By any sane reckoning, Auburn will finally win another game this Saturday. By any reasonable reckoning, it will probably be the last game the Tigers win this year. I'd most certainly prefer the latter to be an inaccurate prediction, but based on this team's continued slump, it's just hard to see how things are going to turn out differently. It's a horrible year, and one that's getting worse by the week.
As if it weren't obvious from the record and the numbers, this is a pretty bad football team, almost as bad as the talent-starved and snakebitten 1998 squad that finished 3-8 (and even that team beat Ole Miss). Even the defense that started out gangbusters has lapsed into mediocrity, thanks in no small part to an avalanche of injuries, but you also have to think that they've just been relied to on save the offense far too many times as well.
While the offense showed occasional signs of life in Oxford, its limitations are still painfully clear. Kodi Burns has a ton of heart and a lot of talent, but let's face it, Tony Franklin was right when he noted that Burns gets too excited and makes too many mistakes in crucial situations. Saturday was easily Burns' most productive game as a Tiger, but those three awful interceptions doomed any chance of getting a win. But then again, Burns is now being "coached" by a guy who took an eventual first-round NFL starter and wrecked him so badly that people wondered whether the guy would ever play again.
Chris Slaughter had a great individual game, and Tommy Trott continued to improve catching the ball, but the rest of the receiving corps was once again missing in action. And let's not even talk about the blocking, or rather the lack thereof. Auburn's running game has shuddered to a near-complete halt (I would have said complete halt if not for the single great play on Ben Tate's touchdown).
It's also clear that every defense the Tigers play knows exactly what Auburn is going to do before they do it, especially in the running game. AU can't run inside, can't run to the outside, and can't even run a screen without having three defenders around the ball at all times. This is not a surprise, or at least it shouldn't be. The last time Steve Ensminger was in charge of the offense, the same thing happened; Georgia Tech's defenders in 2003 were calling out the plays from the line of scrimmage. I wouldn't be surprised if Ole Miss was doing the same thing over five years later.
It's very little consolation at this point to think that Ensminger only has three games left to screw over Auburn University. Then again, I wrote that five years ago, too, and look where we are now.
A brief respite, and then the annus horribilis will rumble on to its finish. Where we go from there is, I think, anybody's guess.