No. 6 Auburn (1-0) got its season off to a great start in Atlanta. If things go according to plan, these Tigers will be back in the Georgia Dome at the end of the season in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn seemed poised to put the game on cruise control with a 17-0 lead at halftime, but Louisville (0-1) made Auburn keep its foot on the gas pedal in the second half. Auburn held on for a 31-24 victory, with every second counting down the stretch.
Auburn’s defense made some plays, including an 82-yard fumble returned for a touchdown, but Louisville put together over 400 yards of offense, including 240 on the ground. Will Muschamp added some fire to the defense at first but it will have to show more consistency moving forward, especially in SEC play. Auburn’s offense struggled at times as well, showing room for improvement, which may be a little scary.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson was intercepted three times by the Louisville defense, which is a strength for the Cardinals even though this result may not show it on the scoreboard. Johnson completed just 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 140 yards. The three interceptions thrown were never anything that hurt Auburn on this day though, as Louisville could only muster three points off of the turnovers, while punting the other two times. The lesson here is Lousiville needs to find a way to cash in on those free opportunities, otherwise they could easily get burned in ACC play later on. The Cardinals also need to find a rhythm in the passing game. Lamar Jackson was just 9-of-20 for 100 yards and an interception. Reggie Bonnafon was 8-of-13 for 67 yards when given a chance to lead the offense.
Auburn got a big day on the ground from Peyton Barber, who rumbled for 109 yards on 25 carries. Ricardo Lewis and Johnson each ran for a touchdown.
Louisville will return home next weekend to host what could be a tricky Houston team. The Cougars have a new head coach in Tom Herman, and could bring some good offense to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium next weekend. Auburn will also be home next week, hosting Jacksonville State.