Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.
Line: Auburn by 43
Radio: 1070 AM, 100.5 FM
1. Tigers racking up rushing yards: Nick Marshall’s 140-yard rushing performance last week made him the fourth different Auburn player this season to break the triple-digit mark on the ground. Air Force and Arkansas State are the only other teams in FBS to accomplish the feat this season. This is also the first time in program history the Tigers have had a quartet of players notch a 100-yard rushing effort in the same year.
2. Wins not coming easy for Western Carolina: In his second season at the helm of the Catamounts, head coach Mark Speir has a 2-15 record. Both of those wins have come against Mars Hills University, a Division II school located in Mars Hill, N.C. Against Division I (both FBS and FCS) opponents, however, the Catamounts are riding a 31-game losing streak. The last time Western Carolina topped a fellow Division I school came Oct. 2, 2010, when it beat The Citadel 24-13.
3. Auburn keeping laundry off the field: The Tigers have proven to be a more disciplined than last year in the penalty department. Last year, Auburn averaged 50.1 penalty yards a game. The Tigers have shaved more than 10 yards off that total in 2013, averaging just 38.6 a contest, fourth-fewest in the SEC and 23rd in the country.
4. Fresh faces dot Catamounts’ two-deep: Heading into Saturday’s game, Western Carolina lists 14 true freshman on its two-deep depth chart, with eight on offense and six on defense. When it’s expanded further, only 12 players (four on offense, eight on defense) on the two-deep are not freshmen or sophomores.
Auburn vs. itself: The result of this game isn’t really in question. With that in mind, and knowing the challenge that awaits them when they head on the road to play against Texas A&M next week, the Tigers’ foremost goal will be avoiding injuries, which has been a problem all season. Senior defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker is out for the rest of the year, while junior linebacker Justin Garrett won’t play in this contest. Marshall won’t, either. Aside from staying healthy, the Tigers’ other objective should be to win convincingly. Despite jumping out to double-digit leads against Mississippi State and Ole Miss, Auburn saw itself narrowly escaping with victories in both games. This week should provide the Tigers an opportunity to keep an opponent down and not let up until it feels ready to do so.
Auburn should be able to name its score in this game. Western Carolina’s showing against Virginia Tech earlier this year should be proof, as the Catamounts were only able to manage a field goal against the Hokies in a 45-3 loss. The good news for the visitors is Auburn coach Gus Malzahn doesn’t seem the type to continue piling on points to embarrass an opponent. It also helps that Auburn operates a run-first offense, moving the game along at a quicker pace than a pass-heavy attack would. Expect the Tigers’ first-teamers on offense and defense to be out of the game by the beginning of the third quarter — if not sooner — to allow lesser-known players their opportunity to shine. ... Auburn 55, Western Carolina 7.