Auburn opened its season with a 31-24 win against Louisville in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Tigers looked like the national contender many expected in preseason.
New coordinator Will Muschamp's defense set the tone early. Tray Matthews returned an interception 35 yards on Louisville's opening possession, which led to Auburn's first touchdown of 2015. The Tigers' second score came on an 82-yard fumble return by Justin Garrett several drives later.
Yes, the Tigers lived up to the lofty preseason hype during their Week 1 victory. Well, almost everyone.
Jeremy Johnson struggled in his debut as Auburn's starting quarterback. The junior threw for just 137 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on 11-of-21 passing, while also rushing for a score.
It was a far cry from the preseason expectations many had for Johnson. Following Nick Marshall's departure, the junior spent the offseason downplaying Heisman talk and Cam Newton comparisons, putting his focus on helping Auburn win football games.
Related: Analyzing Auburn Quarterback Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Trophy Candidacy
He did that on Saturday against a Louisville defense that ranked No. 1 in FBS in interceptions in 2014. And while Johnson accounted for multiple touchdowns, the three picks were the biggest takeaway of his performance.
Sure he struggled, but that's expected for a new quarterback facing a talented defense in his debut. Though he did his Heisman stock no favors, Johnson's two touchdowns were the deciding factor in the Tigers' win against a quality opponent. While many SEC rivals enjoyed blowout wins against Group of 5 or FCS programs, Auburn defeated a team that finished with a 9-4 (5-3) record and a No. 24 overall ranking.
In Week 1, the purpose is to "shake off the rust" of the offseason and make adjustments before Week 2. Johnson told Al.com that he's "ready to atone" for his interceptions and will make the necessary adjustments before Saturday's game.
"I was trying to take the big plays too early in the game," Johnson said. "Trying to take the big shot, trying to make the big play too early in the game instead of hitting my check downs."
It's still early for Johnson who should see better numbers as Auburn hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday. The junior will regain his confidence by facing a far less talented secondary and should add to his stats before entering conference play.
His Heisman candidacy is far from ruined as his performances against SEC teams will be the most heavily weighed. If Johnson leads Auburn to a national championship he will remain a contender for the award.
The junior's stats will be among the nation's best quarterbacks in Gus Malzahn's offense. He's a 6-foot-5, 250-pound dual-threat quarterback playing within a scheme that best suits his skill set and is surrounded by a plethora of talent.
Johnson will bounce back from a lackluster debut and make Auburn fans forget about Week 1. The Tigers' team success is most important and the junior quarterback will be the decisive factor in the team winning in 2015.
— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.