Thursday, December 29, 2011
Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview
What an incredibly fickle year for the Auburn faithful! A year in which the Auburn Family experienced the pinnacle of college football as well as what has become synonymous with the worst in college football, Harvey Updyke (Winner of the Paul Finebaum Caller of the Year Award!). We saw four talented players destroy their lives with heinous, incomprehensibly poor decisions, as well as Auburn sign another stellar recruiting class tops nationally. We were introduced to the "bag man" and assured by "credible sources" our National Title would be stripped, and we celebrated as another Auburn great (perhaps the greatest) went on to become the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. We lost a key component to our defensive tenacity in Coach Rocker joining the staff of the Tennessee Titans, and had our curiosity piqued by the staffs unsuccessful attempt to lure Russell Wilson to run the Malzahn attack (our first clue to offensive problems on the horizon). We saw Barrett Trotter win a hard-fought QB battle only to lose his leadership role never to return, ushering in the Clint Moseley era. From scrapping back to pull off a shocker over Utah State to going into Columbia, SC and winning in big boy, old school fashion...beating a top 10 team on the road and going 3-2 through the most difficult October stretch in the country. From stuffing Mississippi State at the goalline to preserve the nations longest winning streak, to getting blown out to our biggest rivals. The NCAA closing its 13 month long investigation into Auburn and Cam Newton in which Auburn turned out squeaky clean in all things Cam related, to losing two coordinators, a five star recruit to Alabama (bless his heart), our best offensive player...all in two weeks! It's been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride!
All that to predict Auburn wins the Chick-fil-A Bowl. They win it going away. Yes, without Mike Dyer, down a coach, with an outgoing offensive coordinator...this team will play it's most inspired football game we've seen all season.
Defensively, no one has been more critical of Ted Roof than me...right here on this blog. I like Coach Roof, have met him, like his demeanor, the respect other coaches speak of when referring to him, the love his players displayed for him...but his time had come and Coach Chizik has lit a fire underneath this defensive unit. Listening to Auburn defenders trying to verbalize the stark differences between a Gene Chizik run meeting/practice and a Ted Roof meeting/practice has been eye-popping during bowl preparation. The "little things" had been neglected resulting in big (mostly bad) things on Saturdays (now going on three years). Playing defense is all about attitude and Coach Chizik will have these guys with the proper bent come Saturday night. I think it will be reminiscent of the effort we saw at South Carolina.
Offensively, this group will desire to send Coach Malzahn out in stellar fashion and I'm intrigued to see how it's accomplished with Mike Dyer no longer an Auburn Tiger. I have to believe we have more talent than Virginia and think a "hold-nothing-back" approach by Gus Malzahn could be a thing of beauty. I almost feel we will be asking ourselves post-game, "Where was that all season?!"
The only caveat is the mental preparation. Bowl week has lots of distractions. Lots of opportunities to make poor choices. Lots of opportunities to loss sight of why you're actually there. Surely Auburn holds the advantage in this department as it's united in ending this season positively for their coaches.
The Auburn Family needs something positive to occur Saturday. It's not a "must win" game by any stretch...Auburn will hire capable coordinators, will sign a tremendously talented class, and will be right back in the hunt next fall. The roller coaster cycle has us in a downward plunge at the moment and the Chick-fil-A Bowl is our opportunity to begin our ascent. Get ready for the ride cause things are about to get interesting!