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Friday preview: Louisiana-Monroe

Can also be used to describe Gus Malzahn's offensive philosophy.

Substitute duty. Again. Jerry is still busy, in case you haven’t heard. So I’m back again to do my best impersonation, and give you people what you want. Sure, it might be kind of awkward to continue his regular series, to imitate his preview layout, and file it under his category. But we’ll be damned if our boy’s readership takes a hit just because he has a life, so here we are, filling in.

If you’re starving for some of Jerry’s actual writing and real War Blog Eagle content, I’d recommend his Cheese Puff Preview of ULM, from back in August.

For all both of you that didn’t click over to that and might care what this lame fill-in guy has to say, here we go:

What’s at stake: Everything is at stake.

A victory on Saturday for ULM over the 10th ranked team in the country would be without question the greatest win in program history, including this one. They’d carry their freshman quarterback and their first year head coach off the field and into the sunset, their legacy set in stone on a day that would live in infamy. There would be much rejoicing back home in Monroe, Louisiana, and probably an eventual Disney movie.

For Auburn, a loss to the struggling 1-2 Warhawks would crash the Tigers from prominence, and shatter the season, nay, the decade of Auburn football. The coaching staff would become embroiled in controversy. There would be rioting in the streets. It would take years for Auburn to return to credibility again.

This could be the game that defines the decade for these two schools.

Good thing it probably won’t be.

When Auburn has the ball: Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot of Barrett Trotter.

The “key match-up”, if you could call it that, would be the ULM rush defense, which is allowing 129 a game, against Auburn’s rush offense, which is averaging 278 a game. But the main thing I will be watching is to see if Mario Fannin will get some snaps at running back, and what he does with them.

Mario is just so good at pass protection and just so good at catching the ballout of the backfield – we’ve got to get him in there for however many plays a game going forward. Maybe this game will be his shot… to get back in the groove of things, read the right lanes and follow his blockers. And not fumble. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Elsewhere on offense, I’ll be looking to see who the ball is spread around to. Hopefully Lutz and Eric Smith will get some more touches, and Kodi Burns will get his first catch of the year, and we’ll see T-Zach on some intermediate routes. I’ll be interested to see if Cam can spread the ball around to all his receivers against a soft pass defense, and not just zero in on Darvin Adams. (Of course, he may have just been doing that in previous games because Darvin Adams is a really good receiver.)

And keep your eye over there on the right tackles. Brandon Mosley is set to start, but remember John Sullen isn’t that far behind. He’ll definitely get some time in the second half, if the coaches don’t rotate him in earlier to see what he has to show.

When Louisiana-Monroe has the ball: Let’s hope — no, pray — that we can get Josh Bynes and some of these other defensive iron men off the field and get them some rest.

As for ULM’s offense, well, they run a shotgun offense, with a pro-style short to intermediate passing game, much like their Sun Belt counterparts Arkansas State.

Their main offensive threat is their redshirt freshman quarterback Kolton Browning, who also leads their team in rushing.

That’s about it.

For our defense, it will be interesting to see if the DB’s can keep up the turnover trend from the South Carolina game. And it’s always fun to watch the defensive line rotation, and see what all these freshmen can do. And we’ll see if Eltoro Freeman, who will get some time, will shine as brightly as he did at the beginning of the year. Bully for us!

When special teams are on the field: It’s all about whether Wes Byrum will bounce back. Special teams coach Jay Boulware said this week that Wes was “going through a number of things”. We don’t know if those things are mental or physical but here’s hoping they won’t keep him from stopping this slump before it becomes a slump.

Intangible reason for worry

I’d say the 11 a.m. kickoff, but actually, for Auburn, that is always a very real, very tangible reason to worry.

Intangible reason for confidence

The guy who tried to install a pro-style passing offense at Army.

Three wishes

1. No injuries. This kind of speaks for itself.

2. Wake up. I joke about the 11 a.m. thing, but I really do want to see this team jump out and get in front of it for the early kickoff. Struggling with early games was a staple of the Tuberville regime. I’d like to think that Chizik’s teams have a different personality, a different attitude. And I’d like to see that in action.

3. Spread the ball around. Not just because we have a chance to or for any sentimental reason, but because these guys need to develop. I’d like to see Lutzenkirchen catch some passes and develop more as a receiver. I’d like to see Onterrio get some carries up the middle and develop his every-down running game. Develop these things. They’re getting rusty.

Success is / Failure is: Success is a 28 point victory, minimal turnovers on offense, and forcing some solid turnovers on defense. Failure is pretty much anything short of that.

Your bottom line

While I’ve been a little sarcastic with ULM and their ineptitude – and they may be a bottom-feeder Sun Belt team this year – they’re still a Sun Belt team. Don’t expect it to be a total homecoming, FCS opponent thrashing, and don’t be too upset when it’s not.

That being said, Louisiana-Monroe is pretty bad; I don’t expect them to compete with Auburn as much as Arkansas State did.

Speaking of — Common Opponent Alert: Arkansas State beat the Warhawks 34-20 two weeks ago.

And so, in one final attempt to imitate Jerry and put up a picture of Johnny Carson followed by a score prediction of tomorrow’s game …

Auburn 55, Louisana-Monroe 20

Photo via, well, here. Classic here.

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