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AUBURN, Ala. – Unlike his players, San Jose State coach Ron Caragher has gotten a taste of both life in the Southeastern Conference and going against a highly ranked Auburn team at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The former Kentucky assistant leads the Spartans (1-0) against the sixth-ranked Tigers (1-0) on Saturday night hoping for better results this time.
The Wildcats fell 42-10 to a No. 3 Auburn team on its way to a 14-0 season 10 years ago. That 2004 Auburn team will coincidentally be honored before the game.
"It was a good experience," said Caragher, who worked at Kentucky from 2003-06. "Football in the SEC, it's bigger than the sport. It's part of the culture. Auburn was one of my favorite stadiums. It's a good experience to go back there and see what that environment is like."
San Jose State is a 31-point underdog on his return trip against the defending SEC champions, but the Spartans did top then-No. 16 Fresno State last November in a 62-52 shootout.
That's something Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said shows the Tigers are "going to have to be prepared."
"Their head coach, everywhere he's been he's won," Malzahn said. "We're expecting their best. We're going to have to play better, and we're going to have to improve from Week 1 to Week 2."
Here are some things to watch in the San Jose State-Auburn game:
QUARTERBACKS: Auburn's Nick Marshall was suspended for the first half against Arkansas, and attempted only six passes in the game. This could be a good chance to work off some more rust ahead of an open date and try to show why he came into the season regarded as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Backup Jeremy Johnson could also play a role. San Jose State's Blake Jurich, meanwhile, completed 22 of 25 passes against Division II North Dakota after replacing NFL draft pick David Fales. He passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
AUBURN RUNNERS: Tailbacks Cameron Artis-Payne (177 yards) and Corey Grant (87) both had big games against Arkansas in a formidable 1-2 punch. The Tigers would also like to get Peyton Barber and/or highly touted freshman Roc Thomas some carries, too.
SECONDARY FULL-STRENGTH: Cornerback Jonathon Mincy should return to his starting role after being held out as punishment last week. Robenson Therezie wasn't declared eligible for the game until the day before and came up with a big hit on Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen to force an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
RECEIVING ENCORES: Both teams have receivers coming off big games. Auburn junior college transfer D'haquille Williams produced 154 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions in his debut. San Jose State's Tyler Winston had 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson had high praise for San Jose State's receiving corps. "I don't see any of them ever drop anything," Johnson said. "If it gets within reach where their hands can touch it, they make catches. ... They're really good."
CEREMONY: Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, now leading the Cincinnati Bearcats, is expected to be among the representatives from the 2004 team since he has an open date. He was fired after the 2008 season but son Tucker is a walk-on quarterback with the Tigers who transferred from Texas Tech after his father left.