Quick 2020 Recap
Following a 2-2 start to the season Auburn was never able to get out of the blocks. The Tigers would go on to lose back-to-back games to Texas A&M and Alabama later in the season and then they were defeated by Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl. Against teams that finished .500 or better Auburn went 1-4 while they were 5-1 against teams that finished below .500. This led to a disappointing 6-5 season on The Plains that led to some major changes being made.
Offensive Player to Watch: RB Tank Bigsby
Tank Bigsby may be the best running back the Nittany Lions face this season. As a true freshman last season he rushed for 834 yards and 5 touchdowns. While Bigsby does not have elite top end speed he is more than athletic enough and is a physical, powerful runner. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Throughout the 2021 season the Auburn offense will go as far as Bigsby can take them.
Defensive Player to Watch: LB Owen Pappoe
Pappoe is an athletic freak who should shine in Mason’s 3-4 defense. He can run with players in coverage and is strong against the run. His sky high ceiling, however, comes from his ability to be a game wrecker as a pass rusher. Last season Pappoe had 6 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks. If the Nittany Lion offense is going to be successful against the Auburn defense then the offensive line must take care of Pappoe.
Major Changes for 2021
This is an obvious one. Following the 2020 season Auburn fired head coach Gus Malzahn. After initially naming defensive coordinator Kevin Steele as the interim head coach, the Tigers hired Bryan Harsin from Boise State to lead the program. Auburn also has a new offensive coordinator in Mike Bobo and former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason will run Harsin’s defense. The matchup with the Nittany Lions will be the first big test for the new Auburn coaching staff which could prove to play a big role in the outcome of the game.
Auburn Wins If
Auburn is going to have to find a way to throw the ball. Bo Nix has been the Auburn starter the past two seasons but has only completed 58.7% of his passes to go with 13 interceptions. This offseason the Tigers brought in LSU transfer TJ Finley, but as a true freshman last fall Finely only completed 57.1% of his passes, while throwing 5 touchdowns and interceptions before being benched. Neither Nix nor Finley have played well enough in their college career to instill the confidence that Auburn can come into an atmosphere like a Beaver Stadium night game and win. Auburn may need a career game from one of these two if they’re going to pull off the upset.
Penn State Wins If
As long as the Nittany Lions contain the Auburn rushing attack they should be in good shape. In addition to the question marks they have at the quarterback position, the Tigers also lost their top three wide receivers (Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, Eli Stove) from last season. Also, Harsin always utilized a rush heavy attack during his time as Boise State head coach. Left tackle is also a big question mark for the Tigers which could lead to success for Adisa Isaac, Arnold Ebiketie and company in rushing the passer. Odds are the Tigers will look to ride Bigsby to a victory it will be up to the Nittany Lion defense to slow him down.