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Knowing The Enemy: with Auburn Writer Jack Condon

1. Give me your honest answer: did Bo Nix throw a backwards lateral or a spike?

A: Oh, it was absolutely a backward lateral, and thus a live ball. That said, why do you think the refs didn’t do anything about it? BARN CHEATIN’, that’s why! I’ve blocked most of last year (including football season) out of my mind, and so I didn’t even remember that Auburn was down by a point at that time in the game. Whoops.

2. How hard has it been for Bryan Harsin to develop a relationship with players that he didn’t recruit?

A:I imagine that there was a little more of a cultural barrier with this coaching transition since Harsin came from Boise, but he did spend time in Texas and Arkansas, so he knows the region somewhat. It definitely helped to bring in some guys that are SEC lifers (Mike Bobo), and a couple of Auburn alums (Cadillac Williams/Zac Etheridge) to help bridge that gap and make the transition a little smoother. Judging on the way that the team has reacted after wins, it doesn’t seem like they have any issues bonding. Gus was definitely more of a players’ coach, while Harsin is a guy who’s nothing but football, and I’m sure that the players are smart enough to realize that he can probably help them grow as players better than Gus did.

3. With the lack of success stopping the run the last few weeks for Arkansas, do they expect to utilize Bigsby and Jarquez more than normal?

A: I think this will definitely be the game where we try to get back to our basics and run Tank and Hunter more than we have been. Bo Nix has been throwing the ball upwards of 40 times per game, which isn’t sustainable for this offense. We beat LSU with that strategy, but I think with a few wrinkles Auburn can hit the Hogs in the running game (especially if Arkansas is a little sleepier with that morning kick). Don’t forget about Shaun Shivers either, he can be a huge change of pace guy that (we hope) can catch a little better than he showed in the Georgia game.

4. If Bo N(P)ix is struggling, do they think they’ll see Finley come in?

A: I really don’t. Short of that first half against Georgia State, Bo hasn’t been the issue with the offense. The wide receivers are the ones who just can’t do anything. We’d probably do unspeakable things to get Burks on our side. Bo has only thrown one interception this season, and that was a tipped ball off of a catchable pass last week. Finley may get a scheduled series like he did at LSU, but I think Bryan Harsin and Mike Bobo have decided to win or lose with Bo this year.

5. What are the strengths of the Auburn defense?

A: Run defense to start. Even with the way that Georgia was able to get some yardage in the second half, it was a function of their talent just wearing Auburn down and our offense not spending enough time on the field. Auburn should be able to limit Arkansas well below its season average (you don’t have Fred Talley anymore, right?), and force the Hogs to try to make moves through the air. When they do, Roger McCreary is likely going to be a first or second round NFL Draft selection in the spring at cornerback, and we’ve got experience throughout the rest of the unit. They’ll give up a couple big pass plays, but hopefully that’s pretty much it.

6. What are some of Auburn’s worries offensively as they face Auburn this week?

A: Receivers, receivers, receivers. If Auburn’s receivers shrink the number of drops they had last week from 8-9 to 1-2, that’s a 24-17 type of game heading into the fourth quarter. On one hand, it was nice to see that Georgia beat us but we made so many correctable errors in the loss. It wasn’t just getting piledriven by a super talented team. We don’t win that game 99 times out of 100, but if the receivers catch passes, we have a chance for Jordan-Hare magic to make an appearance in the fourth quarter.

Other than that, I’d say offensive line protection, but they’ve been getting better each week. I’d like to see more push in the run game, but we know what we’re working with.

7. There’s been several classic games between the two programs? Give us a few of your favorites.

A: Personally, I was a senior for the 2010 65-43 game, so that was an incredible experience. I took my wife to her first Auburn game for the 2016 56-3 win, and I sat despondently watching Fred Talley and Darren McFadden go nuts in 2002 and 2006. I think one game that holds a lot of real nostalgia was the 2003 win in Fayetteville. Auburn won 10-3 with Karlos Dansby sacking Matt Jones on a fourth down late to seal it. 11 AM game, Dave/Dave/Dave on the call, and just the grainy early 2000s SEC goodness that I think we all miss. It was a simpler time.

8. How important do you believe home field advantage is in college football? Will it play a factor in Fayetteville this weekend?

A: I think anytime you play on the road you lose a little boost. There are some people that like to roll in and quiet a crowd, but it takes some work. Home field advantage in this situation might not mean as much just because it’s in the morning and both teams are coming off of losses. I also don’t really know if the crowd will affect Auburn as much after having played at Penn State and LSU already this year in prime time games, but I can see it giving the Hogs a bit of momentum if they can string together a few good plays or a score. In the end, I think Auburn has been more tested this year, and has learned more about themselves, and will be able to use a little more in the run game on both sides of the ball to squeak out a close win.