Chick-fil-A Bowl keys

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
4:30
PM ET
Here are three keys for Auburn heading into Saturday's Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia:

Toughen up on defense: There is a lot of youth on the defensive side of the ball for Auburn, so some bend was expected, but the Tigers found themselves near the bottom of the SEC in just about every defensive category this year. Age and inexperience contributed to that, but Auburn failed to improve throughout the year. Virginia doesn't have a very explosive offense, but the Cavaliers scored 28 or more in three of their final four wins. When it comes to athleticism, Auburn has the advantage, but Virginia won't be intimidated by the Tigers' defense.

Find some offensive rhythm: Since the midpoint of the season, Auburn has struggled to find offensive consistency. In the Tigers' final four SEC games, Auburn averaged 18 points and scored just two combined touchdowns against LSU, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers found the end zone often to start the season, but haven't had the same luck in recent weeks. Auburn ended the regular season ranked ninth in the SEC in scoring (24.2) and 10th in total offense (328.2). It doesn't help that star running back Michael Dyer is suspended for the game.

Work the ground game: Speaking of Dyer, Auburn will now turn to Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason to run the Tigers' backfield. McCalebb is a proven threat with the ball in his hand, but his game works the best in space or off the edge. Mason is very inexperienced, but has the talent to complement McCalebb back there. Quarterback Clint Moseley hasn't been great as a starter, so getting the run game going should help to take the pressure off of him.

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