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Game Preview: Auburn and Louisville prepare for the unknown ahead of Saturday’s season-opener

Michael Niziolek


Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson sacks Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace last year in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson sacks Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace last year in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn Athletics

Auburn and Louisville are down to the final 24 hours of preparation ahead of Saturday’s season-opener at the Georgia Dome.

The teams have spent the better part of two weeks getting ready for the matchup while the Cardinals coaching staff admits they have had an eye on the game going back to the start of the offseason.

Despite all time that’s gone into game planning, the answers to a pair of intriguing unknowns will likely impact tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff in a major way.  

Quarterback TBD

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino knows which one of his quarterbacks is getting the start Saturday against Auburn at the Georgia Dome.

He just isn’t planning on sharing that information.

“I know who is starting,” Petrino said, on the ACC’s weekly conference call. “We’re good with it, we really feel comfortable it. There’s just really no advantage to announce it.”

On the call, and in his press conference earlier in the week, Petrino left the door open for multiple quarterbacks to get into the game. Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, Will Gardner and Lamar Jackson competed in training camp for the No. 1 spot.

“Yeah there is a possibility we may play more than one, but you would anticipate having one ready to go,” Petrino said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t play more than one.”

While Petrino doesn’t think withholding the information will provide his team with an “edge,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee recalled how the Tigers’ uncertainty at quarterback in last year’s season-opening win over Arkansas made a difference.

“Last year was unique, too, because we kinda had Jeremy and then we had Nick going in,” Lashlee said. “That actually probably worked to our advantage a little bit. For them, they had to prepare for both, didn't know when and what was going to happen.”

Out of the swamp

First-year Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s arrival has likely given Louisville similar headaches in the game-planning department as their quarterback situation has to the Tigers.

Muschamp is installing a new scheme moving away from the 4-2-5 defense used last year to one with multiple fronts; and the defense will look significantly different personnel wise.

“You have to watch twice as much video,” Petrino said.

Auburn is counting on a number of first-year players on the defense including Tray Matthews and Blake Countess, defensive lineman Carl Lawson jumps back into the starting after missing a full season due to injury and Muschamp might shake up the team’s starters at linebacker.

“Most of their guys in the secondary we didn’t see play (with them) last year,” Petrino said.

Petrino said he is particularly impressed with Auburn’s talent up front, “they are strong and active,” but he expects Muschamp to have the whole defense playing a physical brand of football.

“He does a really great job of is getting them to play fast and physical,” Petrino said. “I think that is the thing when you watch all of his defenses throughout the year they play with a lot of speed, they play very physical, play with emotion. I think the key to us is to keep them on the field, we have to get first downs and keep them on the field and make them play when they are tired.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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