The Auburn Tigers will open their 2017 campaign with a home date against the Georgia Southern Eagles. Game time is set for 7:30 on Saturday, September 2, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Looking at our Week 1 odds, the Tigers are a 35-point favorite. That’s down just one point from the opening line of -36 in favor of the Tigers. The over/under for the game is set at 53 points.
Auburn vs. Georgia Southern Vegas Odds & Game Preview
Believe it or not, head coach Gus Malzahn is already entering his fifth season as the top man at Auburn. There’s been some ups and downs for the Tigers since losing the national championship game during Malzahn’s first season back on the plains. But after last season ended with a trip to the Sugar Bowl and a top-25 ranking, there’s optimism that Auburn is once again ready to challenge for an SEC title.
If nothing else, we know that Malzahn will be coaching one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, as his up-tempo scheme is one of the most enjoyable to watch and difficult to defend in college football year after year.
As for Georgia Southern, the Eagles have made a successful transition to FBS football over the past few years. A head coaching change after the 2015 season set them back some following an impressive 9-4 campaign. But second-year head coach Tyson Summers is hoping to once again make Georgia Southern contenders in the Sun Belt conference.
Just like Auburn, Georgia Southern has a distinct offensive style, as they run the triple-option. This can make the Eagles difficult to prepare for and create problems for power-conference teams like Auburn. Remember, in 2013, Georgia Southern upset Florida, and in 2015, the Eagles pushed Georgia to overtime.
Free College Football Vegas Line Prediction: Georgia Southern +35
Opening the season against a triple-option team is not the recipe for a blowout, even for a traditional SEC power, so I’m going to lean toward Georgia Southern in this matchup. Auburn hasn’t spent its entire training camp preparing to face an option team, but when game week hits, they have to flip a switch and be ready to contain the triple-option.
To be fair, Georgia Southern lacks experience at quarterback, as redshirt freshman Shai Werts will be under center. Not having a quarterback who is not accustomed to making the kinds of snap decisions that are essential in a triple-option offense can be problematic. However, the Eagles do return a lot of experience along the offensive line, as well as a few capable running backs. If Werts can make good choices, the Eagles have a chance to hit the ground running offensively.
At the same time, Auburn’s defense is not expected to be a strength of the team, at least early in the season. All four Tigers selected in this year’s NFL Draft were defensive players, so there are some key playmakers that need to be replaced. At the same time, there’s no shortage of young talent, and so the ceiling of Auburn’s defense is quite high. Later in the season, the Tigers have a chance to be great on that side of the ball, but their young defense could struggle with a unique scheme like the triple-option in the season opener.
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Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense has a chance to hit the ground running. Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham will step in as the starter after transferring from junior college in the spring. He brings both mobility and a strong arm. A quarterback who could be a threat with his legs and push the ball downfield with his arm could do amazing things in Malzahn’s offense.
It’s easy to see both offenses scoring early and often in this game, and so taking the over on 53 total points feels like a good bet. Taking Georgia Southern to beat the spread also feels like a safe bet. Auburn’s defense doesn’t appear to be prepared to play lights out against the triple-option, and so covering a five-touchdown spread may prove difficult.