AUBURN – Auburn has its quarterback, its mission set, and its plan in place.
Now, it’s on the Tigers to execute.
Now, they step into the spotlight.
College football is back and game week is here, and for the Auburn football team, that means the Tigers are just days away from stepping out from behind locked gates at the practice facility on the Plains and emerging under bright lights at AT&T Stadium — where a world will be watching.
No. 16 Auburn opens the season against No. 11 Oregon in this Saturday’s marquee matchup on national television and on the Dallas Cowboys’ home field in Texas. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on ABC.
True freshman Bo Nix will step behind center at quarterback, and his fellow young stars like freshman linebacker Owen Pappoe will join veterans like Derrick Brown, who turned down the NFL to try to make magic at Auburn — all led by Gus Malzahn, back behind the playsheet after one of the most pressure-packed offseasons of his coaching career.
“We’re just ready to play,” linebacker KJ Britt said flatly after a practice last week. That was after he was asked about senior Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, and the high-flying Ducks attack getting set to meet Auburn in a cross-country showdown for the first time since the 2010 season’s national championship game.
Britt didn’t have anything else to say.
At this point, there isn’t much left to talk about, until the Tigers finally get on the field and try to prove all they’ve worked for.
Auburn closed preseason camp last Monday, the first day of class on campus, and on Tuesday the team turned its attention on Oregon and opponent preparation. After a long spring, a long summer and a long camp on the Plains following a bitter 2018 season, game week is here.
“You can tell there was excitement from our team,” Malzahn said then. That was the same day he named Nix the team’s starting quarterback for the opener, and Tigers truly turned the page.
“I think we’re all super excited,” Auburn center Kaleb Kim said last week. “Across the country, camp … everyone feels like it’s long. We’re just ready to go play against a different team.”
Ready or not, kickoff is coming.
And ready or not, Auburn isn’t playing just any other team.
Like last year, when Auburn opened its season with a top-10 showdown against Washington, Auburn is starting its season thrown right into the fire.
“When we played Washington, it was a big-stage game and everybody was watching,” wide receiver Seth Williams said last week. “Coming into this, it’s going to be on College Gameday, and it’s another big-stage game, so I think I’m ready to go through it again.
“I’m ready for it.”