We have opening week college football action between a pair of top-10 teams as the Washington Huskies take on the Auburn Tigers from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday.
The Washington Huskies will be looking to build on a solid 2017 campaign that saw Washington finish 10-3, including 7-2 in Pac-12 play for a share of the Pac-12 North division title but losing out on a spot in the conference championship game thanks to their head-to-head loss to Stanford. The Huskies received an invite to the Fiesta Bowl but lost to Penn State by a final score of 35-28. Jake Browning returns for his senior year after losing a top receiver for the second straight season in Dante Bettis, one year after losing John Ross to the NFL, leaving Browning without a big play threat early in the season. Browning’s productivity dropped off significantly, logging just 19 touchdown passes, 24 fewer than the year before after having the receiving corps decimated by injuries. Myles Gaskin will be tasked to lead the Huskies at running back and to add to his 4,055 career rushing yards. Time will tell if Chico McClatcher’s ankle is healthy enough to be the deep threat for Washington this season and if the offense can be as dangerous as years’ past. Defensively, the Huskies are going to have a hard time topping what last year’s defense brought to the table, finishing tops in the Pac-12 and 5th in the country in scoring against, allowing just 16.1 points per game last season and 8th in total yardage against, giving up just under 300 yards a game last season. 9 of last year’s starters are back and almost 80% of the Huskies’ top 14 tacklers from a year ago are back to help maintain a top-5 defence against the run that allowed just over 100 yards per game last season. The secondary is stacked as well after allowing just 10 passing touchdowns and recording 15 interceptions last season.
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The Auburn Tigers will be looking to improve on a 2017 regular season where the Tigers finished with a 10-4 overall record, including 7-1 in SEC play for a share of the SEC West crown and booking a spot in the SEC title game by virtue of their winning the head-to-head tiebreaker against Alabama. The Tigers lost in the SEC championship game by a final score of 28-7 against Georgia and fell in the Peach Bowl by a final score of 34-27 against UCF. Jarrett Stidham returns to take control for Auburn under center, one year removed after finishing tops in the SEC and 6th in the country in completion percentage and 2nd in the conference with 3,158 yards through the air last season. Stidham has lost a pair of key pieces in the receiving corps in Will Hastings and Eli Stove, both of whom suffered significant knee injuries in spring drills. However, Ryan Davis returns to lead the Auburn receivers, one season removed from setting the program’s single season reception record with 84 catches last season. Kam Martin will also be looking to pick up where he left off after rushing for an average of 6.1 yards per carry in limited action last season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers have lost some key players like Jeff Holland, who recorded 10 sacks last season and secondary members Carlton Davis, Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts. However, leading tackler from last season, Deshaun Davis is back and the Tigers have enough depth to put together a solid linebacking corps. The secondary is in the same boat, looking for the best combination to improve on a disappointing total of 6 interceptions for Auburn last season, leaving the Tigers without a pick in 10 of their 14 games, including 8 of their final 9 games of the year.
Washington is 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games on grass and 1-5 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games while the over is 4-0 in their last 4 games overall. Auburn is 1-5 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games and 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games while the under is 4-0 in their last 4 games overall.
I’ve gone back and forth on this game, as it genuinely could go either way. As much as I’d like to pick a side, both teams have enough question marks position-wise to make this one that’s probably better just watching than trying to bet. For the sake of a pick however, I’d side with the under. One thing that we can agree on on both sides is that there’s a ton of talent defensively and these are two of the best defensive units in the country. Even with both sides having skill on offense, I just see this one being a grind it out, low scoring type of game.