(Photo via Jacob Taylor, Auburn Athletics)
Every Tuesday right here you can read The Auburn Corner, where we’ll get into a different topic on the Auburn Tigers, break down the previous game, preview the upcoming game, and everything in between. In this week’s edition, it’s officially game week! Let’s talk about Auburn’s opener against the UMASS Minutemen along with why the Tigers must begin the season 3-0:
Unlike their foes in Tuscaloosa, Hugh Freeze went ahead and named Payton Thorne the starting quarterback already and squashed any remaining question marks about the position. Not to mention the fact that Robby Ashford is dealing with an oblique issue this week. It would be interesting to see if Ashford hypothetically would be playing this week had he actually won the job.
Nonetheless, Thorne is QB1 on The Plains and will be taking the first snaps for the Tigers this Saturday against UMASS. The Minutemen actually played a game during Week 0, defeating New Mexico State 41-30. Almost incredibly, UMASS had lost 24-straight on the road and it was their first away win since 2018. Even more amazing is the fact that it was the Minutemen’s first road opening win since 1973.
The UMASS offense presents an interesting challenge with dual-threat quarterback Taisun Phommachanh. Phommachanh threw for 192 yards on Saturday on just 10 completions along with adding 97 rushing yards and a score on 17 carries. The Minutemen are a downtrodden program, however, coming off a 1-11 season and just three wins over the last four years overall.
Having already equaled last season’s win total, the Minutemen come into Jordan-Hare with a bit of momentum. Make no mistake, though, this is going to be a beatdown, with Auburn being favored by 37.5 points.
It will be an opportunity to see what Auburn is going to look like on offense this year and a nice tune up game for the Tigers as they get ready to head out West next week to take on California in an early non-conference road matchup.
Auburn really should, and in fact must, start 3-0 with a chance to figure some things out before they begin their SEC schedule at Texas A&M in week four. Cal is the only team that could give Auburn some trouble as Samford in week three is another cupcake.
If Payton Thorne can get accustomed to his new offense in the first three weeks, Auburn will be in a good spot heading to College Station. The A&M matchup is one of the most important games of the season for the Tigers, with Georgia and at LSU up right after that, breeding likely back to back losses.
A 4-0 start would allow Auburn to be able to weather the storm of two-straight early October losses before winnable games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
The ceiling of this team is yet to be determined, and a matchup against UMASS won’t show a whole lot. But a good performance from Payton Thorne along with a raucous crowd will go a long way towards building the continued excitement around the start of the Hugh Freeze era in Auburn.