After Auburn’s 27-6 loss at Georgia, it was easy to see the Tiger offensive line was a project for the 2020 season.
While the project is not a finished product, Auburn’s 48-11 victory over LSU and the fledgling two-game winning streak is an indication progress is being made. Entering Saturday’s contest, LSU boasted the most effective pass rush in the SEC with 14 sacks (3.5 per game) through four games. The Auburn offensive line held the Bayou Bengals to zero sacks.
Gus Malzahn awarded the offensive helmet sticker to left tackle Alec Jackson for his performance in the win.
“He played his best game,” Malzahn said. “He was against their best pass rusher on third down. He did a super job with that. He played with good technique, and he was very physical in the run game.”
Malzahn pointed out he almost gave the helmet sticker to the entire offensive line, highlighting the group’s complete performance. In terms of tackles for loss yardage, Auburn had its best game of the season, only losing 12 yards. The next best performance on the year came against Kentucky when the Tigers lost 13 yards.
For as much criticism as the unit has received across the season, Auburn is 27th in the nation in tackles for loss allowed per game (4.83) and 38th in the country in sacks allowed per game (2.00). Those are solid marks considering this unit features four new starters, and one of those starters, Brandon Council, went down with a season-ending injury.
To compare those numbers to last season, Auburn finished 37th nationally in tackles for loss allowed per game (5.15) and 18th in sacks allowed (1.38).
It is a young unit that is showing signs of improvement. Saturday’s performance against LSU cannot be a fading image if Auburn wants to take the next step in competing in the SEC.
“We did play our best game yesterday,” Malzahn said. “I told our guys it’s about us improving, continuing to improve. I just told them as we were watching the film, even though we feel really good about a very, very quality win, but we gotta be really critical of ourself with the things that we can improve on. And, that’s what we are focused on.”
Auburn’s next two opponents, Mississippi State and Tennessee, have a combined record of 3-7. The Tigers have an opportunity to be 6-2 heading into the final two weeks of the regular season in the toughest two-game stretch of the year against two potential playoff teams in Alabama and Texas A&M.
People have a tendency to remember how you finish. What can this team do to generate momentum for next season, and what role will the offensive line play in pushing them there?