Coming off a four-game losing streak during a brutal stretch, one that included road trips to College Station and Death Valley, the Auburn Tigers finally got back on track during Saturday’s win against Mississippi State.
Now granted, Mississippi State is not a good football team. Auburn should have won this game… and it did. At the end of the day, the Tigers need to win the games they are supposed to win in order for this to be considered a successful first year under Hugh Freeze.
In what was the first SEC victory of the Freeze Era, this win was more about Auburn than it was about the opponent.
To say the least, the Auburn faithful was not pleased with this team’s performance the past month. Fans even went so far as to boo Payton Thorne in the middle of the Ole Miss game, and for valid reason. Disclaimer: I don’t think it is EVER okay for a fanbase to boo a player, especially at Auburn. What I’m saying is… the fans and students have a reason to be frustrated, as the offense hasn’t produced whatsoever. Dating back to Texas A&M, they never got into a flow, the quarterback rotation simply did not work, and the receivers played no factor in competition. Ultimately resulting in a non-existent passing attack, many (including myself) called for a Robby Ashford takeover. No two-quarterback system. Just Robby. However, I was wrong. Payton Thorne proved himself this past weekend and sealed himself as the starting QB for the rest of the season.
He was poised, like most home games this season, controlled the offense successfully, and just looked more comfortable with the up-tempo offense that Hugh Freeze is known for. Thorne was 20-26 passing with 230 yards and 3 touchdowns. He made some very accurate throws, good reads, and seemed more balanced overall. Payton was supported by a much more active receiving core, as eleven guys got involved in the pass game. Led by Ja’Varrious Johnson and Shane Hooks, it was nice to see these receievers make an impact and begin to live up to their potential. On the rushing side of things, Jarquez Hunter is beginning to hit his stride and is getting back into his rythym. Altogether, this offense is finally looking like what we envisioned it would be with Hugh Freeze at the helm.
As far as the defense is concerned, it is still the strongest part of this team, and Ron Roberts is still elite. There’s really no spectacular breaking news to analyze here.
Auburn will look to build on this success with a very manageable final four games to round out the 2023 season with Vanderbilt, Arkansas, New Mexico State, and Alabama. I would love to predict that the Tigers will go 4-0, but I do think that Auburn will drop the game vs. Alabama.