Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dr. Z's Ole Miss Preview

"What is it with Ole Miss and crazy people on the sideline?"

Houston Nutt is crazy. I know, tell you something you didn't know. Remember last year when he was rumored to be our next coach at Auburn? I fumed for a few minutes until I realized it wasn't true, because not only is he crazy, but he is a mediocre coach at best. If we get into a comparison, I am happy to have Coach Chiz and Co.

Which bring me to my next point. Our friend Jerry over at took me to task (in a really nice way) over my comments last week about Auburn getting worse while other SEC schools,namely Miss St. and Tennessee are improving as the season rolls along:

Another grenade I’ve seen lobbed at Chizik and Co. from multiple angles–one handy example, though Dr. Z is generally on point–is that Tennessee and Miss. St. are improving while Auburn is not.

First, this kind of overlooks the fact that a big reason Mullen and Kiffin have room for improvement in the first place is because Chizik whipped them both. Second, those teams’ “improvement” is overblown: Miss. St.’s best performance remains the shoulda-been win over LSU, and that happened one week after Auburn torched them. As for Kiffin, he’s done a great job getting Crompton’s head finally screwed on properly, but that’s been the only real difference in the UT of the first several weeks and the last few–their QB wakes up, ours falls apart, and that alone is enough to make Kiffin the better coach, even after he lost to Chizik in Knoxville?

Jerry makes some valid points as always, but it still does not change the fact in my eyes that on the field as a whole we regressed. We can blame that on all of the the different things that have occurred. Attrition, injuries, Tuberville, etc.

Rob talked earlier in the year about the enthusiasm of the coaching staff. He wondered out loud about what happens when things weren't going well. I think we are seeing some of that now, because to me we are not handling the adversity well.

I still believe that we can get it done, but I am as anxious as ever about the state and future of our program. Maybe the guys over at trackem are right with the 6-6 Saban first year comparison at Bama, but that guy at the airport stills screams "5-19, 5-19" in the back of my head. Anyway on to the game:

This is another chance for Auburn to climb to 7 or 8 wins on the year I still see us having a chance in the UGA game and hope springs eternal for the Bama game. Few wishes for us in this one:
1.Todd makes some throws.
2. If #1 doesn't happen, then Caudle makes some throws. His feet also can help us as well.
3. Get Mario some touches. I'd love to see him wildcat. Kodi's beat up, and he also needs some dental work after LSU.
4. Bring some heat Ted! Rob's right. We need to bring the noise with a blitz or two. Make Jevan Snead beat us deep or force a pick or two. It may be our only chance defensively. The 10 yard cushion is killing us.

Finally if I have sounded pessimistic lately, my apologies to all. I think I got too excited too early about this team. Now I am made of disappointment.

Oh yeah, the pick:
Hotty Totties 27
Auburn 13

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ole Miss Preview

There's really not much to say. Coach Chizik has made it clear Chris Todd is his guy at QB. My opinion has been and will remain Chris Todd is damaged goods, a mere shell of his former self. I fully recognize I could be wrong, but based on the last 3 games performances as my evidence, including an amazingly putrid 47 yards against LSU, I rest my case.

I realize Chris Todd can't keep Lee Ziemba from jumping offsides, or Andrew McCain from holding, or Darvin Adams from dropping a ball on 3rd and 7. And he sure can't keep PPL from muffing punts, Zack Etheridge from running by a ball-carrier, or Neiko Thorpe cover a receiver down the sideline. Chizik is right, the entire blame can not be completely placed at the feet of Chris Todd. But, when you look at the one constant the past 3 weeks that has changed drastically from weeks 1-5, it is the play of Chris Todd. As Todd goes, Auburn goes! When we were winning, Ziemba was still jumping offsides, PPL was muffing punts, Etheridge was missing tackles, the defense was getting ripped-to-shreds, but Chris Todd was picking up the slack and making plays with his newly constructed right arm.

I'd like to predict great things this week...a return to winning ways, a productive offense, a defense that tackles well and forces turnovers, a kicking game that is helpful rather than a burden to overcome. Unfortunately, Ole Miss is a terrible match-up for Auburn. Defensively, Ole Miss is everything a traditional SEC defense is known, aggressive, and tough against the run. Offensively, they have the closest thing to Noel Devine we'll see all year in Dexter McCluster (remember Devine as the guy we still haven't tackled 2 years in a row from West Virginia!!) and a quarterback that, when on, has the potential to be one of the best in the land. The combination of the ability to pound you in the running game, spread you out with the passing threat of Jevan Snead, and find creases with McCluster, it should make for a long day defensively. Our only chance is for Snead to play miserable, our defense to play lights out, and our offense to outscore a mistake prone Ole Miss Rebel squad. Which leads us back to Chris Todd. Can he do it? I hope he can. Will he do it? I don't think so. Prove me wrong Chris! Crow would never taste so succulent!

Ole Miss-29

Monday, October 26, 2009

LSU Reax: Oh the Humanity

This about sums it up*.

I had a bad feeling this might happen. The fatigue, LSU's week off, superior depth and talent. Yet I still expected more of a fight. I had no idea we'd get absolutely dominated by LSU.

What really bugs me is looking around the league, teams with new coaches seem to have gotten better. Tennessee is vastly improved. Mississippi St. played Florida off its feet.

And Auburn is worse. Much worse. We knew there would be struggles this year, growing pains,etc. But this team seems to have imploded, like nothing I have ever seen before.

Sure there are injuries, depth issues, scholarship atrition, but none of us expected to see this. None of us expected to get blown out from wire to wire. It is disturbing to say the least.

Like Rob, I do not think it is time to jump ship. I do think even after the great first 5 games Chris Todd played, it is time to give Neil Caudle a look.

Defensively, I don't even know where to begin. Little pass rush, too much cushion, poor tacklng. This is the worst Auburn defense I have ever seen. Hands down.

Special teams. Was that a sky kick that wasn't so sky on the kickoffs? What has happened to Durst?

So in summary, other than offense, defense, and special teams, I guess we are Ok.

Looks like I may get to watch Auburn at Legion Field again, in the Papa Johns pizza bowl. Oh Joy.

*Hindenberg was to me the best way to describe the season so far. Open to other suggestions.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

LSU Review (10-31)

Had I made the trip to Baton Rouge...I'd ask for a refund. The Auburn Tigers never showed up for this one (the understatement of the year)! After an all-out assault on Auburn's manhood, questions abound...

What in the world has happened to our team in a three week time span? How do you go from an explosive, high powered, effecient offense and be reduced to the anemic, puzzled, penalty-laden group we saw Saturday against LSU? How do you continually allow young, inexperienced quarterbacks that have played pathetic football look like world beaters against our defense? Why can a LSU offense, incapable of running the football against anyone this season, continually gash our front seven for large gainers? Isn't our front seven the same guys that played last season? Weren't they considered the "strength" of not only our defense, but our entire team? What is the deal with all the penalties? Is Chris Todd healthy (I think not), and if so please explain his cataclysmic demise?

To be fair, the referees were no friends of Auburn to start this game. To win at Death Valley, at night, on ESPN, against a LSU team coming off of a bye week having lost their last game is about as close to impossible as there is. When the refs show up viewing the game through purple and gold lenses, you don't stand a chance! The first drives both teams had were stopped (Auburn's) and sustained (LSU's) solely by the one-sided calls of the zebras. It was blatantly biased and complete BS. I thought the rest of the game was called okay, but the tone had been set, their damage had been done.

What we're seeing now is a team with zero confidence. They've been embarrassed in Fayetteville, unable to stop Kentucky, and completely dismantled by LSU. Lurking just beneath the surface are the same character issues we struggled with last year when things get difficult. We've seen players dismissed from the team (Adams), players noticeably regress (fill in the blank with your players of choice), a seemingly disinterest and ambivalent attitude with poor play. You wonder how long before the finger pointing starts, has it already started, do the players believe in the system, their quarterback, their coaches? Remember, most of these players did not choose to play for these coaches...and I've seen first hand how smoothly things run when things are going well, and how disasterous things are when the wheels start coming off and your dealing with a perceived "outsider".

I personally believe in Coach Chizik and believe with time will return Auburn to Atlanta and beyond. I do have an enormous question mark hanging over the head of Ted Roof. Do I believe he should be one and done...absolutely not. But thus far, I have been woefully unimpressed with the scheme, the lack of production, the inablilty to do anything well. He deserves a chance to get "his guys" in place, but he'll feel the heat to drastically improve next season. The good news for Roof, it can't get any worse!

Back to the LSU game...

-Add McCalebb to my unofficial list of guys not performing due to injury (with Chris Todd, and Antonio Coleman). McCalebb ran with minimal aggression and went down with ease. Perhaps LSU equalized his greatest asset, his speed, thus reducing McCalebb's play-making abilities.

-Our receivers have not helped Todd in the least. Unless they're wide open (which is rare), I can't remember a receiver making a catch after taking a big hit, sandwiched between defenders. Is it tough to do...yep. Does every other SEC team have receivers that do it week in and week out...yep. Perhaps the timing is off, but they look like a group, as a whole, in complete shambles.

-AREA OF IMPROVEMENT- OUTSIDE LINEBACKER- Eltoro Freeman played every snap at weakside linebacker and was the lone bright spot of the game. Welcome to the 2009 football season 'Toro!

-Todd looks terrible...again! Got to believe Neil Caudle gets more reps this week in practice. I like Todd, and believe all he overcame to even take another snap in an Auburn uniform is nothing short of amazing. But Todd is not the Chris Todd of weeks 1-5 (not even close). Consecutive games under 100 yards passing (47 yards against LSU!!!???) and that's enough to convince me it's time to look elsewhere for production.

-Defensively I've given up. I'll no longer emotionally invest myself in a unit so willing to give up rushing yards and passing statistics to teams with green quarterbacks. To win from here on out we'll have to outscore whoever we play, which coming off a less than 200 yard offensive output, I'm not holding my breath.

At this point in the season, we can pack it in or we can make some widesweeping changes. My intitial plan would be a change at quarterback. I would find someone capable of delivering the ball on time and effeciently. Defensively, I blitz every play. And not one person zone blitzing where you hope you guess right. No, I bring more than they can block at every conceivable opportunity--and I live and die by it. Many times we'll get burned, many times we will make something happen. Either way we get the offense back onto the field in hopes of finding a rhythm and scoring points. Prognosis at week 8--on life support!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dr.Z's LSU preview


Once again it's time for our trip to America's version of a third world country also known as Louisiana. I had the unfortunate privilege of living in this State a few years ago as an intern. My wife and I did an internship in Shreveport. Most people in Purple Tiger land consider Shreveport east Texas, but make no mistake, there a plenty of obnoxious LSU fans here.

True story here: We had a patient here who came up for a consult from South Louisiana who had her eyes removed by a voodoo lady because she was seeing devils. She came in with bandages over both eyes and her LSU t-shirt. My take home from that case was LSU fans were hardcore..and possibly insane.

My only trip to campus was as a student in 97. The fans around the stadium were OK if you ran into the right ones. I got to sample some really good gumbo, jambalaya, and alligator. But I also endured some really foul language. I pretty sure this guy was swearing at me in a language that was part English, part french and part martian, but I am just not sure. I left the game happy, as Dameyune Craig and Auburn pulled out the victory on the way to an SEC West title. I also left reeking of bourbon, because LSU fans love to throw their bourbon when they score, and corndogs, and we all know the reason for that by now.

If you are a single guy and headed down, be careful about the women you hit on, because she just might be a voodoo woman. If this chick to the right is tailgaiting, I'd steer clear.
As for the game, I just don't know. If Auburn week 1-5 shows up, then we have a good shot to win. Week 6 or 7 Auburn? we could be in for a 2003 type Baton Rouge beatdown.

My big cause for concern is stopping that run game. Rob is right, the LSU offense is very much like Kentucky, with better players. Charles Scott is a great back and shredded our defense last year when we were still considered a great defense. That being said, LSU has not exactly been an offensive juggernaut this year. Les Miles has tended to outsmart himself (probably not hard to do) on the offensive side.

Defensively, LSU has also underwhelmed considering the immense talent they have. They are in the process of learning a new system under John Chavis, who is a respected longtime D-cord, but something hasn't clicked yet. They improved some two weeks ago against Florida, who now appears to be very mediocre on offense.

Given that LSU has had a week off to stew over that loss to Florida, and given Baton Rouge at home at night, I do not have good feeling here. To be 100% honest, my concern is not LSU, it's Auburn. We look tired and beat up physically and mentally. I'd love to say we could catch lightning in a bottle, but I just cannot see it happening Saturday night. Hoping I am dead wrong....

Auburn 14
Corn Dogs 24

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LSU Preview

When Les Miles was a kid he must have collected Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" cards. I've never seen a team escape so many "there's no chance they win" situations only to come back and miraculously win. Amazingly his LSU teams are able to overcome not only insurmountable circumstances, but they consistently do it in spite of their foolish coach. They enter each game with two opponents...the one standing across the field and the man who calls their shots. It's an amazing thing to watch.

The best thing Auburn has going for it against LSU is the Bengal Tigers seem to always play to the level of their opponent. If they play UAB or USC it seems to always come down to 4th and 8 and they convert despite Miles trying to change the play or call timeout or run the ball when a pass is the logical play call. Every game LSU has played this season the outcome has been in question in the fourth quarter, including leading Vandy 16-9 in the fourth. They should have lost to Georgia were it not for the referees giving LSU the game. They should have lost to Mississippi State were it not for MSU getting cute on the goal line. The point is, they repeatedly find themselves in a fight down to the wire against the best teams in America as well as the worst teams in this conference.

LSU's offense has been terrible this season. Either their QB has zero confidence or the coaching staff zero confidence in him (probably a bit of both), but their passing game has been poor. With their top two tailbacks returning including the biggest and smallest back duo maybe ever, conventional wisdom was the running game was going to be dominant on the Bayou this year. Surprisingly, itt hasn't been good either. The problem...if you can't pass the ball with some success you can't run the ball with any success(unless you're Kentucky playing Auburn at night in Jordan-Hare with a true freshman QB....). Teams have loaded up the box and have dared Jordan Jefferson to beat them. He's not that talented.

Auburn's problem is LSU represents everything Kentucky was...only bigger, faster, and stronger at every single position. Auburn knew Kentucky had to run the football to win the football game and we could not stop them. LSU enters with the same plan, only two weeks to study tendencies, weaknesses, add new wrinkles, and chart a plan of attack.

Defensively, LSU will be the best defense we've played to date, perhaps the best we'll play all year save Alabama's. I'd be shocked if Ben Tate rushes for over 100 yards in this one. The only way that happens is if Chris Todd can squeeze the ball in to tightly covered receivers with pressure in his face. If it's Chris Todd games 1-5 we have a shot. If it's dead arm Chris Todd from Fayetteville and against UK, we lose big.

The key to this game will be our offenses ability to stay on the football field. If we keep the defense on the field all night, LSU wears us down in a hurry with their big backs and athletic QB. But if we sustain drives and keep the defense off balance by mixing up personnel groupings, spreading the ball around, taking strategic shots downfield successfully, and running the ball enough to keep them honest then we can win this game.

Unfortunately, I don't think Chris Todd is healthy (whether it's fatigue or reinjury) and until he proves otherwise, I expect to see a repeat of the last two weeks. His play affects our ability to run the ball, our ability to play defense at a high level (mind you that bar has been set awfully low this season), and ultimately our ability to win games. It all hinges on him. Is that unfair?---yes it probably is. That's a lot of pressure for one person to strap on their back. But that's what the Gus Malzahn offense requires, solid, consistent, efficient distribution from the QB position. It'll be close, but the Cajuns have some sort of voodoo magic to seemingly make the ball bounce their way.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Couple more random thoughts

Let me say for the record, that's not Dr. Rob at the porclain throne in the my picture after the UK game. I've gotten a couple of texts about taking pictures of Rob in his underwear. So just to clear that up...

After the presser today w/ Chiz, its blatantly obvious that everyone sees problems and asking questions about our weakside LB situation. Could it be that Ted Roof has what we in the eyecare/bloggin world call Gran's syndrome*?

Gran's syndrome is a condition where although you have a better specimen/talent at a position you become myopic in your coaching and decide to go with a "safer" option at that spot. Here are a few examples:

1999 RB Clifton Robinson over Heath Evans(yeah, that Heath Evans who still plays for New Orleans). Legend has it that early on, Evans went to Gran and told him "I'm the best back you've got." Gran didn't like the bravado I suppose. Evans finally started the Georgia game that year. Auburn led 31-3 at the half.

2003 Cadillac/Ronnie 1st/2nd string. 3rd string Tre Smith(!). Brandon Jacobs 4th string. OK, so more forgivable here. Except for the Tre ahead of Jacobs. Maybe Gran made them do cartwheels over the goal line to see who is next in line. Jacobs transferred and now is the feature back for the New York Football Giants.

The disease at its worst-Tre Smith starts ahead of Kenny Irons (Cartwheels again?) in the Ga Tech game. We can't run the ball at all, and Brandon Cox throws it like 50 times in that game with 4 picks, and we lose. We flouder for a few more weeks. Kenny didn't know the blocking schemes, or so we were told. He figured it out in time for the LSU game, where he famously predicted going for 200+ and backed it up.. Again, maybe it was just too much bravado for Gran to take?

So here we are in 2009, Ted Roof has a cocky, green, all-world juco transfer. He elects for the safe choice in Herring. All of this is totally hypothetical, of course. But I keep hearing similar things. Doesn't know the defense, just not ready, etc. Eltoro was even MIA for the Arkansas game, which tells me its doghouse or injury (likely the former).

Maybe he's in the doghouse. Maybe he really doesn't know the defense. But it's base defense. We don't appear to have any wrinkles/twists/complexities that are hard to learn.(Rob might elaborate more here).

My fear/conspiracy theory is Roof is upset with his talented, confident (borderline cocky) Toro and going with Herring, who is just absolutely getting killed out there.

I know its silly to speculate, but with our depth issues at LB, we need this guy. If it really is a knowledge thing, get him a football tutor. I bet a guy as talented as Freeman can make up for most of it.

Love to hear anyone's thoughts on this silly rambling while I finish my last patient of the day.

* OK, really not a disease, and I love Eddie Gran, but he seemed to miss sometimes with his choices in the RB rotation over the years.

Kentucky Reax: Wheels Come Off, Pate Throws up in mouth

This is no way to treated an cherished Auburn Ex-Pat

Well, that sucked. I can do without the "Kentucky's really pretty good stuff" I have already sort of heard. They are a mediocre SEC team that had no business beating us at home. We felt that way before the season started. They were who we thought they were, except they started a frickin freshman QB. Watching this defense get gashed time after time gets really old, and it appears that all of that early excitement in the young season still translates to 6-6 when all said and done.

Anyone want to take odds on how long before our creative student section begins the cheer "the Roof, the Roof, the Roof should be fired"? Seriously, I know that depth is an issue. We looked tired in the 4th. I can understand that. But we didn't force the issue toward the passing game to expose those young quarterbacks. I can also understand how the poor offensive performance puts the D in bad spots. But hop in the way back machine with me to 1996. Terry Bowden was pass happy. The defense was thin as could be. But Bill Oliver was able to mask weaknesses and play to our strengths. He patched together a pretty good defense on the way to an 8-4 season. But Oliver is a defensive genius and Ted Roof is, well, he's Ted Roof.

Rob said all their is to say about Herring at weakside LB, except that he's a disgrace to #31. He really should be wearing the jersey of a mediocre college player (my number was #14, Adam, and my career collegiate ERA was around 6). Kentucky exploited this kid all night to the point where I felt bad for him. He is obviously not SEC caliber.

I think it might be hook time for Chris Todd. That second half throw to Mario "under-utilized" Fannin was evidence enough for me that his shoulder is dead again. It short hopped Mario by about five yards. The other aspect that we are missing is the scramble. I can count at least three times on a 3rd and five where Todd's refusal to tuck it and run for a first down cost us. On those designed draw plays he actually gained yardage. So that little wrinkle is there and we've seen some evidence (against Ball St, mind you) that Caudle has wheels. I wonder how long into the LSU game before the hook comes out if he struggles again.

Ben Tate, you da man. 30+ carries, 130+ yards again. I hope it continues to be a great year for Ben. I hope he makes lots of money in the League one day. He has taken his lumps here and will go down in AU history in the top five in rushing. I also think he will be one of under appreciated backs as he fades into history.

Not much else to say really. When you make Rob Pate throw up in his mouth after some of the games he had to be a part of in 98 and 99, well I guess that says about all their is to say. LSU's next and heaven help us find our groove and soon. The Corn Dogs only had a week or two to stew over that loss to the Gators.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

14-21 Loss to Kentucky (as I vomit in my mouth) Review

That was difficult to watch. Not because we lost to Kentucky (I actually think they're an underrated team that's played a brutal SEC schedule). Our lack of basic football fundamentals (particularly on defense) makes my stomach turn and my tongue stray. Our tackling is atrocious. Absolutely awful! And our scheme was pathetic, bush league against a team starting a quarterback taking his first ever collegiate snap. Our offense wasn't much better either. For this offense to click, we must have a quarterback capable of delivering the ball...Chris Todd has been unable to get that done 2 weeks in a row now. False starts on 3rd and 1, overthrows, underthrows, throws into triple coverage, an illegal formation on 3rd and 6 on the final drive (running a gimmick play at that??), untimely 3 and outs, and offensively we beat ourselves. Kentucky's defensive gameplan was simple, we refuse to give up the big play and force you to sustain drives without making mistakes...we couldn't do it?!

My observations...

-Chris Todd is injured and has been since Tennessee. No, I don't have any inside information; this is complete conjecture on my part. But it's quite obvious Todd's arm is not what it was at the start of the season. Todd was hit after a throw and driven into the ground directly onto his throwing shoulder midway through the UT game. He got up with a tremendous grimace and a "dead arm" and I said to myself at the time, "He's hurt!". He finished that game, but I still find myself wondering if he reinjured that shoulder and is keeping it to himself to save his season (perhaps at the expense of Auburn's).

-#31 Herring is outmatched and a liability for the defense. I hate to say that, one because I don't like calling players out (except for quarterbacks), and two because he wears my number and is the lone white guy on the defense (two things to which I can relate). He can't get off blocks, he misses too many tackles, and he's a step slow. He's by no means the only reason Auburn allowed over 300 yards rushing to a team without a quarterback, but his play stood out as an obvious weakness. What does this say about Eltoro Freeman his back-up?

-Kodi Burns needs to run more and dance less. Contrast Kodi Burns taking a direct snap and running off tackle to Tim Tebow. Kodi dances and jukes desparately looking to avoid contact (you're not wearing your orange practice jersey on Saturdays Kodi). Tebow takes the snap and looks for someone to run over. Tebow looks ugly but gets results (positive yardage every time). Burns looks pretty but for every positive yardage play he counters with a negative. Just take the snap, find a hole, put your head down and get 4 yards!

-Ted Roof must get more creative. How in the world a team with a true freshman quarterback that threw worse than my eight year old daughter was able to come into our stadium and run the football when my four year old daughter knew what was coming is a complete mystery to me. Play man to man on the corners and put everyone else in the box. Tell Kentucky by your alignment that you're not going to run the football. You may beat us deep and if you do congrats, but take away what they want to do, the only thing they could do. LSU is similar to Kentucky in this regard (so is Bama). Blitz and play man and see if we can create a turnover or two.

-Offensive pass interference is no longer in the rule book (I guess). UK's first scoring drive was kept alive by a third down conversion in which Kentucky's receiver obviously pushed off on Demond Washington creating the separation necessary to make the catch. It was a pitiful no call and would have been flagged 100% of the time if roles were reversed. Maybe I'm sensitive to this as a former defensive back. And while we're on the topic of penalties, how Kentucky played an entire SEC game on the road without a single penalty called against them is comical as well.

-Chris Todd's decision making was poor. He threw into double, if not triple coverage on more than a handful of occasions making me cringe each time. How he escaped throwing but one pick was a miracle.

-It appears Pierre-Louis has decided the best way to hang on to his new role as punt returner is to not catch a punt at all. It beats fumbling but it also adds an extra first down our offense must convert each possession.

-Still don't understand how a team with so many depth problems can have a guy like Gabe McKenzie holding his helmet on the sideline. He must be done.

Even with all of the above miscues, we still should have won this football game. Unfortunately, the road gets tougher from here on out. LSU will be similar to Kentucky in style (only with better players at every position). To have a chance we need Todd to be healthy and mentally into it, and a defense that decides to start putting pressure on quarterbacks as opposed to ourselves.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kentucky Preview

No one has had a more brutal SEC schedule than Kentucky. Florida, Bama, on the road to South Carolina then Auburn. At best, most SEC teams would be 1-2 in conference after this stretch of games (including Auburn) and UK would be too were it not for a failed 2 point conversion last week against South Carolina (and listening to Alabama fans build up South Carolina this week, South Carolina will be a BCS team!!??). What does it means UK is a better football team than their record indicates and they're a team coming into this game with their backs against the wall. We know what happens when you play a team that has run up against the SEC's best and are playing to save their seasons (see Arkansas last week). It means you better take them seriously or run the risk of dropping one you shouldn't.

Kentucky does many things well. They can spread the ball around (prior to their QB getting hurt) and they run the football very effectively. Defensively, they're salty enough to stay close against everyone they play. Like pretty much every team in this league, they have a tailback that can go the distance from anywhere on the field. Word is a true freshman gets the start on the road this week. That alone should equal a loss for Kentucky. You don't put a true freshman in that position unless he's a stud. No disrespect but if he were a stud he'd be playing elsewhere. Nonetheless, expect UK to rally around a young QB and do everything they can to help him succeed (establish a consistent running game, move the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly, lots of short/ball-control passing routes). He'll run the play called in the huddle and will be told not to audible on the line (too inexperienced, and one less thing to worry about). This means defensively we should have the upper hand via alignment and presnap reads. We should be able to bait a young QB into making mistakes down the field. So don't expect many deep throws from the freshman.

Offensively, we've got to establish a rhythm. We can't afford three and outs, ever! We have to give our defenders a rest...not so much from their defensive duties as from having to run 50 yard sprints covering punts. Getting in a rhythm offensively seems to happen quickest when we spread the ball around getting everyone involved early. Can't turn the ball over this week!

Ultimately, Auburn should win this game for no other reason than having an experienced QB and superior running game. We just can't afford to give away field position and thus points through fumbles, INTs, and poor kick coverage. If we can't stop the run this week against a team sporting a true freshman QB without the abilty to audible into a better running play, then hold on tight, the rest of the season will be extremely bumpy. I believe our defense rises to the occasion this week and we see more blitzing than we have all year. The offense capitalizes on the UK mistakes. Auburn rebounds before heading to Baton Rouge...but again it's close!


Dr Z's Kentucky Preview

The Joker is Kentucky's Coach in Waiting

Ok, so maybe not that Joker. But Joker Phillips has done an admirable job calling the plays for Kentucky this year. I have a feeling this coach in waiting thing may work out a little better for Joker at Kentucky than for Jimbo at FSU. Another former AU coach is also a coach in waiting. Will "Boom mutha%&$#@ !" Muschamp is set to take over for Mack Brown. I thing the coach in waiting thing is hella-stupid. How can that be good for the existing staff? Anyway, on with the preview.

Huge game for the psyche of Auburn this weekend. It is a game a good team should win at home. So why am I so worried about this Kentucky team who's got crushed by Florida while crushing Tebow? This team who lost by 18 at home to Bama? Oh and their starting QB is out with a knee injury. What could possibly bother me about this game?

Well two things really concern me. #1: The Cats can run the ball/Our defense gets leakier each week. Not sure if it's depth (especially at LB) or scheme or what, but this is a bad Auburn defense right now. #2: Doesn't it feel like we could blow a game that we had marked down to win? I hope I am totally wrong about uneasy feeling.

Hopefully this week our offense will be back to its usual big play, fast as hell, fun to watch self. Todd 2.0 needs to get back to sharp again. He missed some pretty big plays last week than could have kept us in the game against Arky. I understand that QB's have those days. Let's hope that is the only day like that this year.

Can we get Fannin the ball more somehow? I'd love to see him wildcating at some point his year. The wildcat has been limited due to a banged up Ontario and to a lesser extent Kodi, but I think that we have weapons other than the speedwagon and Kodi. We just need to use them.

This week, the home crowd gets us up and ready. Night game at JHS means a W. Our guys should be focused and ready to play. It's going to be next to impossible for UK to bring a backup QB into that atmosphere and win. Look for a 6-1 Auburn team headed to Corn Dog country.

Auburn 31
Basketball School 21

Monday, October 12, 2009

Arkansas Review

Well, I can't in good faith leave you a legitimate post-game review this week because (thankfully) I was unable to watch the game. I had an eight hour business meeting Saturday in Orange Beach and only kept up with the game via my Blackberry and frequent instant messaging from a disgruntled Dr. Z. Based off the stats, his commentary, the Coach Chizik Show, and post game articles--here goes...

-We were ill-prepared to play (obviously)- Apparently Coach Chizik called the Tigers out at Thursdays practice telling them they were not ready to play. He repeatedly stated in his postgame speech in the locker room to the team his warnings during the week and how he told them this was coming. Disappointed this team worked so hard to be recognized in the polls only to lose focus and desire once the attention came.

-Chris Todd was off- I hope that's all it was and not a sign the shoulder is tiring out. Apparently the timing was poor and Todd's accuracy was pathetic. Every QB has a day like that. He must rebound this week and prove this was a fluke and not the new norm.

-Tackling is a mentality- You can look no farther than our inability to tackle and know our minds were not fully focused on the task at hand. When you're mentally into it, you tackle better no question. When you're going through the motions you get 44 hung on you. Against Tennessee we were as intense as I've seen and our tackling was great. Apparently not the case Saturday.

-11 am start = loss for Auburn- No explanation for this. Again it goes back to a team's mentality. We need to toughen ours. Can't afford to come out flat on the road against anyone.

-Turnovers- Result from loss of focus and attention to detail. Giving the opponent a short field, giving up scoring opportunities, putting the defense back on the field all result in negative consequences and it reared its ugly head in Fayetteville.

The silver lining to take from this game is we didn't quit. In year's past (i.e. last year) we'd have never drawn the game to within 11 points in the 3rd quarter. Arkansas was poor matchup for Auburn and they exploited our lack of depth, our lack of emotion, and our mistakes. Every team in America will lose a game this year, many against teams they shouldn't lose to. It's both the beauty and fallacy of college football. The great teams fix their problems, learn from their mistakes and play each game with unmatched intensity from start to finish. Auburn has some problems this year that can not be fixed (namely depth). What can be fixed however is our attitude, our ability to play each week with unbridled passion and desire to win. Will be interesting to see how we respond with a tremendous bounce-back opportunity at home against UK.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Arkansas Reax: Back to Reality

Why is that Fayetteville Arkansas is some black hole for our tigers? I guess Rob calls it correctly about the 11 AM start. Of course from where I was sitting we actually didn't seem to start until around 1:05.

This game was really a perfect storm for bad stuff to happen given the early start, the kudos heaped on Auburn all week, and most certainly a desperate Arkansas team in a must win game (look at that upcoming schedule and tell me how they make a bowl game without a home win yesterday).

We all should have seen this one coming. I had a bad feeling about this one when I got up Saturday morning for no other reason than I didn't wake up early enough to slow cook something on my green egg for the game.

A few brief observations:
-Chris Todd had by far the worst outing of 2009. He actually looked more like Chris Todd the original vs. Todd 2.0. Averaging just over 4 yrd/pass play wasn't going to cut it. Let's hope its an outlier. He was due a not so good day. Let's not make a Snead out of it. (My new phrase for QB sucking in consecutive games)

-Ben Tate had his best day for Auburn...except for that little fumble on the 3 that was followed by the backbreaking 95 yard drive. Congrats Ben. You lead the SEC in rushing, but let's remember that between the 10 and the goal line we really need to not fumble the FRICKIN BALL!

-Defense was a FAIL yesterday. Tackling sucked. We looked confused. Very troubling that we didn't do a better job against a previously anemic Arkansas run game. ZERO pressure on Mallette. I had a bama friend text me yesterday and ask me why we weren't getting more pressure on him like the Tide did. My answer was and I quote: ???. I am fairly surprised we didn't try more with blitz packages and get Mallette moving. The other answer is we don't have Bama's personnel to do those things to Arkansas.

-Not sure why we have gotten away from the wildcat around the goal line. Kodi would have gotten us in when Tate fumbled. And what was that set we ran out of? It looked like the Mike Shula "Jumbo" set.

Take aways from this one: We were due a reality check and Coach "Penis with hat on" Petrino gave us one. (aside: I don't care how good he is, I am so happy this ass-clown never coached at Auburn). If we have 3 and outs, we are in serious hurt. Defense has got to stiffen and get better. (pretty tall order considering depth)

OK. So what's next? We bounce back and blast Kentucky is what. Anyone else happy to be 5-1 at the halfway point? Me too. War Eagle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tennessee's Workout Schedule

Just got some info on the Volunteer off season weight training routine. The above photo might explain some things about their conditioning and why they looked so gassed during the game Saturday.

1. Rip off shirts. (banana hammock optional)
2. Oil up.
3. Blast "It's Rainin' Men" over loudspeaker. Dance like nobody's watchin'
4. Pose for Picture and look "fabulous".
5. Weight training optional.

Seriously this is the most homo-erotic thing I have seen since the volleyball game in Top Gun.
H/T: Walt @ Wire and Shug.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Arkansas Preview

This game scares me more than any thus far. I don't believe for a second Arkansas is a superior team. The problems are...

1. Arkansas' strength (quarterback play) is matched to Auburn's weakness (depth in secondary, and pass rushers).

2. First morning game. Totally different atmosphere and feeling running out to play a football game in the AM vs PM. Even worse on the road. The entire itinerary is turned on its head. Wake up call will come around 5:30. Meetings are abbreviated, and even the pregame meal is altered. Then, in the second half of the game, you're hungry because you haven't eaten since 7:00 am (and no one feels like eating much of anything a few hours before you lay your guts on the line in an SEC battle). But you force-feed yourself because if you don't eat you won't have the energy to make it through the game. I bet we haven't practiced in the AM since preseason camp. This will be our largest obstacle this week, even greater than who we're playing.

3. A week of pats on the back and national recognition. This is probably the least of all my concerns, but a concern none-the-less, because of how many young guys play pivotal roles on this team.

4. Arkansas. Not the "name" that gets the competitive juices flowing for most of our roster, however, a team capable of blowing your doors off if you come in unprepared with the wrong state of mind. Arkansas needs this game badly...there first 4 SEC opponents--Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida....brutal. I'm sure they were hoping to split these first four. Lose to Auburn and it's an uphill battle to Shreveport.

I expect Arkansas to come in confident and eager to prove the Bama game was an offensive anomaly. Petrino will take this challenge to heart, having coached with Chizik at AU and not wanting to be outshined by another offensive genius across the field in Malzahn.

Malzahn is an interesting story line as well. My gut feeling tells me if he has the opportunity to put up 100 on Arkansas he'd relish the opportunity. Arkansas/Houson Nutt Tony Franklin'd him a few years back and I'm sure Malzahn is salivating at the opportunity to score and score often Saturday.

I expect Malzahn to call a "conservative" (relatively speaking) game in an attempt to control the football and chew up clock. Our best defense will truly be our offense and our abilty to allow our defense to rest while sustaining drives with first downs.

Defensively, Alabama has layed out the blueprint to slowing down Arkansas' prolific passing attack---pressure Mallett and force him from the pocket. Alabama blitzed Arkansas from all angles, and Mallett looked like his cleats were stuck in tar. Make him uncomfortable in the pocket, force him to move around and disrupt their timing, and your own your way to success.

Offensively, the unsung hero has been Eric Smith. He's the bowling ball lead back clearing the way for enormous holes off tackle. He's made critical catches to prolong drives as well and he'll be key in this game. If I'm a defensive coach, I'm telling my players to follow #32 and he'll lead you to the ball.

I can easily see us trailing early in this game from either giving up a big play or not being mentally ready for the early start in Fayetteville. I don't believe Arkansas is as well rounded as Auburn is and can play keep away with the football when needed. It's a tough one though!


Dr. Z's Arkansas Preview

Neither one of these Fearless Arkansas Leaders Promotes a Strong Defense

Well, It's track meet Saturday for the Auburn Tigers. For 4 years we been clamoring for point production. I have a feeling this weekend we may need it.

This is a pretty big measuring stick for our team. How well will we handle recognition? We are nationally ranked, getting props from all directions now. This is usually the point where the wheels tend to come off, and this campus in Fayetteville seems to always be the location.

We have seen our share of stinkers here over the years, dating all the way back to Terry Bowden. Dr. Rob can tell you about 1999 in the rain when the lights went out on Ben Leard (a Tebow-esque concussion), and Auburn had no answer in a 34-10 loss. Two years later we return for a 42-17 drubbing. We have fared better here recently, though, having not lost in Fayetteville since 2003 ( may have more to do with the decline of Houston Nutt than anything).

The main difference between those days and now is, well...everything. Arkansas really doesn't run the ball anymore (111 rushes for 447 yards, that is a little more than 111 yards per game). They are near the bottom of 1-A in rushing stats. Whether it be because they can't or just choose to sling every time, they are a fairly one dimensional team.

But it is a pretty good dimension, because Ryan Mallette is the real deal. Arky will put up points in a hurry, just ask Georgia. Our big key defensivley is getting a push with our front four. Coleman and Co have to apply pressure or Mallette has the ability to eat us alive.

Defensively, the Hogs are bad against the pass, a little better against the run, and all around pretty awful. They haven't stopped very many folks this year, including giving up 460+ to A&M in a victory.

The key to this game on offense will be the run game. If we run the ball and have long drives, I think we win comfortably. If it becomes a track meet, then all bets are off. I think the Hogs have little choice but to sell out against the run and risk the big play, and hope that they are close enough at the end to give Mallette a chance to win it in the last seconds.

What will (hopefully) happen...Auburn's balance is too much. Look for more downhill running and more ball control, as Guz slows it down just enough to keep the potent Arkansas offense cooling their heels on the sideline. Big day from Tate and Fannin again. Mallette gets his numbers, but it won't be enough to stop Auburn and the Guz Bus.

Auburn 38
Little Pigs 28

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tennessee Reax: Trucked by Ben Tate

Eric Berry, did you get that license #?

For all of the hype all week about Monte Kiffin's NFL defense, we sure found out a good bit about how Guz's "high school" offense works. I was particularly impressed by our coaching this week. We were fast paced when we needed to be. The volunteer defenders were gassed all night. That is the first time I have ever seen 2 defensive time outs because of fatigue/confusion in one half. But when it came time to milk the clock, we slowed it down, chewed up time of possession, and did it the old fashioned way.

The result? A resounding win on the road in a tough environment and a 5-0 Auburn team that now looks like a serious challenger. On the way into work today the talking heads in the 'Ham are talking two undefeateds in the Iron Bowl. Let's not get crazy here. That would be a dream season, but my guess is somebody will slip up and beat one or both before November rolls around.

But for now, we savor the flavor, because Auburn has never beaten the Vols 5straight times, and there are few teams out there that are more enjoyable to whip than the UT Billies. Some other Observations

-Ontario is a huge asset on kickoff returns. Nice to see him used wisely on special teams.

-Welcome back Frenchy. Now for your next trick-catch it and run forward.

-This game really could of gotten out of hand. I give Tennessee credit. I really thought they would fold when we jumped out. Still obviously not as close as the score indicates. Which brings me to...

-Lane Kiffin really loves moral victories, I guess, by signaling for a two point coversion after a meaningless TD as time as time had run out. In any case: bush-league, Kiffy. I wouldn't expect anything less out of you.

-Nice move on cancelling Tigerwalk, UT. You don't tug on Superman's cape, or Trooperman's towel.

-OK. So where from here? You got me. I am enjoying this magic carpet ride. We all are. Cannot wait for another revenge game Saturday. Should be another track meet.

Tennessee Review

Great performance on the road! That's the way you go on the road and force your will upon your opposition. Kudos to the coaching staff and upperclassmen for getting this team prepared and mentally ready.

What stood out:

1. Auburn has a plethora of playmakers! Every person that touches the ball does so with the intent of scoring. Loved the way we got the ball to so many different people.

2. Ben Tate ran the football like a man.

3. Downhill running attack. Other than an occasional reverse or misdirection play, I don't remember one instance where the running back lined up beside the Chris Todd and took a handoff running sideways. North-south running out the pistol formation with a lead back was brutal all night.

4. Kickoff return yards paid enormous dividends. Loved seeing McCaleb and Tate as the return guys. The kickoff returns in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.

5. Tackling much improved. Auburn swarmed the football and for the most part tackled very well. We're gonna miss a few against quality running backs like Hardesty, but all in all, the defense looked like an Auburn defense.

6. Chris Todd was impressive with pressure in his face. He did a fantastic job of eluding pressure without giving up sacks even when we left blitzers totally unaccounted for. Better than just not getting sacked, he made some great throws on the run to keep the chains moving.

7. Tennessee's defense was gassed by our pace offensively, particularly right before half, calling two timeouts on one drive.

8. McCaleb is fast, explosive, and fearless.

9. Need to convert touchdowns in the red zone as opposed to field goals. Will be much more important this week against a team capable of scoring lots of points.

10. Jonathan Crompton was not helped by his receivers. I've never seen so many dropped passes in a single game. Our young secondary will face their greatest challenge yet against Arkansas.

Game Ball--Ben Tate and Wes Byrum