Auburn hosts FCS power Jacksonville State in home opener
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The Auburn Tigers are set for a matchup of Top 10 teams with national title hopes.
They're just vying for different crowns.
The sixth-ranked Tigers (1-0) host Football Championship Subdivision power Jacksonville State Saturday in a game that's gotten more attention for the new video board at Jordan-Hare Stadium than for the matchup.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn feels like the Gamecocks (1-0), ranked as high as No. 7 in the FCS polls, are contenders - on a different level.
''We're not going to take them lightly and they deserve that respect,'' Malzahn said. ''I wouldn't be surprised if this group ends up winning the I-AA (FCS) championship.''
In reality, the game mostly represents a chance for Auburn and quarterback Jeremy Johnson to continue some fine tuning and build experience before facing No. 14 LSU. For Jacksonville State, it brings a $525,000 check to help pay the bills.
For perspective, Auburn spent some $14 million on its new public address system and college football's largest video board.
It's 10,000 square feet with 800 tons of steel and a screen that covers nearly a quarter of an acre. Auburn will unveil it about an hour before kickoff.
As Jacksonville State coach John Grass said: ''I have no idea how to simulate that.''
''I am glad it is not a night game because I think it could be a factor in the game,'' Grass said. ''During the day at 11 a.m. (CDT), I am hoping that it won't be a big factor.''
Here are some things to watch in the game:
JOHNSON'S REBOUND: Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson gets a chance to bounce back from a three-interception game when, Malzahn said, he got ''a little greedy.'' The Tigers don't expect a repeat performance. ''The thing about Jeremy, he's a great competitor and he's extremely tough on himself,'' Malzahn said. ''I think the special quarterbacks that I've been fortunate enough to be around, they're the same way.''
SEC RETURN: Two of Jacksonville State's starting defensive linemen are Auburn transfers, and all four hail from the SEC. Devaunte Sigler was the preseason pick to repeat as Ohio Valley Conference defensive player of the year. Chris Landrum is also a preseason all-conference pick. Defensive end LaMichael Fanning started his career at Alabama and defensive tackle Allan Carson is a Tennessee graduate.
STAYING HEALTHY: Malzahn expects tailbacks Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas and defensive end Carl Lawson to play in the game after getting injured in the opener. He hasn't indicated how much action they'll see ahead of the SEC opener against LSU.
BARBER'S CUT: Peyton Barber opened the season as a third-team tailback but responded to injuries ahead of him with a big game. It might have been good enough to earn him his first start but he certainly factors into the plans. Freshman tailback Kerryon Johnson also will play in the game, Malzahn said.
STOPPING ELI: Auburn faces another dual-threat quarterback after giving up 106 rushing yards to Louisville freshman Lamar Jackson. Eli Jenkins is closing in on the Gamecocks' Top 10 lists for both career passing yards and rushing yards.