AUBURN — The first game of Auburn's 2021 football season was never supposed to be interesting, but it did provide an early metric for how well the Tigers have progressed under a first-year coaching staff.
Here are the grades for Auburn in the 60-10 season-opening win against Akron. The Tigers destroyed the Zips in every aspect of the game, so this is a space for nitpicking. Most of the emphasis in judgment here will also be based on the first half, because the starters didn't spent much time in the game after halftime.
It's difficult to give the offense any other grade. Auburn scored on its first eight possessions, and seven of those drives ended in touchdowns. The only one that didn't was a two-minute drill exercise at the end of the first half; the Tigers started inside their own 10, went 65 yards in 59 seconds then kicked a 44-yard field goal. If there's any complaint, it would be the fourth quarter, when quarterback T.J. Finley wasn't as effective leading the backups. He was 2-for-5, and Auburn punted twice. But that's not enough to subtract from utter domination.
For just a second, it looked like Auburn's defense was off to a shaky start. Akron got rolling with two first downs on the opening possession. Then came a bad snap. Then linebacker Owen Pappoe blew up a screen. Then it was fourth-and-28, and the Zips' only momentum of the first half amounted to a nine-play, 4-yard drive. Auburn's backups gave up 10 garbage-time points in the fourth quarter, but ... whatever.
Special teams: B
There's not much to judge here, so a missed extra point counts for a lot. Senior kicker Anders Carlson shanked his first attempt of the year but didn't miss a kick the rest of the night. He was a preseason All-American pick, so perfection is the standard.
Bumped down from an A only because offensive coordinator Mike Bobo should have stopped throwing late in the first half to let quarterback Bo Nix finish the game with a perfect completion percentage. Alas.
Hard to find any concerns with Auburn's performance. Akron has lost 23 of its last 24 games, which is an important asterisk on all of this, but Auburn did exactly what it needed to do. Tigers coach Bryan Harsin will certainly find small adjustments, but this game settled a lot. Importantly, it established that Bo Nix will remain the guy at quarterback.