Monday, September 24, 2012

New at Rivals: Auburn-LSU Column

My Monday-morning column for the near-miss against LSU is up at Rivals'  A preview:
If you wanted improvement from Auburn, you got it Saturday night, at least on defense. This was certainly the strongest defensive performance of the year, and the best Auburn has played on that side of the ball since last year's Florida game.
Holding LSU to 10 points on offense really should have been more than good enough to land what would have been a monumental upset and a fine benchmark to build on.  
Unfortunately, the previously-immaculate kicking game gave up a critical turnover, and the offense couldn't hold up its end of the bargain. Auburn gave up essentially two drives, LSU's opening touchdown and their next drive that ended with a fumble near the goal line (and provided the two-point margin of victory one botched Auburn play later). After that, the Bengals were held to eight punts and two field goal attempts for the rest of the game, one of those aided by the aforementioned fumble.
The rest is on the subscription side, but is offering a free first months' subscription to anybody coming over from FTB.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New at Rivals: Column for Louisiana-Monroe

My Monday-morning column for the Louisiana-Monroe game is up at Rivals' A preview:
In an old episode of "The Simpsons," Homer accompanies convenience-store owner Apu on a pilgrimage to the original location and home office of the Quikee-Mart Corporation. When Homer observes that the store, situated on top of a remote mountain in India, is not actually all that convenient, an exasperated Apu retorts, "Must you dump on everything we do?"

That's a little what it feels like today when you have to write about Auburn's 31-28 overtime win over Louisiana Monroe. Considering the Tigers came in 0-2 with nowhere to go but up, and actually looked like a functioning SEC team for several stretches on Saturday, the notion of "a win is a win" is tempting to embrace.

And if Auburn had finished out the way it played most of the first three quarters, there would be more reason for optimism going forward. As it is, almost everybody left the stadium thinking, "this team is fortunate not to be 0-3."
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New at Rivals: Postgame for Mississippi State

My Monday-morning column for the Mississippi State game is up at Rivals' A preview:
Almost nothing went right on offense. Auburn's statistics are grossly padded by the last, failed drive in garbage time. The few times the running game got going, State just piled more guys up front to stop it, and Auburn had no way to take advantage. The passing game went nowhere meaningful at any point. 

Put bluntly, Kiehl Frazier looks tentative, and he looks scared, and to be fair to the kid, there are good reasons for both, as he's not getting much help from anybody. Not from a line that can't pass protect, not from receivers who can't get open or block, not from a coordinator who's in the booth apparently calling plays for a team that's not on the field. But even so, Frazier was nothing short of dreadful Saturday, tallying all of Auburn's five turnovers on his own.


To no one's surprise, after such a debacle, talk almost immediately turned to the future duration of Gene Chizik's tenure at Auburn. Talk of spoiled fans or unrealistic expectations all you want, but nobody should be surprised by that reaction. As noted here a week ago, the AU football team is beset with a number of problems, many of them not of Chizik's making... but not so many that his squad had any business getting destroyed by Mississippi State.
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

New At Rivals: Clemson Postgame Column

Here's a preview of my column for on Auburn's opener against Clemson:
Stated bluntly, for the second year in a row Cousin Clem brought more to the fight. Taj Boyd is an outstanding player at quarterback: strong, fast, experienced and accurate. Clemson has a ton of team speed on offense, particularly including Andre Ellington, who's obviously something special at running back. A rebuilt Clemson defense had a lot of bend but very little break, holding Auburn to field goals on three trips to the red zone and closing with a ferocious shutdown of the new AU offense on its last few possessions.
Defensively, Auburn played respectable football for the first 45 minutes, but ran out of gas in the final period. Clemson converted nearly 50% of their third downs (which while still bad, was from Auburn's perspective an improvement on 2011's 78% conversion rate) and had the horses to put the game away after trailing early in the fourth quarter. The real killer was in the play totals: Clemson snapped the ball a remarkable 87 times to Auburn's 64, in a textbook example of how the hurry-up game can wear out an opponent through sheer repetitive attacks.
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.