The Auburn Tigers get their 2021 football season started Saturday evening when they welcome the Akron Zips to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
How to watch or stream
Time: 6 p.m. CT
Streaming: This game is only available via ESPN+, which you can sign up for HERE. It is not available on traditional television.
Line: Auburn -37.5
The Auburn Tigers and their fans come into the 2021 season with a renewed sense of optimism that generally comes along with a new coaching hire. For better or worse, it was time to part ways with Gus Malzahn, as the program had peaked under him already. Bryan Harsin has quietly been one of the nation’s best coaches for the past half-decade. Whether or not that success will translate to Auburn obviously remains to be seen, but the optimism is understandable.
Is there the same sense of optimism surrounding quarterback Bo Nix? That’s hard to say. After a freshman season that saw Nix pass for 2542 yards and 16 touchdowns to six interceptions in 13 games, last season saw him pass for 2415 yards and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions in 11 games. Obviously there were various extenuating factors last year, but if Nix can’t put together a big season this year, it’s possible that this is just the quarterback that he is. If you have other elements of your offense which are good, you can handle having a game manager at quarterback. Fortunately for Auburn, they have Tank Bigsby. Bigsby does a little bit of everything, averaging 122 all-purpose yards per game last year en route to being named SEC Freshman of the Year. He was named to the Preseason SEC First Team this year, as expectations for Bigsby are off the charts. In six games last season, Akron allowed 6.2 yards per rush. If they haven’t improved their rushing defense, Bigsby could really start his season with a bang.
As noted above, Akron played just six games last season, compiling a 1-5 record. Linebacker Bubba Arslanian was a bright spot for the Zips, leading the MAC in tackles (74), solo tackles (47), and tackles per game (12.3).
Kato Nelson returns at quarterback for Akron for his senior season after opting out of the 2020 season to recover from shoulder surgery. In his career, Nelson has gone 399-762 for 5,138 yards and 34 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.