The 2021 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl features the 20th ranked 11-2 Houston Cougars against the 6-6 Auburn Tigers. Here is the 2021 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl Preview.
No.20 Houston Cougars (11-2)
Houston had quite the run this year after starting the season with a disappointing showing against Texas Tech. By the time they faced Cincinnati in the AAC Championship they were among a select few with a win streak of 11 games or longer left.
Like many of the AAC’s top teams the Cougars are very talented on both sides of the ball. Offensively they’re pass heavy with veteran Clayton Tune leading the way. Expect top target Nathaniel Dell to have a big day as he should be a matchup nightmare for Auburn’s depleted defense. Dell led the AAC in both receiving yards (1,179) and touchdowns (12) in 2021.
Defensively Houston is very sound. They ranked 2nd in scoring defense and topped the conference in total yards allowed per game. They’re effective against the run and the pass but are a nightmare against the run, allowing just 106.9ypg. The trio of David Anenih, Logan Hall and Derek Parish on the defensive line should give the Auburn offense all they can handle.
Auburn Tigers (6-6)
Auburn appeared to have all the momentum in the world entering the final month of the season. They were coming off a big win against ranked Ole Miss and sitting comfortably in second in the SEC West. Unfortunately the Tigers dropped their final four and find themselves in the Birmingham Bowl.
The Auburn offense isn’t explosive but is fairly well balanced. LSU transfer TJ Finley has had to step in for injured Bo Nix. Finley hasn’t blown the doors off but has managed to keep the offense moving. The real weapon comes in Tank Bigsby. The Georgia native has eclipsed the 100yd mark five times this season and is a bulldozer for the Tiger offense.
Defensively Auburn is going to be without their top two players due to the NFL Draft. Leading tackler Zakoby McClain and top defensive back Roger McCreary both opted out for the game. Still, Auburn will have some big names on display. Defensive lineman Derick Hall leads the team with 9 sacks. And senior safety Smoke Monday wants to play his final game despite plans to leave for the Draft.
Auburn has their work cut out for them against a very good Houston team. The Cougars are too strong against the run that Auburn and Finley will need to turn to the air at times. Houston’s absence of NFL ready cornerback Marcus Jones may help give Auburn an advantage in that sense. Houston can score in bunches though and if turns into a shoot out Auburn will be left behind.
Houston Cougars: 38, Auburn Tigers: 28
“From Our Haus to Yours”