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!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated

What a crazy few days for Auburn football. First, Ted Roof bolts for sunny Orlando to re-unite with his old boss George O'Leary. George really doesn't pay much attention to resumes any more, so Ted was a great hire.

I'm least concerned about this move. Chizik could hire an orangutan with a headset and likely do just as well as Ted Roof 2011.

Probably the most shocking news of the week was Gustav leaving for, of all places Arkansas State. Speculation that Guz was unhappy or the ship sinking on the plains are nonsense. Blowhards like Clay Travis even speculate its because the NCAA is still ready to drop the hammer. But Clay's about as good a sports journalist as he is an attorney, so take what he says with as many grains of salt you can find.

I think Guz just really wanted a head coaching gig and after his fail in 2011 his window was closing. I think he did a really good job in his tenure at AU up until the second quarter of the Clemson game and beyond. He arguably did his best job in 2009 at Auburn coaching up a team with no proven weapons at WR and the One-armed Zombie to a pretty amazing offensive year.

His departure doesn't mean the sky is falling however. We have too many very good to great players on offense to be mediocre on offense in 2012. If T.J. Yeldon sticks, and there's no reason to think he won't at this point, we should have an embarrassingly good backfield in 2012. This may sound nuts to anyone other than the guys at the Auburner, but I think asking Al Borges to consider a return is not a bad idea.

It's obvious when the guy has talent he's one of the best. If Tubs would've stuck with him after 2007 Auburn would've won 8 or 9 in 2008. The job he's done at Michigan is astounding. He and Chiz had a pretty good working relationship when they both served under Tubs. He loves the town. I think he'd be a good pick. I doubt he'd come back, but he'd be worth a shot.

Finally, we come to the issue of one Michael Dyer, who busted on the scene in 2010 and has become the best player on offense in 2011. Speculation about his attitude and other things that are legal in Colorado with a prescription have dogged him in 2010. So Mike, meet me at camera 3.....

Whazzup brah? I hear you've been having some...let's call them creative differences, with the coaching staff. I feel ya brah. 3 carries in the first half of the Iron Bowl won't cut it. But let's get right to it- There's a lot of grade A beef moving to the Plains for 2012. To be #1 next season, you better be "all in", to borrow an over-used quote. You have a chance to be special. You have shown what an asset you can be, but you've also shown you can be an equal headache. So suck it up, pull your head out, and do whatever you need to do to get back in good graces by spring. Otherwise you'll be an afterthought. Don't be an afterthought, broseph.

Anyway, that's all I got for today. War Eagle everybody...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time to Reflect: Random Thoughts

--The LSU defense made Georgia’s Aaron Murray look like Clint Moseley. And I don’t mean for that to sound disparagingly...that defense is so solid, they took one the SECs most experienced and talented QBs and made him look like one the of the SECs most inexperienced. It really made me feel sorry once again for Clint Moseley and the fact he’s being judged for his play against the two best defenses in college football…behind a porous offensive line, and a predictable running game. So we don’t need to throw in the towel with Clint Moseley yet.

--Speaking of the LSU defense. Their defensive line is obviously dominant and just like Auburn's--they're all sophomores. We used inexperience/youth as an excuse. LSU just lined up and beat the hell out of every offense it faced. Time for our front four to grow up.

--Every team Auburn lost to this year had at least 10 wins. 3 of the 5 are playing in BCS bowls, 2 in the national title game, and one that got completely screwed in Arkansas being picked over in favor of VT and Michigan. There’s no shame in who Auburn lost to this season. There is shame in how we lost a few of those games however.

--9 of Auburn’s 12 opponents are in bowl games.

--Remember Utah State having their way with our defense? They finished the year 7-5, 6th in the country in rushing and will go bowling in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

--Guys I feel like will be large contributors next season: Jermaine Whitehead, LaDarius Owens, Kris Frost, Erique Florence, Sammie Coates, Mike Blakeley, Justin Garrett, Greg Robinson/Christian Westerman, Angelo Blackson….not even mentioning Phillip Lutzenkichen, Emory Blake, Mike Dyer, Corey Lemonier or Onterio Mccalebb.

-- Auburn needs a dependable playmaker at WR (JaQuay Williams) to go alongside Emory Blake, a fiercer demeanor in the trenches (Robinson, Westerman, Latu), another powerful, every-down tailback (TJ Yeldon, Blakeley), a few stud linebackers (Frost), and an accurate, mobile QB (remains to be seen), a new defensive coordinator (Stoops? Ellis Johnson? Jeff Fisher? Jack Del Rio?).

--If I had a Heisman vote: 1. RG3 2. Trent Richardson 3. Andrew Luck
Anyone capable of making Baylor a winner deserves the Heisman. Alabama wins every game they won this year if Eddie Lacy takes every snap and Trent Richardson never plays a down. He's not as important to his team as RG3. Luck is the next Peyton Manning. Tyrann Mathieu is the best big play guy I've ever seen, but he's not even the best corner on his team...probably not the 2nd best either.

--BCS: The travesty is not in the BCS Title Game Rematch…the ultimate travesty is the selection process by the Sugar Bowl and putting a Virginia Tech team in over Arkansas or Boise. VT beat no team in the top 25 and was completely dominated by Clemson twice. Arkansas lost to the two teams playing of the National Title Game.

--The BCS is run by the powerful, for the powerful, favors the wealthy, is an equal opportunity screwer and sooner or later it will screw your program. Sounds like life...or our government!
Without BCS LSU would have Clemson in the Sugar Bowl for the it does some good.
Harris Poll is a joke: these people are never heard from, operate in obscurity and aren’t held accountable.
Coaches Poll is a joke: You shouldn't vote based off who you think is a better team…you should vote based off who has done more to earn their ranking. That’s why preseason polls should never occur. They taint the jury pool and are based on nothing but a brand name and a guess.

--Virginia will be a tough game for Auburn. It pits their strength against our weakness...the trenches. Auburn needs to a victory to springboard into next season. This young team really needs a positive to end the season.