Conference play is set to begin this weekend for most SEC teams, and the Auburn Tigers are no different.
Auburn travels up to College Station, Texas, for a contest with the Texas A&M Aggies. The Tigers go into the week four matchup with a 3-0 record while the Aggies sit at 2-1.
With non-conference play in the rear-view mirror, how did Auburn perform in various areas throughout the beginning of the season?
Offense as a whole: B
Aside from the 14-10 win over the Cal Golden Bears, Auburn has not had much trouble putting points on the board. The Tigers have made noticeable improvements in every area since last season.
Quarterback play has been solid for Auburn in 2023. Not perfect by any means, but it has gotten the job done and then some.
Payton Thorne has provided reassurance that he is the guy at quarterback. He is 43-63 on the year with 517 yards and four touchdowns. He is also Auburn's leading rusher, having picked up 140 yards and two touchdowns off of 22 carries.
Running backs: C+
Auburn's running back room came into the 2023 season with high expectations but has not lived up to them so far.
The unit was missing Jarquez Hunter in Auburn's season-opening 59-14 win over the UMass Minutemen, but Hunter has only picked up 90 yards and a touchdown in his two games.
Damari Alston has been the best running back for the Tigers so far this season with 119 yards and a touchdown off of 24 carries.
Offensive line: B+
Offensive line play has been a consistent struggle for Auburn football for a while, but it appears that is changing.
The offensive line has been solid this year, which has benefited Thorne and the running backs.
Penalties have been a minor problem thus far, but that will likely improve as the unit continues to play together.
Defense as a whole: B+
Through the first three games of the season, Auburn has held opponents to an average of 12.33 points per game.
The Tigers already have five interceptions and two fumble recoveries in three games. In 2022, Auburn had six interceptions and seven fumble recoveries throughout the whole season.
Defensive back play has been Auburn's biggest strength in 2023.
Jaylin Simpson has been leading the way. In Auburn's 45-13 win over the Samford Bulldogs, Simpson became the first Auburn player in 16 years to have an interception in three straight games.
D.J. James has been another asset for the Tigers in the defensive backfield.
Linebacker play has been hit or miss for the Tigers this season.
Eugene Asante has made a name for himself, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors after Auburn's win over Cal.
Austin Keys was also playing well before suffering a thumb injury that has caused him to miss some time.
Apart from those two, this group has some work to do.
Defensive line: C+
Two of Auburn's biggest problems this season have been rushing the pass and stopping the run. Both of those are primary responsibilities of the defensive line.
The Tigers have eight sacks so far, but only three have been by a defensive lineman. Two of them came from Marcus Harris.
Special teams: A+
Punter Oscar Chapman is averaging 40.38 yards per attempt. Kicker Alex McPherson is 2-2 on field goal attempts, and seven of his 21 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.
Auburn takes on Texas A&M on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT. ESPN will carry the broadcast.
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