4 p.m. at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium

ESPNU TV, 770 AM radio

Kindred spirits? Both teams come in off 3-9 seasons, though hardly amid similar circumstances. WSU had an edgy first year under Mike Leach, while an Auburn team not without talent underachieved, leading to Gene Chizik’s firing and the hiring of Gus Malzahn.

The storm’s eye: A battle in the center of the field will affect the outcome. Auburn center Reese Dismukes is Phil Steele’s No. 13 draftable center (for 2014), while WSU nose tackle Junior Gauta is a disruptive force who could have a big season.

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Weather concerns: This week, Leach discounted the possible impact of the sultry Southern weather, noting much of WSU’s August temperatures have been higher. But Alabama humidity could be something else entirely. Saturday’s high is expected to be mid-80s, with isolated thunderstorms, cooling to the 70s during the game.

Health and welfare: Auburn defensive end Dee Ford is out, while WSU has come through August in good shape, with backup OT Jacob Seydel a question mark with a sprained ankle. Two Cougars backups, CB Rahmel Dockery and DE Logan Mayes, left the team, and Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal was booted.

The forecast: Auburn 27, WSU 23. Cougars make it interesting, but this is a tall challenge.

WSU players to watch
Pos. Player Key 2012 stat
QB Connor Halliday 5-13 TD-Int ratio
RB Teon. Caldwell 4.8 yards per carry
WR Brett Bartolone 53 grabs as frosh
WR Gabe Marks 49 catches
TE Dom Williams 143 yds Apple Cup

Auburn players to watch

Pos. Player Key 2012 stat
QB Nick Marshall 20 INTs in JC
RB Tre Mason 1,002 yards
WR Emory Blake 50 catches
WR Quan Bray 14 catches
TE C.J. Uzomah 19.4 yds per catch

Bud Withers, The Seattle Times