chances at a postseason championship. The Tigers posted a 2-2 record in November and with finished with an overall record of 8-4.
But the season is not over. As of Sunday afternoon, the taste of sour grapes was replaced with the sweet taste of sugar and a shot at redemption.
After finishing second in the SEC, the Tigers will have a chance to represent the conference in the Sugar Bowl against the champions of the Big 12, the Oklahoma Sooners.
The 14th ranked Tigers come into the Sugar Bowl looking to gain momentum heading into next season, but the Sooners are red hot and wanting to stay on the winning path. After a 1-2 start consisting of blowout losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Sooners reeled off nine straight wins to close the season, including a dominant win over in-state rival Oklahoma State with the Big 12 title on the line.
The seventh ranked Sooners are led by junior quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield. He has thrown for 3669 yards and 38 touchdowns. Mayfield leads the country in passer efficiency, completion percentage, and yards per attempt. His offense is ranked third in the nation in points per game, and total offense.
No one has been able to slow down the Sooners as of late, but Auburn’s Kevin Steele-coached defense might be the one to get it done. Auburn’s defense has only given up 30 points once all season. It ranks fifth nationally in points per game, and fourth overall in red zone scoring percentage. If the Tigers avoid giving up big plays for touchdowns, they should be able to stand tall against Oklahoma when the field shrinks in the red zone.
Defensively, the Sooners tend to give up points.
A lot of them.
The Sooners’ defense allows just under 30 points per game and is ranked outside of the top 50 in total passing, rushing, and scoring defense. Look for the Tigers to take advantage of the below average defense Oklahoma will field in the Superdome.
This Auburn offense was a shell of itself in the last few weeks of the season because of the injuries to Sean White, and running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. With more than a month to heal, this Auburn offense could get back to mid-season form. Even after a few down weeks for the Auburn Tigers, the rushing attack still ranks in the top ten nationally. The Sooners, like most teams, will be forced to bring extra men to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. A healthy Sean White should have some opportunities to hit receivers, like Tony Stevens, down the field for explosive plays.
This will be an interesting match-up between a stout defense and a juggernaut offense, but no one ever really knows what to expect when teams from different conferences hit the field.
Neither of these schools are new to the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners are 5-2 all time in New Orleans with the most recent win coming in 2014 over Alabama. Auburn is 2-2-1 in five Sugar Bowl appearances, and won its last appearance in 2005 against the Virginia Tech Hokies.
These two teams only meeting came in the 1972 Sugar Bowl. The Sooners won that match-up 40-22.
The Sugar Bowl is set to kickoff on January 2, 2017 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be nationally televised.
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.