Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn
Line: Auburn by 15.5
Radio: 1070 AM, 100.5 FM
1. Marshall’s plan: Though it will be Nick Marshall’s first game as Auburn’s starting quarterback, he’s no stranger to leading high-octane offenses. He still holds the Georgia high school record for career touchdown passes with 103, and lit up the junior college circuit last year at Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns and added another 1,095 yards and 20 scores on the ground. This won’t be his first go-round in the SEC, either, as he appeared in 13 games at cornerback for Georgia during the 2011 season.
2. Home sweet home at Jordan-Hare: Auburn never has had a problem holding serve to begin the season, owning a 34-6 record all-time in opening game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers have won their last six home openers, with the last loss coming at the hands of Georgia Tech in 2005.
3. Polar opposites: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn prefers to lean on his running game, and the stats from his stint at Arkansas State last year back him up: The Red Wolves ran the ball 56.7 percent of the time (540 rushing attempts out of 952 total offensive plays). Washington State coach Mike Leach is at the other end of the spectrum, as no team in FBS put the ball in the air more than the Cougars last season. In 12 games, Washington State attempted 624 passes, averaging 52 a game.
4. SEC, not Cougar country: Washington State has played against the SEC six times in its history, posting a 1-5 record. The Cougars are 1-4 against Tennessee, and lost to Auburn on the road in the 2006 season opener 40-14, which is the last time they faced an SEC foe.
Washington State receivers vs. Auburn secondary: The Tigers return three starters from last season in cornerbacks Jonathon Mincy and Chris Davis alongside free safety Jermaine White. Strong safety was occupied by Demetruce McNeal, but he’s no longer with the team after being dismissed following an arrest during preseason camp. In his place is Josh Holsey, a former cornerback who moved to safety in the spring and has remained there ever since. They will line up across from a Cougars’ receiving corps that brings back players who accounted for 70 percent of their yardage in 2012. The unit’s top pass-catcher is Brett Bartolone, a sophomore. He’ll be joined by Gabe Marks, Kristoff Williams, Dominique Williams and Isiah Myers.
The Cougars pass-heavy attack will test a Tigers secondary weakened due to mitigating factors (Jonathan Jones’ injury, McNeal’s dismissal). As the game goes on, however, Auburn’s physicality up front will wear down Washington State, creating holes for Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Marshall to gash the Cougars’ defense for big plays. Toomer’s Corner should be rocking following Malzahn’s first victory. Auburn 31, Washington State 17.