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at Auburn 42 ... Utah State 38

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Posted Sep 3, 2011


Week 1 CFN Fearless Prediction - Utah State at Auburn

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 1 - Utah State at Auburn

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Sept. 3 at Auburn 42 … Utah State 38
CFN Analysis: The Tigers have to figure out how to get more out of their defensive line and they have to do it in a hurry. The offense kicked it in against Ohio State when it had to, and Barrett Trotter did his part to pull off the miracle, but unless the front seven can start to tackle better, take better angles, and hold up stronger against the run, the SEC is going to roll at will. The Mississippi State game is going to be a big, big problem unless the D can be much sharper, but the offense should be able to keep up in shootouts – at least that’s the hope. Trotter completed 17-of-23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, and Emory Blake was terrific, but the running game averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.

How do you possibly come back from a crushing loss like this? Utah State had Auburn dead, but couldn’t come up with an onside kick recovery and was picked apart late for the kick-in-the-gut loss. Forgetting how soul-crushing this was, there’s a lot to be really, really excited about with Chuckie Keeton coming up with a tremendous all-around performance, completing 21-of-30 passes for 212 yards while running for 33 yards and two scores, and the offensive line was fantastic. Now, with home games against Weber State and Colorado State up next, the Agies have to use this as a confidence builder rather than just-miss.

(AP) AUBURN, Ala. -- Mike Dyer bulled through the line for a game-saving touchdown with 30 seconds left and defending national champion Auburn escaped with a 42-38 win over Utah State on Saturday.

The 23rd-ranked Tigers (1-0) scored twice in the final 2:07, just when it seemed like the Aggies (0-1) were poised for a stunning victory.

First-time starter Barrett Trotter hit Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 15-yard touchdown to start a Cam Newton-like comeback. Then wide receiver Emory Blake collected the onside kick to set up the game-winning drive. Trotter completed three passes and Onterio McCalebb had runs of 10 and 14 yards to push the ball near the goal line.

BCS title game MVP Dyer did the rest, ducking his head and powering through the Utah State defenders.

Poised freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton couldn't muster a threat in the final seconds for the Aggies, who also tested Oklahoma in last year's opener.

Utah State twice led by double digits against a team clearly feeling the effects of the departures of numerous starters from last year's national champions, including defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Newton, who repeatedly led the Tigers out of big holes during their 14-0 run last season.

Only that 24-point deficit against Alabama might have been a more improbable comeback than this one from 10 points down in the final 3:38. The Tigers came in as three-touchdown favorites, but also as a question mark with 19 new starters. They managed to avoid an embarrassing opening loss against a team that has now lost 44 straight road games against Top 25 teams.

Trotter completed a solid, if otherwise unremarkable starting debut with a huge finale. He was 11 of 14 for 170 yards and two touchdowns.

Trotter marched the Tigers downfield quickly before hitting an open Lutzenkirchen to keep them alive. He followed a 13-yard completion to Travante Stallworth with a 9-yarder to McCalebb and a 7-yarder to Lutzenkirchen, one of Newton's favorite red zone targets last season.

Then, Blake came up with another big play with his midair scoop after catching a 56-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Auburn still wound up trailing 21-7 in the second quarter but one of the many youngsters the Tigers are relying on came up big.

Freshman Tre Mason returned a kick 97 yards to close the gap. Dyer added an 11-yard touchdown to tie it midway through the third quarter.

Josh Thompson added a 34-yard field goal and the Tigers didn't take the lead until Trotter's 39-yard touchdown to Stallworth late in the third quarter, making it 28-24.

It didn't last. Keeton faked a handoff, went left and got the nose of the ball across the goal line for a 31-28 lead with 11:20 left.

Robert Turbin then scored a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:38 left to push the lead back to 10 after Utah State coach Gary Andersen rolled the dice in a big way.

Facing fourth down deep in Auburn territory, the Aggies successfully faked a field goal, completing a pass by holder Stanley Morrison, before Turbin capped the 14-play drive.

Keeton completed 15 of 21 passes for 155 yards and ran for 24 in his debut after beating out junior college transfer Adam Kennedy. Andersen didn't announce a starter before the game.

Utah State (0-0) vs. Auburn (0-0) Sept. 3, 12:00, ESPN2
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Here’s The Deal … When was the last time a defending national champion was so disrespected? It’s one thing to come off a title season and not be picked to win it all again, and it’s another thing to not be considered the favorite to win the conference, and it’s a whole other thing to be 2011 Auburn and be picked to finish in the bottom half of its own division. That’s life in the SEC West, with Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU all loaded, Mississippi State at least as good as it was last year, and Ole Miss far improved. Of course, losing Cam Newton, Nick Fairley, and most of the key starters on both sides of the ball are a part of the reason for the lack of respect, but this is still a very, very talented team that welcomes in a whale of a recruiting class and should be a major player in the SEC title chase. With Mississippi State coming up next week, the Tigers have to get all the new starters in place.

Utah State might be considered a cupcake opponent, but it pushed Oklahoma to the wall last year in a wild and crazy 31-24 Sooner win and now should be better. The Aggies struggled the rest of the way with a wildly inconsistent offense and a defense that couldn’t stop any offense with a pulse, but this year’s team has just enough pluck to make this a game, at least for a little while, if Auburn struggles to look sharp.

Why Utah State Might Win: The offense should be just dangerous enough to provide a push. There’s an issue at quarterback with Diondre Borel gone and question marks about who the No. 1 guy will be, but the rest of the skill players should be as good as Utah State has had in a long, long time. Running back Robert Turbin is back from a knee injury, the receiving corps has speed and experience, and the line, if a few JUCO transfers can shine right away, should be far better. Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin is going to go all out and won’t be afraid to take some big chances. The Tiger defensive line should be more than fine, even without Fairley, but the linebacking corps could need a game or two to settle in. Auburn might be coming out with an attitude, but the Aggies should still be able to move the ball a bit.

Why Auburn Might Win: The Utah State quarterback situation is far from settled. Diondre Borel was everything for the Aggie offense last year, and while he wasn’t consistent and his running was spotty, he was the leader and now the team needs a new main man under center. Alex Hart left the team, Adam Kennedy is a big-bombing JUCO transfer, and Chuckie Keaton is talented, but he’s a true freshman. Auburn’s defensive front won’t have many problems getting into the backfield, and any pressure whatsoever on the new quarterback could shut down the Aggie attack. The bigger Utah State problem, though, is a smallish defensive front that should have a nightmare of a time keeping the Tiger ground game in check. The Tiger offensive line might be losing four starters, but it has enough talent and enough size to do some shoving around, and the tremendous stable of running backs should have few problems finding room to move.

What To Watch Out For: Utah State’s defense is going to have a hard time holding up, but Tiger fans will get to see two great linebackers on display with Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher likely to combine for at least 20 tackles. Wagner is a 6-1, 232-pound senior who followed up a 115-stop season with 133 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and four broken up passes, and while he’s great at holding up against the run, he’s better on the move. Gallagher is a smallish, speedy option who finished second on the team with 91 tackles with four tackles for loss. The two veterans know what they’re doing and won’t be fazed by the big-game atmosphere.

Of course, the biggest storyline in the game will be the play of Barrett Trotter as he tries to take over for Newton. In a dogfight for the starting job with talented sophomore Clint Moseley and star recruit Kiehl Frazier, and now it’s his offense to fly. It’s been forgotten, but Trotter was deep in the hunt for the starting job last offseason until Newton turned it on, and now that he’s a few years removed from a knee injury, he should be a steady, smart option who can run a bit as well as push it deep from time to time. In this game, all he’ll have to do is hand the ball off and hit the third down throws. He’ll be more than fine.

What Will Happen: Auburn will look fantastic. It’s not like the Tigers are going to completely fall off the map, and while they might not be as explosive as last year and they might not have the superstar quarterback to rely on, they’re going to be great and they’re going to come out and show it. Utah State will have its moments on offense, but it’s about to run into a buzzsaw.

CFN Prediction: Auburn 44 ... Utah State 13
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