As we continue our kickoff games down in Texas, Cowboys Stadium will be the host for tonight’s matchup between Auburn and Michigan. As far as cross division play goes, these two should put on one of the better shows of the week. Some of the same studs still dominate the headlines in Auburn, but new faces are the talk of the town for Michigan. Will the dominate rushing attack Auburn showed last season come out again in full force? Or will the new look Michigan backfield come out of the gates and show us that they are not to be slept on? With the table set for an exciting showdown, lets get right into the breakdown for both sides.
Billy Carter is one of the best runners we have seen from any position in this league. His north-south running ability is scary good, but the make you miss moves are what really get people out of their seats. It’s no question that he will be the focus of the Auburn offense and Michigan’s defense coming into this one. That puts a little bit of heat onto sophomore Griffin Jelkic at quarterback to show he has improved coming into season five. While his arm was a bit of a question mark at times, rumor has it that he was extremely active in camp and is ready to make his mark. With the receivers he has at his disposal, I’d be shocked if he didn’t. Cross Ferry III is coming in as a highly ranked 5 star, while Bubba Davis and Jacob Hill lock down the outside and slot. This offense can and will do anything it wants against anyone.
The defense for Auburn looks a bit different without the same familiar names of Kitchens and LeClear. However, there are some serious players on this roster to watch out for. New addition Mark Calloway is one of the largest linebackers in the league today. His impact is easy to see translating at the next level, let alone against college defenses. Add in Micha Myers and Jack law and you’ll be lucky to get to the second level on these guys. However, if you just so happen to slip through, it just gets tougher. A trio of five star safeties headline this unit and are sure to stop offenses in their tracks. Sky Taylor, Ollie P. Peters, and Rian Chambers all are chomping at the bit to force turnovers every opportunity they can. LaRoi Sanders and Max Hands lock down the outside and round out this unit. As a whole, the Tigers defense is to be feared.
This feels a little weird to write, but new quarterback Dewey Ainge is coming to Ann Arbor with the same cannon of an arm that led Tennessee for the last two seasons. Possibly signaling a shift in philosophy, Ainge is a pure pocket passer who looks downfield and hits his targets with pinpoint accuracy. His backfield mate, Adam Croft, is well known for being a fantastic receiving back with soft hands and a quick first cut. Then we have the wide receiver trio of Giorgio Pipino, Cutter McGillicuddy, and Darwyn Garcia that give Ainge even more weapons to choose from. Not enough you say? Oh look – TJ Walker is out at TE if somehow everyone else is covered. If they can figure out a little bit of a rushing attack, Michigan should have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.
While their star power may seem to be lacking compared to Clemson or Ohio State, the Michigan defense is very well constructed to stop opposing offenses in their tracks. Jake Lake is the man in control on defense, roaming the field and making stops wherever he lines up. If that’s not enough, corners Joshua Priest Jr. and Lucky McFadden are considered one of the best one-two punches on the outside in the league. Add in a little bit of Miles Freeman and you have guys at all the key spots. Jay Washington is there to get a little pressure off the line, while Ty Palmer can help clean up anything that gets through. Parker McDonald also is ready to make a contribution as a late signing. The whole unit is strong, albeit unspectacular. Still, there is more than enough talent to get things done day in and day out.
Auburn HB Billy Carter vs Michigan MLB Jake Lake
If you’ve ever seen Oklahoma drills in practice, expect to see almost the same thing happening during this game. Billy is a man that runs with a lot of power, while Jake brings stopping power that can bring down anyone. These two are perfect counters to each other, making an exciting show for us in the stands. I give Billy a slight edge, but expect him to go down on first contact a little more than he usually would.
On paper, I find both of these teams evenly matched with each other. They have guys in the right spots and talent all over the field. Personally, the way Auburn is built intrigues me and gives them the edge. Three star safeties along with a big linebacker in the middle is a recipe for hard hits and turnovers. Just one of those could completely change the game. Michigan does have the talent to pull a slight upset in this one though. If they can unlock the passing game quickly, Ainge could really break things open all game long. In the end, I am going to go with Auburn in a nailbiter.