Monday, October 30, 2006

Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw Yaw--Sloppy!

Another week, another frustrating win for Auburn. It's funny; if you look back at Auburn's salad days in the 80's and 90's, these kinds of games were a lot more common than we seem to remember. Perspectives have changed, though, and not only because of AU's most recent success (although that certainly plays a part; there were only two games in the entire 2004 season that could be reasonably described as "close," and the Tigers whipped the nine teams they beat in '05). Most obviously, the travesty known as the BCS is playing a part. When idiocies like "style points" are suddenly a goal, even obscure individual plays get analyzed for how they'll fly with the voters. Winning by six when you're a two-touchdown-plus favorite is now a venal sin.

Less apparent is the enduring legacy of Steve Spurrier's 12-year reign of terror in Gainesville. Even though he never had a season without at least one loss, Visor Boy tended to just kill opponents, week in and week out. The standard of excellence in the SEC was raised in the 1990's: it wasn't enough to win most or all of your games--you had to win them by 30 or 40. That perception weighs heavily on Auburn and the rest of the SEC today--just look at how Florida and Tennessee are being criticized for not beating their respective biggest conference rivals, Georgia and Alabama, by a big enough margin. You didn't hear talk like that in, say, 1988, but it's common today.

At any rate, Auburn certainly didn't earn any "style points" in last Saturday's Ole Miss game. The Tigers played a solid but not great game on offense, rolling up a lot of yards but not scoring an excess of points. With the exception of a dry spell in the third quarter, the passing game looked better than it's looked all year, and the Tigers ran well against a defense that kept approximately 15 guys in the tackle box for most of the game. Unfortunately, the Auburn defense was not good, again. Missed assignments, blown coverage, and worst of all, just plain bad tackling kept a weak UM offense around for way too long. What was worse, two turnovers and an endless run of stupid penalties on both sides of the ball kept the mascot-free Rebels in business for most of the day. This one looked more like a season-opener than what it was, the ninth game of the year.

I'm as nonplussed as anybody about the up-and-down performance of the defense. With the understanding that this just isn't one of those great teams that's going to go out and whip people every week (or even most weeks), they've shown enough flashes of real-real-goodness to make one wonder, "What the hell? Why can't they do that all the time?"

Montgomery Advertiser columnist Josh Moon had an interesting take on the question last week (I should have linked it back then--the column has since rolled into the pay side of their archives). Paraphrasing, Moon speculated that AU's speed-first defensive philosophy works great in big games when the players are running on turbocharged adrenaline, but in the "small games," the same players aren't playing at full speed because they just aren't "up" enough, and the overall defense suffers as a result. I wasn't sure what to make of Moon's theory back then, but Auburn's defensive performance to date certainly gives it some credence. After hearing all summer about their bad performance in previous openers, the Tigers were on fire to stuff Washington State in the opener, and did so. Ditto for the cataclysmic LSU game, and after a now-famous pep talk, the last two quarters against Florida.

On the other hand, the defense has been lackadaisical at best against the unheralded opposition. That got them killed against Arkansas, and embarrassed more than a few times against others. Certainly Ole Miss qualifies as a "small game"--while UM fans see the word "Auburn" and instantly start ranting about Tuberville's perfidy and crowing over a dropped ball from Ben Obomanu three years back, every Auburn fan and probably most of the players see "Ole Miss" on a schedule line and think simply, "That's a win."

And what the heck, it was. But it wasn't pretty, and that has the waters roiling in Auburndom today.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fun With Three Idiots Named Dave

Here's this week's lowlight from our Friends at Jefferson Pilot Lincoln Financial Sports, from yesterday's Auburn-Ole Miss game:

Memo to the Daves: Courteney Cox is an actress from Birmingham. Courtney Taylor is a wide receiver from Carrollton. We know these things can be confusing to people with a room temperature I.Q., but beyond similar first names and having been born in the same state, the two really have very little in common. Please make a note of it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


There are times in this gig when you should comment briefly, there are times when you should go on at length, and then there are times when you should just post the link and let somebody else's masterpiece speak for itself.

Folks, I give you one of the almightiest beat-downs you are ever likely to read, ESPN's D.J. Gallo taking Notre Dame's Charlie Weis out behind the woodshed and--whoops, I almost put in a comment there. No need. Here's a brief sample instead:
Hey, care to know what befuddles me, Charlie? How the head coach of Notre Dame, a program which has consistently been overrated and ranked higher than it deserved to be for more than a decade -- and for most of the past century -- has the audacity to complain about polls. I mean … wow! That more than befuddles me.

And do you want to know what else befuddles me? How you were able to dupe Notre Dame into giving you a 10-year contract worth nearly $40 million after starting your career 5-2 without a single win against a team that finished the season ranked in the Top 25. That's a bit befuddling. As is the fact that you are regarded as some sort of football god even though the next good team your Fighting Irish beat will be the first. In your tenure you have played three good teams (so much for the perception that Notre Dame plays a brutal schedule, huh?): USC last October, Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and Michigan five weeks ago. You were blown out in two of those three games. But, yeah, you almost beat USC. Congratulations. Heck of a moral victory there. That's exactly why you were hired. For moral victories.

Let's see … what else befuddles me? Oh, yeah: How you claim to hold everything about Notre Dame sacred, yet spend every Saturday afternoon on the sideline dropping F-bombs every other word and cussing out officials, all in the shadow of "Touchdown Jesus" and with a priest standing a few yards away. Sure, that's being a bit picky, I suppose, but I'm #^&*ing befuddled by it nonetheless.

Oh, and you wonder why Tennessee jumped ahead of you? Beside the fact that they're better than you, it might have something to do with the fact that they beat Alabama -- a quality team in the best conference in college football and a longtime rival -- while you slipped past an average team from a bad conference. Just a theory. It might also have something to do with the fact that Tennessee has already beaten three teams this season who are currently ranked (you may recall you have just one such win) and that their only loss was by one point to a very good Florida team while your loss was by 26 -- 26! -- at home to Michigan. So really, if you think about it, the only shock is that you were actually ranked ahead of Tennessee before this week.

That's about a quarter of the column. Now, go read the whole thing, and be glad you aren't Charlie Weis. Just for today.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This Won't End Well

Lots of words you never want to hear together in the same sentence if you're an LSU fan:

LSU Police have arrested LSU assistant strength and conditioning coach Travelle Gaines for violation of sports agent laws, Chief Ricky Adams confirmed Tuesday.

Yeah, that's probably bad. No other details yet, but here's the link.

UPDATE: A bit more information here, along with another bad word:

An LSU Police investigation that already netted one arrest has now gone inside the University. 9News has confirmed that assistant LSU strength and conditioning coach, Travelle Gaines, has been arrested for violation of sports agent laws. This is a felony in Louisiana. The charges also violate NCAA regulations.

Two weeks ago Charles Taplin of Houston, Texas was arrested for talking to LSU football players about signing as a client for an agent Taplin was representing. Now that the University has been implicated, it's unclear at this point how this will affect the football teams status this year.

A news release with the details on Gaines's arrest is expected to be released early this afternoon.

Typo Alert

From a headline in today's Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, "Rebels Tiring Of Constant Yo-Yo Effect."

Obviously the typesetter goofed; the correct header should read, "Rebels Tiring of Constant Yaw-Yaw Effect." Hey, it could have happened to anybody.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Seminole Uprising

According to ESPN, some big chiefs of the Florida State Seminole Nation have had enough of Bobby Bowden's long goodbye:
Palm Beach attorney Peter Mettler, who is a former board member of Seminole Boosters, told the newspaper he was one of many boosters who have written to Florida State, calling for Bowden to retire.

"I am convinced and frankly have been for the last two seasons that coach Bowden should retire or be forced to retire," Mettler wrote to Florida State president T.K. Wetherell, the newspaper reported. "Someone has to stand up and make this difficult decision. As our president I urge you to be the leader I know you are, and do what has to be done."

I remember callers to post-game shows saying similar things about Paul Bryant after Alabama lost to LSU and Southern Miss in 1982. Bryant eventually agreed with them; he stepped down at the end of that season. Bowden probably doesn't have as much sense.

UPDATE: Speaking of Bryant, former Sports Illustrated reporter John Papanek has a piece on ESPN today about nearly getting roughed up by Bryant's goon squad back in 1981. The Auburn SID mentioned (but not named) was David Housel; since Auburn was notionally the home team that year, Housel was in charge of press credentials for the game.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I Nearly Forgot...

... to post the best sign that made it on the air during last last week's Gameday in Auburn. The competition was fierce (I particularly liked the reminder of Corso's 1996 pick of Fresno State in the opener--the actual final was Auburn, 62-0), but the enterprising young man at the top left (c'mon, it wasn't a girl) takes the prize:

Doldrums Week in the SEC

The Auburn-Tulane game was mostly a bore, as checkbook wins tend to be. Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard showed why he was recruited so highly a few years back (Ricard initially signed with LSU, then transferred) by lighting up the AU secondary for nearly 400 yards, but the Green Wave only managed to put one touchdown and a couple of field goals on the board. That wasn't close to enough when Brandon Cox could go 16-for-19 and three touchdowns and true freshman running back Ben Tate could rack up over 150 yards and a score of his own. I couldn't help thinking Tulane would be a pretty good team if they had a defense and a better running game, but as it is, they were Homecoming bait.

Auburn's play overall was, I'm sorry to say, about what I expected: they looked great for some series, and average at best on others. It's been that kind of year. It's odd eight games in to look back to the opener against Washington State and have no trouble at all saying it was AU's best-played game of the year, but that's the case. So far, this isn't close to being a consistent team.

The only real impact of the Tulane game was in the injured list, which is getting downright ugly for the Tigers. AU will have to move tackle Johnathan Palmer to center, as second-stringer Jason Bosley went down with a possibly serious knee injury. Recent reports have indicated that starter Joe Cope could be back in a couple of weeks, but Auburn was already thin up front, and as anybody who recalls 1998 can tell you, center is a bad place to start losing multiple players. It also didn't help any when Tray Blackmon picked up a hip stinger and Brad Lester left early due to a nagging groin pull. Kenny Irons, still trying to get over turf toe, didn't play at all.

I'd make fun of Alabama's ongoing implosion today, but try as I might, I can't think of anything I could add to this column by Tuscaloosa News sports editor (and all-around good guy, despite his poor taste in football teams) Cecil Hurt. A sample:

Alabama can’t blame bad luck. It can’t blame bad karma, or bad calls, or bad treatment at the hands of the NCAA. Not this time. Not when the same script was tried with the same heart-rending but utterly predictable results.

This time, the answer for Mike Shula can be found in one place: The mirror.

After the word "brutal" in the next Oxford English Dictionary, they ought to just append a link to that column.

There wasn't much else to talk about in a very dull day for the conference. Georgia continues to look worse than even I'd thought they were as the season rolls on, while Mississippi State is threatening to actually have a pulse (but still losing). The LSU-Fresno State and Arkansas-Ole Miss games went about as I'd expected. I wasn't surprised to see South Carolina knock Vanderbilt back to reality--they may be better than usual, but they're still Vanderbilt. That was it in a conference week that really only had one meaningful game; Kentucky and Florida took the day off.

Ah, well. The weather was beautiful, Auburn won, UAT lost, and other than the dual choke-jobs of Nebraska and UCLA, it was a really fun day nationally. Nothing wrong with that.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Red, Meet Neck... Again

Beyond "Nice mullet," words fail me on this one. Just click, and be sure to click on the video clip down and to the right.

Fair warning: From The Bleachers is not responsible if you either laugh yourself to death, or hurl.

Change of Venue

It's now been three days since Peter Kerasotis's October 17 column was published, and two since I and others pointed out clear photographic evidence that Kerasotis lied in that column about "thousands of Auburn fans rushing the field."

As of this writing, neither Pete Kerasotis nor any of his editors are responding to requests for a retraction, so I'm moving the subject over to VodkaPundit, a more appropriate venue for media criticism. This isn't about football any more; it's about dishonesty and stonewalling in the mainstream media. Here's my post, have a look if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Peter Kerasotis Is Lying

I'd never heard of Florida Today columnist Peter Kerasotis until this morning. Kerasotis is a Florida grad and apparently UF's answer to Arkansas' Wally Hall: a homer so bad that even his own team's fans think he's an idiot.

Pete did very little to correct the general assumption that Florida fans have an extra whining chromosome with his Tuesday column, which made the rounds of Auburn message boards overnight (neither did writer Guerry Smith, but at least Smith was writing for an overtly partisan site). Among the many helpings of sour grapes was this whopper:

It was not a safe environment, as evidenced by the thousands of fans who rushed the field unhindered immediately after Auburn scored a gimme touchdown on the last play of the game.

I was in the stands on Saturday night, and I didn't recall seeing anybody rushing the field, much less "thousands of fans." In general, I avoid emaling small-market newspaper employees (there aren't enough hours in the day to correct the likes of Jay Tate or Neal McCready), but in this case I figured what the heck and dashed off the following:

That's a lie, Pete. Security was surrounding the field. Nobody rushed it. Now that you've had a couple of days to get over your obvious disappointment, you should print a retraction.

Petey replied,
Perhaps you can explain to me, then, who all those people were streaming onto the field before the final gun sounded. Auburn couldn't have tried a PAT even if it wanted to (and didn't).

This continued for another couple of testy emails, after which Petey apruptly stopped responding.

Unlike Pete, I don't expect anybody to take my word for this stuff, so let's go to the videotape, or rather to the high-definition recording on my Tivo. Here's a shot of the north end zone, where Patrick Lee scored Auburn's final touchdown as time expired (click on any of the photos to see them full-sized). It was taken immediately after that touchdown, as the two teams converged at midfield:

Gee, that's funny. The only people on the field appear to be security guards (they're the ones in the Osmose-yellow shirts), photographers, and football players. Seems to be plenty of space available if Auburn had wanted to bother kicking a meaningless extra point. But hey, I bet if we jump ahead a minute or so, all those drunk Auburn fans will show up:

Hmm. Not there, either. How about in the blimp view?

Now, if "thousands" of people were rushing the field, you'd be able to see them coming in from the sides and end zones, but whoops, still nobody there except the two teams. But hey, I bet that Auburn student section rushed the field like they were auditioning for parts in "Braveheart 2!"

Okay, to be fair, it's hard to see around that (quite lovely) AU flag, but on either side of it and in the end zone, you can still clearly see that the students are still in the stands, and there's nobody on the field who shouldn't be.

Well, with the exception of alleged genius Urban Meyer, I mean.

So, Peter. You're lying. You lied in print. There were never any "thousands of fans who rushed the field." And you've been caught. High-definition photographic evidence shows us that ZERO fans 'rushed the field.' So, where's your correction and apology?


UPDATE: Talk about not knowing when you're beaten. Kerasotis emails, "Can you identify for me which security guards were carrying the Auburn flags?"

Those are called "cheerleaders," Peter. They are commonly found at events known as "football games," and, believe it or not, they are allowed on the playing surface before, during and after these "games."

Give it up. You've lost. Not unlike the Gators.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Introducing The DMAS

As an Auburn graduate who lived in Baja Alabama for seven years and currently resides in Atlanta, I very rarely find myself rooting for anything other than penalties, turnovers, high ankle sprains and NCAA investigations where either UGA or UF are concerned. However, on this rare and notable occasion, I must stand in full solidarity with my SEC brethren.

With a couple of weeks to go before this year's Georgia-Florida game, there are already moves afoot to mark the official re-naming, or rather un-naming of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party as demanded by UGA president Michael Adams. While snarky t-shirts and clever signs are certainly one means of expressing discontent at Adams's pinheadery, I think a more practical solution is in order.

To cut to the chase, we need a new drink to mark the occasion. I hereby suggest that we invent a Dr. Michael Adams Shooter, or DMAS. As befitting its namesake, it should be cold, sour, pale, and surprisingly potent. Here's a suggested recipe:

1 measure vodka
... since Adams works at a college, he's probably a Communist.

1/2 measure Triple Sec
... since, er, it's good in shooters.

1 splash of "Pom" Pomegranate-Tangerine juice
... for the two schools the DMAS commemorates: Pomegranate red for Georgia and Tangerine, er, orange for Florida.

Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into shot glass and consume rapidly. Repeat as necessary.

And just to stave off those who would say, "But Will, it's not the World's Largest Outdoor SHOOTER Party!"...

For a DMAS Cocktail, add more ice and Sprite.
... a neutral-site mixer if there ever was one.

Clearly, this historic effort calls for a great deal of experimentation and testing, but this is important work that must be done. The idiocy of Adams cannot be endured without this deeply meaningful protest. With the right amount of dedication to serious drinking, I believe it is entirely likely that all of Jacksonville will be covered up with DMASes by next weekend.

A Fine Whine, Redux

From today's Birmingham News:

The Southeastern Conference said Monday the officials got it right when they ruled Florida quarterback Chris Leak fumbled on a third-down play at the Auburn 6 on a decisive drive in the fourth quarter Saturday. Auburn, up by one point at the time, went on to a 27-17 win.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said he thought the play should have been ruled an incomplete pass, and used his coach's challenge to have the replay officials review the call. The replay official sided with the game officials. Meyer asked the league office to review it again Monday. SEC coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said the game officials made the proper call.

"It was a very close call, an extremely close call," Redding said. "What happened is he started his arm forward in a passing motion and then sort of stopped. You can see this in slow-mo pretty well. He stopped the passing action and the arm was outstretched, the hand was outstretched. There were really two actions."

The only officiating question I had after that game was, how in the world the referee could stand there staring at Florida OT Jim Tartt's from-behind tackle of Quentin Groves in the end zone and not even reach for his flag (the field judge wound up flagging the play from ten yards away).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Way Too Early SEC Bowl Projections

This is a projection, not a prediction. I rolled through the remainder of the SEC schedule, and based on nothing more than guesswork on who'd be favored in the remaining games and assuming the favorite would always win (which they won't), the regular season final standings would look like this:

Alabama: Currently 5-2, projected finish 7-5 (underdog to Tennessee, LSU and Auburn).
Arkansas: Currently 5-1, projected finish 9-3 (underdog to Tennessee and LSU).
Auburn: Currently 6-1, projected finish 11-1 (should be favored in every game).
Florida: Currently 6-1, projected finish 11-1 (should be favored in every game).
Georgia: Currently 5-2, projected finish 7-5 (underdog to Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech).
Kentucky: Currently 3-4, projected finish 4-8 (favored against Louisiana-Monroe).
LSU: Currently 5-2, projected finish 9-3 (underdog to Tennessee).
Ole Miss: Currently 2-5, projected finish 4-8 (favored against Northwestern State and Mississippi State).
Mississippi State: Currently 2-5, projected finish 2-10 (should not be favored again).
South Carolina: Currently 4-2, projected finish 6-6 (underdog to Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Clemson).
Tennessee: Currently 5-1, projected finish 11-1 (should be favored in every game).
Vanderbilt: Currently 4-3, projected finish 6-6 (underdog to South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee).

With the understanding that things will most likely not turn out this way--upsets can, do and will happen--that'd be a very interesting finish. It would set up an Auburn-Florida rematch in the SECCG that might send the champion into the BCS title game. At worst, the winner would play in the Sugar Bowl. It would also set up Tennessee as a lock for a BCS at-large bid, I'd guess in the Rose Bowl--not half bad. I'm guessing Auburn gets that slot instead if Arkansas wins two out of three against Carolina, Tennessee and LSU, dropping Tennessee to the Citrus and knocking down everybody else in the following list (by rule, conferences are limited to two BCS bids), but that possibility violates the who's-favored rule, so we'll disregard it for the time being.

After that, things get really messy. The Citrus is liable to be a three-way train wreck involving the SECCG loser, Arkansas and LSU. Just a guess, but I think the Citrus would take LSU. I almost said the Outback would grab Arkansas, but the Pig fans have a terrible reputation for not travelling to games, so on further review, I think the SECCG loser would go to Tampa. In no small part because a sizeable portion of Arkansas thinks the Razorbacks are still in the Southwest Conference, UArk would get the Cotton Bowl.

That would most likely put Alabama in the Peach Bowl, since the Turds haven't played there, er, ever, dropping Georgia down to the Music City. I think the Liberty Bowl would grab Vanderbilt, as breaking a quarter-century postseason drought would make the Commodores would be a major media draw. That would leave South Carolina to pay another visit to lovely Shreveport. If I were their players, I'd be thinking seriously about starting another brawl with Clemson as an avoidance maneuver.


I got together with Orson from EDSBS last Thursday for a couple of beers and a pre-game summit meeting. Good guy, even if he did get a few funny looks for the jorts and Isaac Asimov sideburns.

Anyway, once the first round was underway, Orson turned to me and asked, "Is there any spot on the field where you really think Auburn has an advantage?" I was in full depth-of-despair mode after the Arkansas debacle, and couldn't even come up with one. Orson had to throw me placekicker as a consolation prize. As I told him and anybody else who asked me last week, I was entirely pessimistic about AU's chances going into the game. Heck, I didn't really believe the Tigers were going to win until almost literally the last play.

Then again, as I also told everybody who asked, I've been 180 degrees wrong in predicting almost every big Auburn game over the last five years. I shouldn't have been so surprised to miss this call, too.

The nagging question about AU over the last month was, "Are they having bad games, or were they just not very good to begin with?" Rolling over for Arkansas certainly pointed towards the latter, and the Tigers didn't do much to change that perception in the first half. While the offense did a good job of holding the ball and moving between the 20's, that limited success was mostly thanks to individual efforts on the parts of the recievers and running backs. The offensive line did a good impression of Alabama 2005, giving up five sacks on Brandon Cox.

As everybody knows by now, the Lizards ran at least as well as as the Pigs had a week earlier, and the defensive pass rush was as awful as ever. The last and worst straw had to be media phenom Tim Tebow trotting 20 yards untouched into the end zone, despite every single person in the stadium knowing before the snap he'd be running the ball. As we were being tortured by the Worst Halftime Show Ever (okay, it wasn't quite as awful as the Tuscaloosa Inflatable Hat incident of 2000, but it was nearly that bad), the main topic in the stands was, "How bad will this get?" The crowd was almost out of the game.

Fortunately for Auburn, things were neither as dispirited nor as placid in the Tiger dressing room. According to multiple accounts, Tommy Tuberville lit up both the team and his assitants, particularly on defense. The specifics are still sketchy, but it sounds a little like the riot act Pat Dye read to his team at Georgia Tech in 1987, or in Tampa on New Year's Day of 1990. Whatever was said, it clearly had an impact, and not just on the players. Even coaches need to be coached, and after the last four games, it was high time somebody got Will Muschamp's attention.

You don't need me to tell you what happened next: Auburn came out and started playing serious defense. Not only did the Tigers finally get off the ball and stop the run, Chris Leak started to get knocked around, and true to his tendencies, the Gator offense tanked around him. After four weeks of virtual inaction, Quentin Groves lived up to his billing, terrorizing Leak with a renewed pass rush. And of course, Tray Blackmon could hardly have made a bigger statement in his long-delayed first college game.

The emotional rush in the stadium was palpable. Stopping Florida on their first series was a gigantic boost, but blocking the punt for a touchdown was a veritable match thown onto gasoline. If you want a historical precident, it was a lot like this:

This game reminded me a lot of that oft-forgotten 1993 tilt for another reason. Then as now, the Florida offense just shredded Auburn in the first half, but AU stepped up and controlled the ball and the game after intermission. As in '93, the defense shut down the Florida run and started getting to the quarterback. The analogy isn't perfect; the halftime deficit was only six points this time around-- but that was very fortunate for Auburn. Unlike in '93, the AU offense still wasn't able to score. The big upside for the offense was simply keeping possession the ball for most of the game. The longer Auburn's offense could hold the ball, scoring or not, the fewer chances Florida had to come back.

I wish I could say that it was all in the bag after the blocked punt, but that wouldn't be remotely accurate. Florida didn't have things as easy in the second half as in the first, but they certainly didn't fold. Tebow became a non-factor, but even with all the turnovers, I thought Leak did a nice job of moving his offense when he had some traction. Auburn continued to sputter on offense, and once again couldn't get that one first down they needed to ice the game. Like I said above, I didn't really think AU was going to pull it out until the very last couple of plays.

But of course, they did, and with an delightfully enjoyable flourish on that last touchdown. Where things go from here is anybody's guess, but I do think it's possible--possible--that this was the corner-turning game for the '06 Tigers. I'm not about to go making any bold predictions this soon on (don't even talk to me about that BCS ranking; I was as stunned as anybody), but Auburn at the very least should be favored for the rest of the regular season.

The light is on, and a lot of opportunities are beckoning. Let's see what happens next.

One suggestion: this team doesn't get an open date, but Tuberville could do a lot worse than bestowing one on his quarterback this week. Cox has gotten his brains beaten in for the better part of a month, and the guy could use a day off. There's no reason why he should play against Tulane on Saturday. Put Blake Field in there, get him some more experience, and give the one indispensible guy on the squad a chance to heal up. He, and the rest of the team, would be a lot better for it going forward.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Well, That Sucked

Last Friday, I swapped emails with an old classmate about the upcoming game. "Think they'll blitz the hell out of this kid tomorrow?" he asked.

"I doubt it," I replied. "Auburn's been burned really badly by Arkansas running misdirection in the past. I imagine they'll back off of overpursuit on defense. I'd guess the game plan is to get an early lead, take away the running game, make them try and come back throwing the ball."

At least I was right about the second part. Problem was, that turned out to be Arkansas' game plan. The much bigger problem, of course, was that it worked to perfection.

Suffice to say, it was an ugly day for Auburn. Very little went right. A few scattered observations:

1. The offensive line was downright offensive. Losing a starting center is never a good thing, but all the pass protection breakdowns on the ends were even worse. For all the good press he's received over the last couple of years, Hugh Nall has not produced a consistently-performing line, even during the undefeated run of 2004; by the last two or three games, defense had it figured out, but Nall never adjusted his schemes. Based on the last three games of this year, it looks to me like that catch-up process has been accelerated. It doesn't help things any that Auburn has not recruited well on the o-line for a few years now. I take a back seat to nobody in my admiration for Joe Cope, but AU still shouldn't have to be starting walk-ons up front.

2. It's obvious now that the Auburn offense is suffering greatly from a diminished receiver corps. Losing three 1,000-yard receivers to graduation appears to have been a crippling blow. Yes, there's been some improvement since the first of the year, particularly on the part of Rodgeriqus Smith, but by and large the wideouts are not getting open. Give Arkansas' defense all the credit in the world, they deserve it, but the Hogs do not have a great secondary. They were still able to cause way too many coverage sacks on Saturday. With AU's passing threat neutralized, Arkansas was able to key on stopping the run in the first half, and after that the rest was just commentary.

3. The defense was lousy. No excuses. Bad tackling, overpursuit, dumb mistakes, you name it. For lack of a better explaination, I'd almost say the AU D has lost its mojo. It's doubtful that Auburn will play against two better running backs than Darren McFadden and
Felix Jones this year, but that's cold comfort at this point.

4. Driving home, I was struck by how similar this team's play has been to Georgia's 2004 squad. Both teams clearly thought their game against LSU was the season: win it, and the rest of the year is a cakewalk. Didn't turn out that way. Complacency kills in the SEC, and for all their successes, complacency has always been a hallmark of the current Auburn staff.

There are pieces to be picked up, and given the history of the team and that same staff, there's some reason for hope, but right now things look pretty bleak. As good as Arkansas played on Saturday--and make no mistake, they were real, real good--they're still about the fourth- or fifth-best team on the Auburn schedule. The answers are going to have to come very, very soon if AU is going to salvage the remainder of this season.

UPDATE: The JCCW says exactly what I was thinking regarding Tuberville, but didn't actually write.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

100 Cool Points To Reece Davis

Immediately after Chuck Amato was interviewed at halftime of the NC State-FSU game (just now), Reece Davis of ESPN quoted the now-famous (and hysterical) Raleigh News-Observer parody cartoon about Amato. Quoth Davis, "There's Chuck Amato. It's hard out there for a coach."

Major cool points to Davis. That is all.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What He Said

Further proof (if any were needed) that Tony Barnhart rules:
Somebody suggested to me that one of the reasons the pollsters like USC instead of an SEC team for the No. 2 spot in the rankings is that the SEC plays too many low-scoring games and therefore the football is not perceived as good. Well, let me be blunt about this. If you think a 7-3 game between Auburn and LSU is bad football then you’re an idiot. If you vote in polls and you think defensive football is bad football then you should turn in your vote and go play video games because that is the level of your intellect. If you think USC is really a better team than Auburn or Florida I don’t have a problem with that. That is a reasonable argument to have. But high scoring football does not equal quality football. If it did, Boise State would be the national champion.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Posted Without (Much) Comment

Total offensive touchdowns over the last 8 games vs. SEC opponents:

Auburn: 26
Florida: 26
Vanderbilt: 26 (!)
Georgia: 22
LSU: 22
South Carolina: 21
Arkansas: 20
Tennessee: 17
Kentucky: 16
Ole Miss: 10
Mississippi State: 9
Alabama: 8

Bring Back The Ted

After watching last weekend's Southern Cal-Washington State game, I said to myself, "Self, Auburn would beat the Trojans by a couple of touchdowns." But that's not the point of this post.

The point is, that game was televised by Atlanta's own WTBS, and they did a heck of a good job. The picture quality was great, the camera angles were spot-on (far better than Can't Broadcast Sports' lackadaisical work in Gainesville), and the announcers made Jefferson Pilot's Lincoln Financial's Three Idiots Named Dave look like, er, three ill-informed and cliche-bellowing idiots named Dave.

All of which made me ask myself another question: "Self, why the hell isn't TBS still carrying the SEC?"

For those too young to remember, JP LF did not always televise the SEC's early-morning game. It was none other than Ted Turner, Atlanta's own septuagenarian cable mogul and all-around nutball, who first picked up that additional SEC game for telecast back in the 1980's. And while Ted will deservedly burn in hell for inventing the horror of the 11:30AM Central kickoff, his old network did and does light-years better of a job at actually televising a fooball game than the current owners of the conference's third-string contract.

What's not to love here? Unlike the syndicated and spotty coverage of JP LF Sports, TBS is carried on every single cable and satellite system in the country (for those keeping score at home, that means an additional game on national television, not just some random regional pickup if you pay for GamePlan). They already cover every facet of a game better than JP LF, and besides which, despite being owned by the TimeWarner colossus, Turner is still based out of Atlanta--so what the heck are they doing covering Pac-10 football?

Hey, Mike Slive! Jefferson Pilot's Lincoln Financial's contract with the SEC is up in 2008. Here's an idea: drive over to Atlanta a day early before this year's championship game, and take a meeting with TBS. We, the long-suffering fans of the conference you run, will thank you.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Around The SEC with Gnarls Barkley

Providing the theme for this week's SEC recap, the inimitable Gnarls Barkley. The wife and I caught the final show of their tour last night, and it was Big Fun. My only complaints: (a) the real Sir Charles was the lone member of Atlanta's blingocracy who didn't make an apperance, and (b) "Necromancing," tragically, is not a Rush cover. Onward:

Gnarls Barkley

There's no doubt Steve Spurrier was driven Crazy when Auburn held the ball for the entire third quarter in Columbia. Then again, AU's defense looked like it had mentally moved to St. Elsewhere for the entire fourth quarter, so things wound up being pretty even. I was really down on South Carolina early this season, but they may have found their offense at last with Syvelle Newton in charge. It'll be very interesting to see how they do against Tennessee, Florida and Clemson later on. For Auburn's part, I'm guessing there's a Storm Coming on Saturday for Arkansas' true freshman quarterback and high school offense. The Tiger defense is going to be itching to prove itself again after giving up all those yards to Carolina.

Down in Red Stick, LSU truly looked like The Boogie Monster in demolishing Mississippi State. I will be flatly amazed if the Bengals don't put a serious hurting on Florida this weekend. As for State, their season was already Gone Daddy Gone, but what's worse, it looked to me like the Other Bulldogs had completely thrown in the towel before the LSU game even kicked off. Things won't get any easier for Sly Croom when West Virginia rolls into Starkvegas this weekend.

Speaking of Florida, it took the Lizards the better part of three quarters to get over The Last Time they played the Cringing Turds. UAT has a very weird mojo over Florida; the Gators almost never play well in that game, while the Bammies play way over their heads more often than not. Still, UF got over it eventually, and put an end (at least for a week) to all the chatter about three-picks Sarah Jessica Parker Wilson being the Saviour. I thought Leak was decent after he got settled, but I don't get the whole Tebow thing. There's a reason why nobody plays the option in these parts any more, and it's not going to take very long at all for SEC defenses to figure that one out. As for the ever-Necromancing Turds, they get a two-week break in the schedule before heading to Knoxville. They'll beat Duke by a hundred on Saturday, but then again, a reunion of my sister's 1991 intramural flag football team from Birmingham-Southern could probably beat Duke by 70.

What little I saw of the Georgia-Ole Miss midnight madness game at Oxford set college football back 40 years. Just A Thought for both Ed Oregon and Mark Richt: try running the ball. Neither one of you has a competent passing offense, so find somebody who can carry the rock and then show some damn patience in developing a running game. Richt in particular has some really bad Feng Shui this year--something's out of place, and it's his lack of a consistent quarterback. Unfortunately for him, Richt is still obsessed with the Bowden chuck-and-duck offense, and apparently won't consider lining up and running over people with any one of his pretty-darn-good three tailbacks. Bad for him. Bad for UGA.

Tennessee is still trying to push the Cutcliffe-is-a-Transformer theme this year, and managed to whip up on a pretty poor Memphis Saturday morning. I'm still on the fence regarding the Vols thus far. Ainge has been hot and cold, either scary-accurate or reverting to the old chuck-it-up-and-whine-like-his-uncle-Danny of last year. I don't have any idea what to make of the UT-UGA clash this weekend. You'd think Georgia's defense would be a good indicator of how much Tennessee has or hasn't improved, but then again, Georgia's offense is so bad, that defense may be on the field the whole game. That'll be an interesting game to watch.

In other news, it's all Smiley Faces in Nashville as Vandy wins its second straight, but even if the Commodores manage to beat Ole Miss this weekend (a very distinct possibility), I don't see how they'd get to six wins and a bowl. Still, Vandy is looking a lot better than I'd expected them to this year. Ditto for Kentucky, but then again, Who Cares?