Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Outback Bowl Preview

First and foremost, I hope you and your loved ones had a Merry Christmas and best wishes to you in 2010! May it begin with an Auburn victory!

If you are still with us and reading our pre- and postgame musings this late into the season, in the words of Dr. Z's favorite conservative personality, Glen Beck..."You're a sick, twisted freak!" (Actually Dr. Z loathes Mr. Beck).

The Outback Bowl!! Kudos Jay Jacobs for buying this bowl game for the Auburn Tigers. I'm not sure how many tickets you promised the Outback Bowl committee you'd take off their hands, we're just pleased to not be in Shreveport or, God forbid, Birmingham! High marks your way for working the system in favor of the Tigers.

Truth be told, I believe the Outback Bowl committee saw an Auburn team on the rise, a team capable of putting up an impressive offensive showing in an unorthodox fashion, a team whose fans travel well no matter the location. I believe in the end, the decision to go with Auburn over the other 7-5 log-jammed teams was an easy one for this committee.

Bowl game outcomes are difficult to predict because of the myriad of distractions the week of the game. You wouldn't believe how frequently people call your hotel room to ask if you could come down to the lobby to sign paraphernalia. I've seen photos of myself on eBay that I remember signing the week of my last football game in our hotel lobby. It's unbelievable. You never can tell how a team will respond to being on the road for a week rather than a day, if they're capable of mixing work with play, if they're mature enough to mentally prepare for their opponent.

If Auburn handles the bowl week mania maturely and in stride, I believe the match-up with Northwestern is one Auburn should dominate. Northwestern will move the ball and score some points, but ultimately the Auburn running game is too much for the Wildcats to contain...if Auburn is ready to play!


Dr. Z's Outback Bowl Preview

"Damn Dirty Apes..."

Of the many famous Alums from Northwestern, Charlton Heston has to be my favorite. He's done it all from Ben Hur to Moses. And gun lovers cherish him as Prez of the NRA until he became to senile to operate a gun. Actually, I hear after he died they really did have to pry it "from his cold dead hand."

Anyway, I have heard Northwestern called the Vandy of the Big 10. Excuse me, but I cannot recall a time when Vandy finished in the top 4 in the SEC. That is just an insult to the Purple Cats, who have really been pretty good ever since Gary Barnett took them to the Rose Bowl in the 90's. You might remember Gary Barnett from the Colorado debacle with the strippers paid for by the Athletic budget and the sexual assault of a female kicker. Barnett added insult to injury by saying she was a lousy kicker. Stay classy, Gary.

As far as the game goes, I am just not sure about several things. First, 10 AM start...yada..yada. I am kind of over the whole we play lousy in the early game thing. We played lousy against Kentucky and it was at night, at home, so I am not too worried about the 10 AM start.

Second, how good are the Cats? Offensively they throw it all over the place and hit short passes in doing so. That scares me a bit since we have been pretty adept all season at the 10 yard cushion. I do think the Auburn was a much better defense when fresh (i.e. early in the year and after the bye week against Bama).

Finally, how well have we prepped for this game. Is it a vacation? Is it a stepping stone into 2010? My guess is because of the no-nonsense guy that the Chiz appears to be we will take this game seriously. I also think Chris Todd the One Armed Zombie, Ben Tate, and A.C. finish their careers in style.

Auburn- 35
Nerds!!!- 24

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blown out by S.H.I.T.

Somehow this seems appropriate again

Auburn got blown out by Sam Houston St. (Originally called the Sam Houston Institute of Technology. They changed it for some reason. I can't figure out why) 107-89. It was the most points an AU team had given up since 1994.

I would call this rock bottom, but something tells me it gets worse after this. That same something tells me that if Jeff Lebo makes it to the new arena, it will be as a paying customer.

I am so confused and frustrated by this I may need to channel me some J.R. Suicide, though I am not as talented at swearing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

AU basketball--'A' for effort, with little to show

Auburn put up 72 freakin shots against Florida St. Auburn made 26 of those.

Foul trouble was to be expected. FSU's bigs clearly outclassed our guys, and with a tightly called game, we had our work cut out for us. Effort was there for sure. Our guys play hard and you cannot fault this bunch for effort.

The result was a 76-72 loss to an ACC middle of the pack team, and a 5-5 record before Christmas.

Auburn should win the rest of their non-conference games, and who knows with the SEC west what the 2nd season will bring.

I have already said that I had high hopes for Auburn this year with Reed, Walller, Sullivan, and Hargrove returning. I am stunned at how poorly we shoot the ball given our perimeter experience, and the free throw line. My God, the free throw line.

We just have to hope the jumpers start falling, or else it looks like another lousy year of hoops on the Plains.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Musings: Basketball, Bowling, and Bama

Is this it for Jeff Lebo?

It is amazing how quickly high hopes can evaporate. Jeff Lebo, fresh off of his best season at Auburn, had many of us thinking about dancing in March when this season began.

Now...not so much. After a 4-4 start, with losses to C-USA also ran Central Florida and Troy(!) to go with losses to a pretty good mid major in Missouri State and N.C. State, many Auburn hoops fans are left scratching our heads. THings get no easier with Virgina and Florida State coming up next.

We are beginning to see how much Vot Barber meant to Auburn as an inside presence, because our bigs are not doing very much in the paint. Not scoring much I can accept, but our bigs don't defend and they really don't rebound, at least not like Barber.

That being said our guard play is flat out lousy right now. DeWayne Reed was thought to be one of the better returning guards in the conference. He is 9 for freaking 38 from behind the arc. He's also 61.5% from the free throw line. 32 assist to 29 turnovers. Lucas Hargrove, another senior, is 6-31. Assist to turnover 1:1, as in 22 assists and 22 turnovers through eight games.

Frankie Sullivan has been a bright spot, and hopefully Waller getting healthy will help, but man, we are just bad right now.

I simply cannot understand how these guys can be so bad at the free throw line, and it has cost them the game in every loss.

In regards to Lebo, no doubt he is a pretty good X's and O's guy. He has done some remarkable things against better talent for years now. But for every good thing he has done on the court, he continues to shoot himself in the foot off of it by recruiting the wrong types of players (Josh Dollard comes to mind) then compounding that with adopting a heavy handed (and really holier than thou) discipline that sends guys fleeing for the door.

I heard someone say a couple of years ago "He's to clean for the SEC." I love the fact that Lebo is not a dirtbag like Cliff Ellis.

I love the fact that his kids play hard and over their heads.

I wish like hell for him to succeed, but I fear this may be his last year on the plains. A new arena opens next year, and we have a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start to our recently abysmal basketball program. It may not be fair to the guy. He started behind the 8 ball, but that was years ago.

I think it goes without saying he'd better get things turned around this season, and fast.

Outback bowling Hey, now that was not what I was expecting. But with so many mediocre choices from the middle of the pack this season in the SEC, why not Auburn for the Outback Bowl? We will get Northwestern instead of Wisconsin. For some reason I am happy not to be taking on the Badgers. Maybe it's the idea of Northwestern not being a power. Now watch them make me rue the day I ever said that.

I am looking forward to seeing a healthy Auburn team in this game. Speedwagon should bee 100% and our defensive guys should be well rested. I never want to put too much emphasis on a bowl game but we need to make a statement in this one.

Yeah, that's all I need So the Evil Empire destroyed the Gators and Tebow Saturday. How did I know that was coming. Did anyone see Darth Saban on the sidelines Saturday? I have never seen a guy so unhappy about totally dominating another team. Saban is football version of the guy in No Country for Old Men. He is ruthless, soul-less, and crazy. He is easy to hate but you must admire the job he does.

Saban's just like this guy, but a different bad haircut.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alabama Review: The Tide...It is a Turning!

I don't know if I've ever felt prouder of a team in defeat. The Auburn Tigers left their guts on the football field Friday and as a guy who recognizes maximum effort being given, the team with minimal to no depth played their hearts out and nearly pulled a stunner! Am I claiming a moral victory? Absolutely not! I'm claiming the Auburn Tigers fought like champions and led against a team that has steamrolled virtually every opponent it has played this season. They were fearless, aggressive, and united in the purpose of defeating an arch-rival, a team no one thought they could play with...not even their opponent. Alabama did what great teams do...they weathered an early onslaught, and went on a do-or-die drive converting multiple 3rd down attempts to win the football game in the end. When they had to have it, they delivered...and teams with depth and talent like they have have that capability. What this game displayed is the gap between the programs has narrowed considerably in one season...that's what made us proud! Losing this game is still a bitter pill to swallow. But, when even Alabama's band members felt silly singing "we just beat the hell out you!" as is tradition in post-game, you know you've garnered respect! They may not admit it...rephrase...they'll never admit it, but deep down they know, Alabama has no place else to go but down...and Auburn is on the rise!!

What I saw...

1. Auburn sold out to stop the run and was going to force Greg McElroy to beat them. They stymied the run better than anyone could have ever dreamed, but unfortunately, McElroy played well above his head and was mistake free.

2. McElroy- when he blew kisses in the direction of the Auburn faithful after throwing a TD pass to his tight end, I wish I could have jumped through the television set and do what Daren Bates did to him later in the game (a flying helmet to the throat)!

3. Daren Bates- his hit on McElroy was vicious and if he played on Sundays he'd be fined his whole game check. That being said...YOU DA MAN!

4. Who's the state's best back? Is it Ben Tate or Mark Ingram? Neither had a game they'll talk to their grandkids about one day. In fact, Trent Richardson was Alabama's saving grace. I think the perfect person to answer this question would be a common foe, a perennial all-everything defensive back from Tennessee in Eric Berry. You remember Eric Berry as the UT defender Ben Tate sent into the second row of Neyland on his way to 128 yards. He seems like a qualified candidate to settle the issue. Would he say Ben Tate? I'm not sure. What I do know is if I were fielding a team today who I'd take...and his last name rhymes with mine.

5. Alabama's decision to change its offensive set to spread Auburn out and throw 5-10yard routes was a good move on their part. It forced our extra defender out of the box (which surprisingly did nothing to help their run game) but it got McElroy in rhythm and settled the Alabama offense down.

6. Kudos to Johnathan Evans, true freshman reserve to Eltoro Freeman, for filling in admirably. He was out of position on a few 3rd down conversions covering backs out of the backfield and dropping into passing lanes, but all in all the kid played his tail off and made us proud.

Finally, the bowl game is huge for Auburn. Not the game itself but rather the preparation and practice time. It truly is equivalent to two spring trainings and the time spent on the field is critical to next seasons success...as hard as that might be to imagine. For a team looking to add/build depth at critical positions and turn the reigns over at others this is where it gets done.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bama Reax: Reap the Whirlwind

Alabama won it's second Iron Bowl in as many years yesterday. In doing so they learned a very valuable lesson: things are as close as they have ever been.

It took one game in Tuscaloosa a year ago to think Auburn was dead and buried in the stink that is Bryant-Denny.

It took one Saturday afternoon in on Pat Dye's field to show that "light years ahead" is not so far as one might think.

Auburn stood toe to toe with Alabama, something I honestly cannot imagine even as I type these words. Not after the meltdown at home against Kentucky. Not after the Bayou beatdown where I questioned everything from Chris Todd's health to Ted Roof's qualifications.

I see in this loss an Auburn program on the cusp of something great. I see a team laying its guts on the line for a coaching staff it believes in.

I see a bright future. Is there any question who the playmakers were on the field yesterday? Darvin Adams did yesterday what he's done all year for us in being the best receiver statisically in the SEC. He and T-Zach are playmakers in an offense that highlights playmakers.

Is there any doubt after watching yesterday and all season who the top offensive players in the country will want to play for? Guz Malzahn took a guy with a dead arm and turned him into a record holder. Two recievers you've never heard of before La Tech are now tops in the league.

Is there any doubt that Gene Chizik is a players' coach? Rob has mentioned countless times how he would have loved to play for a coach that not only pays attention to the defense, but is right there high fiving those guys as they come off the field.

Auburn's close folks. This year, for all of it's mind numbing meltdowns in that three game losing streak, has been a rousing success. A bowl vicotry gives Auburn 8 wins, and that's about 4 more than I thought they'd get.

So for all the heartache the 2008 season caused, 2009 helped all Auburn fans believe again. Let's hope we continue in this direction.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dr. Z's Bama preview

Look Out. Here comes the Evil Empire

I hate this game. But it's here. The Crimson Empire comes calling this Friday. And we don't stand a chance.

Or do we?

2002: Georgia had just ripped our collective guts out on a 4th and forever. Our starting backfield was out. That particular starting backfield happened to include Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Not to mention a fullback who's hobbies included giving himself tattoos.

Bama was steamrolling in 02. Auburn promptly showed up, went up 17-0, and cruised behind a little white guy running the ball.

I'm not saying it's likely but anything can happen.

I don't have to tell any Auburn fans headed to the game that the Bammers will be hard to be around. These people have really short memories. Or maybe I should say just black spots, because they have no problem remembering the Bear, who died when I was 7 years old. They have a really hard time remembering things after that for about the next twenty eight years, except for 92. That they can recall, but nothing after that until last season. I dated a girl in college like that. Always blacking out a not remembering the night before. She was fun.

I will give Bammers this, they are the rosiest people in the world. Every year you will hear them predict a national title. Eternal optimists no matter what, and for 2009, they may just be right.

Let's be real. Bama is by far the best team Auburn has played all year by a long shot. We will need a break or two or five. Eltoro needs to play. We are all hoping he can go. Todd needs to have his best day. Actually insert anything here related to Auburn. Everybody needs their best day Friday. Coaches, players, fans, band members. We'll all need our best day.

If it happens that Auburn pulls over a win it is a shocking wonderful surprise. If not, well we still exceeded expectations and the future looks bright. I'm with Jerry at Warblog. Let's enjoy this one. A year ago, we were dead and buried.

Now, a year later we exceeded expectations and are racking up in recruiting. This coaching staff took no depth, medium talent, and won seven games. We're not done by any means. Give us a year maybe two. Why not start Friday?

Auburn 24
Evil Empire 21

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Alabama Preview

As much as I may not want to say it and you may not want to hear/read it, Alabama has arguably been the most dominant team in college football this season. Sure they've had their scares, namely a miraculous blocked field goal to escape a loss against Tennessee. Sure, they've gotten calls that have gone their way, most notably a blatantly obvious INT missed call (x2..on the field-excusable, in the replay booth-unbelievable) by LSU that would have put LSU right back in the game. But other than those two games, Alabama has really dominated their opponents from start to finish.

As we know, Auburn has given away 2 wins this season...at home against Kentucky and last week at Georgia (two wins that would have landed Auburn in a New Years Day Bowl). Other than that Auburn has dominated their opponents with the exception of going on the road to Arkansas and LSU where we were manhandled. Within the confines of Jordan-Hare we have played our best football and knocked off some teams (Ole Miss, West Virginia) many believed unlikely for this Auburn team to beat this season.

Auburn's success revolves around three things...the play of Chris Todd, the abilty of the defense to tackle well, win the turnover battle. When we accomplish these three things we win football games, period! Can we win these battles against a team as strong as this years Crimson Tide? It will a daunting, uphill challenge.

The positives...With the exception of Arkansas (a team Alabama destroyed), this AU offense will be the best unit Alabama has faced this season. With an extra week of preparation and rest, Auburn will come out with nothing to lose. All the pressure is on Alabama. They have an SEC Championship game next week to play and national championship implications every time they take the field. Over time, that wears on you I'm sure. Auburn has the better part of a full month to heal up and rest after the Iron Bowl allowing them to give a level of effort perhaps you're not otherwise willing to give.

The negatives...Auburn's biggest weakness (stopping the run) is matched to Alabama's greatest strength (Mark Ingram and the Alabama running game). If Eltoro Freeman is out and true freshman Johnathan Evans is forced into action that task gets even more difficult. Alabama is the most athletic defense Auburn will have seen to date. Auburn will have to outscore Alabama and Alabama's defense is just as unpredictable and unorthodox as Auburn's offense. If we can't move the ball offensively, it won't be close.

What has to happen for Auburn to win?- Auburn must sell-out to stop the Alabama running game and force McElroy to beat them. Alabama will score points, Auburn must respond with points of their own. We can't beat ourselves or make it any easier for Alabama by turning the ball over or foolish penalties. We must ride a level of emotion that must be present around and in Jordan-Hare Stadium that rivals the level of emotion last seen in Auburn the first time these two teams squared off in Auburn, 1989. Alabama must turn the ball over and Auburn must capitalize on every opportunity we are presented with. Can all these things come together and happen? In college football anything's possible!


Yeah, I'm a homer!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Georgia Reax: Zigged when we shoulda zagged

I have to say despite the depressing loss to Georgia on Saturday, we had a blast in Athens.

Gotta say thanks to Dr. Thomas, the longtime team eye doc for the Dogs gave us 45 yard line seats. By far the best I have ever had for a college football game. It's who you know I guess.

After paying an arm and a leg to park in Red Dog's yard (yeah, called himself Red Dog). We walked up to the main strip of Athens, and found a cool little sandwich shop and sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather and chatted with some really nice UGA fans over some draft beer.

I have to ask the question: do the UGA girls all get together and decide to wear the same thing to the game. Virtually every girl had on a dress and boots. Was there a mass email I missed? It got to the point where I had to say "Nice boots." to every co-ed we passed. Most just laughed and said thank you. Props to the one girl who asked me how old I was. Touche' Yes, I am too old to make comments about your boots, but know it was all in fun.

I have to say that Athens is a pretty cool college town and the stadium is one of the best in college football. It is pretty hard to navigate, and the breezeways/tunnels are too small to get through. I had a pretty interesting conversation with another college kid while taking 30 minutes to navigate through the mass of people in the breezeway.

The kid who was probably a soph at UGA asks me "Did you go to Auburn because you couldn't get into Georgia or Alabama?" I replied, "Actually, I got into Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Alabama, and Auburn, among others. I didn't apply to Georgia because their academics are watered down by the Hope Scholarships. Oh and kid if you want to talk to me, call me Dr. (I never play the Dr card, but in this instance, it just seemed right)

I then asked the kid what he was getting his degree in. Quite predictably he said psychology. To that I said "With that degree get used to saying 'Want fries with that?'" The kid then told me something I wouldn't repeat on this blog. If only I'd gotten into UGA maybe the conversation could have been avoided.

As for the game, I really thought we did everything right in the first quarter. We came out and punched them in the mouth. The thing is when you use the boxing metaphor, you really need to, you know, finish with the haymaker. We never used said haymaker. And the INT that killed us...oh man, not the best time to be on the wrong page guys.

We really just kind of hit the wall in this game defensively. I thought the first half was pretty well played. Fairly obvious that depth killed us at linebacker after Eltoro went down. One day we will not have to talk about depth being an issue. One day.

Everybody hates losing the rivalry game, and I hate it when we all say that this season already has exceeded expectations. Maybe that's true, but I think when we look back on 2009, we'll see another win or two we left out there.

Well, a week to rest and then it is Iron Bowl week. Where we throw the record book out the window, right? Enjoy the long needed bye week everyone...

Georgia Review (24-31)

Another blown opportunity. Another game in which Auburn takes control and imposes its will on the opposition early on, only to give it away with turnovers, inopportune penalties, and the inability to take away the run.

-What a tremendous atmosphere in Athens. The UGA fans were mild and tolerable as they've been humbled rather frequently this year. No grown men barking at me, hiking up a leg to mock piss on me as I had remembered as a player in trips to Georgia. No, I believe their fans came away in utter shock at rallying to win a game. At least the one's we were around.

-It's a shame Todd had the two INT's because, other than that, he was fairly sharp. The last INT was an obvious miscommunication as Adams broke towards the sideline and Todd threw it to the center of the field. That set up UGA's go ahead score, another team capitalizing on our mistakes.

-The inability to get Ben Tate off and running successfully was disappointing, especially given the early success through the air. This was one of the only games I can recall seeing Ben tackled on numerous occasions by one defender. I also believe McCalebb was about 75% on the ankle, which did not provide the shock value his speed gives the opposition's defenders when he's healthy, only allowing Ben more room to run.

-The turning point in the game, in my eyes, was the loss of Eltoro Freeman. With Freeman out, freshman Johnathan Evans stepped in and the Georgia running game found it's footing. Prior to Freeman's departure, the only real Georgia offense game from bombs down the sideline with Neiko Thorpe defending.

-The injury to Rambo on our last drive ended up greatly benefiting the bulldogs... preserving the win. How? Because it gave Georgia's defensive line a much valued needed rest...probably 15 minutes worth. The next play...Todd gets sacked. On fourth down, again, Todd under enormous pressure and must throw the ball very early. Adams has no chance to get in "jump ball" position.

-Two most costly plays of the game: 1. Fannin dropping pass at the goalline. It would have been a tremendously difficult catch, but it was open and Todd delivered a beauty. Auburn wins if Mario comes down with the catch. 2. Burns illegal motion penalty in which he completed a long pass down the AU sideline. It turned out to be a 40 yard penalty and would have resulted in Auburn points.

-The "you've gotta be kidding me, did he just do that AGAIN?!" moment: You guessed it...final drive, Auburn down 7, Auburn driving..."False start. Number 73, offense, five yard penalty." I understand how it happens...he's on an island, isolated...blocking a speed rusher without the ability to hear the quarterbacks cadence (particularly on the road). So he moves when the defensive end moves. But, only the defensive end didn't move and Ziemba put us in a hole to climb out of...again!

-The "you've gotta be kidding me, did he just do that?! moment of bliss: Demond Washington racing 99 yards on the KO return to tie the game. Moment of pure grandeur! The UGA fan beside Dr. Z tried to dampen the moment with his farcical claims of AU holding, but he couldn't contain our celebration!! Another moment I thought, "We win! They can't overcome that!"

Depth reared it's ugly head in this one defensively. If we stop the run and don't turn the ball over we win going away. It's a could have been, should have been sort of year, but I still feel we're light years from where we were last season, and where we were projected to be this season. Better beat us this year while you can, because Auburn's on the rise and championships are on the horizon. In the words of Coach Tuberville, "And you can write that down!" I just did!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dr. Z's Georgia Preview


So Rob says last Saturday "Want to go to Athens?"

He didn't have to ask twice. The ultimate road trip awaits. OK, so maybe it won't be the ultimate college road trip, given that college waved bye-bye to Rob and myself years ago.

My most fun college road game ever was the 1995 Auburn-UGA game. We made the drive from South Alabama to Athens via Bainbridge Georgia where a teammate of mine had to pick up his parents'season tickets. Up through Georgia, we drank beer the whole way (OK really bad thing to do but I was in college after all, and not driving). One guy in our crew had these cute Clemson girls come down to meet us. I say they were cute, though one of them looked just like Greg Maddux. Seriously, she had Greg Maddux's face on a cute girl body. Weird right? So three college pitchers drink too much beer and ask this girl all night how she gets so much movement on her change-up. She was not amused.

It was my first trip to Athens and I thought the campus was really cool. I thought the UGA fans were also pretty civil. I tend to find that fans are way more hospitable when their teams are mediocre (the Dogs were 6-6 that year). We sat right behind the Bulldog statue in the end zone (anatomically correct statue as I recall). Auburn and Steven Davis ran wild, but UGA made it close at the end. Hines Ward impressed as a receiver who played QB. Fun day and a fun weekend altogether.

In 1997 I made a return trip to Athens. This time just me and my girlfriend drove over from Auburn. We had a good time because she liked to drink up on road games, but not to the point where she needed a sitter. Goergia was pretty good that year, and we came into the game as underdogs. I recall telling some obnoxious UGA fans on the walk into the stadium that I enjoyed them a whole lot better when they went 5-6 every year.

Auburn went absolutely nuts that night and rolled behind Dameyune Craig and a rejuvenated running game. The Georgia fans were gone midway through the 3rd quarter. Humble Auburn blogger Rob Pate was a Freshman free safety back then. He and his teammates were a sight to see that night.

As for this year's game, it should be a good one. Two evenly matched teams and two programs who look like they are headed in opposite directions square off.

It all comes down to the running game. If Tate and Fannin/Speedwagon get rolling, we win. I think the question is: Does UGA sell out to stop the run given that lousy pass defense? Ask any Georgia fan and they will tell you they have no confidence in Willy Martinez. With Guz in town Saturday, the poor guy's head might just explode.

I think Georgia offense will score some points. A.J. Green is the best receiver we will see this year. But with the turnover problems that UGA has, and our defense being the ballhawks they have been all year,I think Cox the Ginger Ninja gives a a pick or two. The one in the 4th quarter is the difference. That and the fact that Rob and I are undefeated in games in Sanford Stadium...

Auburn 38
Gimmicky Uniforms U 31

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Georgia Preview

The Georgia Bulldogs enter the South's oldest rivalry miles away from preseason expectations of contending for a SEC Eastern Division crown. In many aspects, this Georgia team reminds me very much of Auburn. They have a quarterback that at times has been unstoppable, and at times dreadful. They have a defense that has given up yards galore to every legitimate opponent played. Offensively, they were on fire at the beginning of the season outscoring Arkansas and South Carolina only to seemingly be "figured out" by defensive coordinators across the league. When their QB is on, they win...when he's not, they lose. Sound familiar?!

Why Auburn Wins:

1. Game means more to Auburn players than Georgia players. Auburn has way more players on its sideline from the state of Georgia than Georgia does players from Alabama. Guys that I played with at Auburn that were from Georgia foamed at the mouth all week long for this game. Takeo Spikes would say, "You play your heart out for me against Georgia, I'll play my heart out for you next week against Alabama!" (extreme censorship with that quote)! It is a game these guys take personally and pour their heart out on the football field for.

2. We have recaptured our swagger! Back to back games with tremendous offensive production gives this team the confidence to believe and expect to go into Sanford Stadium and win the football game. Three weeks ago, I don't think this team believed that would be possible.

3. The last time I was in Sanford Stadium was 10 years ago, a heavy underdog to a Top 15 Georgia team in Tommy Tuberville's first season at Auburn. Ronney Daniels and Ben Leard completely torched the Georgia defense for a 31-0 halftime lead. Why does that matter? Because I'll be in the stadium again for the first time since that game...stars aligning!

Why Georgia Wins:

1. They will be one of if not the best offenses we've seen to date. Georgia will test this Auburn secondary deep all night long in a fashion much like Arkansas did. It's no secret our secondary is depleted and Georgia will work to exploit this from the opening whistle. How does Auburn win this battle? By stopping the run. If you make a team one-dimensional they have no chance.

2. Richt on the hot seat. Nothing motivates a team more than talk of the possibility of losing your head coach. No player wants to endure a coaching change...look no farther than Alabama players sobbing to keep Mike Price (again, scratching my head)! When your leader is threatened a sense of urgency and a "us against the world" mentality forms that many times can solidfy and bond a team. If Georgia has any senior leadership, this team will come out swinging with a fury.

3. Common Opponents- Georgia beat Arkansas and should have beaten LSU were it not for the infamous phantom celebration penalty call against A.J. Green. Auburn was throttled on the road by both. Tennessee embarrassed Georgia by an unexpected aerial assault by UT's Johnathon Crompton (did I really just type that last sentence...Kiffin deserves a raise for his work with Crompton as of late)! Auburn really dominates UT on the road in perhaps it's most balanced game of the season. Still, a slight advantage goes to the bulldogs in the common opponent realm.

Who Will Win:

Whoever tackles better and commits less turnovers wins this game. Both teams will score points in bunches. This has all the makings of an offensive track meet, a back and forth ESPN instant classic. I feel like this rivalry means more to the Auburn players therefore giving an emotional edge to Auburn. Tackling is all about desire and want to. Auburn will have more of both Saturday night between the hedges.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Furman Reax and other musings

Dude, save some of that for Amen Corner

63-31. All of our wishes come true: big first half lead, starters get a much needed break We saw lots of new faces. I thought it was a great day.

-Chris Todd/Neil Caudle, you guys were off the hook. I don't care who you're playing, those stats are ridiculous.

-Any doubt Antonio Coleman feels better? Just in time for Amen. Here's hoping he terrorizes the Ginger Ninja from UGA all night.

-Oh special teams. Just because we call you Frenchy, PPL, does not mean you have to perform like France's military in WWII.

-Speedwagon, please be 100% for this weekend.

Other musing:
*Do LSU fans say "We got Heauxsed"? Seriously, I watched the INT replay 50 times and I still can't tell. Also Les, that is why you don't call a punt block on 4th and 5 1/2.

*Brandon Spikes isn't man enough to play soccer in the Mountain West. Coincidentally, Urban Meyer felt that given the heinous nature of Elizabeth Lambert's dirty play, she should be suspended from the soccer banquet at the end of the season.

War Eagle! And bring on the Dogs of the Hairy variety.

Furman Review (63-31)

This picture illustrates why the Furman game was great. This guy was our leading rusher and played multiple positions in this game. He's listed as a WR who turned corner who played tailback...rushing for 77 yards, two TDs on 5 carries! Congrats Anthony Gulley for shining when given the opportunity.

This was exactly what Auburn needed. A near flawless execution exhibited by the starters in the first half, an opportunity to rest and give the younger guys an opportunity to get their feet wet, and an occasion to keep the momentum building as the final two regular season games are upon us. On to Athens and a chance to build upon our bowl-game resume.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

D.Z's Furman Preview

Happy Homecoming! This week it's the Furman Paladins. Anyone else hav to look up what a Paladin was? In case you didn't, Paladins were knights that fought in the crusades or something. All this tells me is that Furman must have been founded by a history professor.

It is a pretty campus in the foothills of South Carolina and a really good school academically from what I hear. I already mentioned Furman is an arch rival to my wife's Alma, Wofford. She is so entrenched in the rivalry I asked her some really nasty things to say about Furman she said, "It is a really pretty campus and it's good academically. Thanks babe, you have gotta love those heated SoCon rivalries.

For the game this week, we need to score 30+ by halftime #1 to build confidence and #2 to get our starters some rest. I don't care if this a Ball State type 54-30 game as long as Bynes, Stevens and Co get a breather. We need the rest.

I have heard a few App St/Michigan reminders this week, but let's face facts, Furman is no App St. and Auburn is better than that Michigan team. Furman's .500 and has given up a ton of points this year.

We should handle them with ease, prep for UGA, and gets some rest.

Auburn 52Random historical figures-21

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Furman Preview

Furman is the opponent on the schedule and will show up to Jordan-Hare Saturday, but Georgia is the team Auburn has prepared for all week. Much like Ball State was a tune-up for Tennessee, Furman is the prep course for the Bulldogs. Georgia scheduled similarly having Tennessee Tech roll into town as a confidence builder prior to playing the oldest rivalry in the South.

I don't know a thing about Furman other than the few people I know who have attended adore the place and the Paladins play in the same conference as Samford (I didn't even know Paladins were the mascot, I had to look it up). I'm not sure how the Furman coaching staff approaches a game like this? You would think their AD would schedule a game like this at the beginning or end of the year (get paid, heal up, and get ready for Elon or next year). To schedule an SEC power in the middle of the season with 2 crucial conference games remaining as you sit right in the middle of your conference standings at 3-3, as a coach, I'd be quite pissed. Nonetheless, Furman has to come into this game with many of the same goals as Auburn...no injuries, play as many bodies as possible, work on deficiencies to gain some confidence and gameday repetitions, and limit the mental mistakes.

The most interesting part of this game should be listening to Rod Bramblett and Stan White repeatedly say the name of Furman's tailback...Tersoo Uhaa! Beyond that, it should be a day to rest guys with nagging injuries, work on offensive tempo, improve on defensive fundamentals (i.e. tackling and timing a blitz), and emptying the bench for the guys who perform tirelessly week after week on the scout teams. I believe this team is mature enough to show up and compete against a vastly out-manned team (i.e. not pull a FSU against Jax State) running the record to 7 wins with Georgia looming large on the horizon.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Ole Miss Reax: A Kick Save, and a Beauty...

Eltoro is Spanish for...."The Toro".

Walt McFadden took the kick save from the Ole Miss receiver and took it to the house.

Auburn made a kick save on their season by throttling Houston Nutt and his underachieving rebels. We led 31-7 at one point in this game, albeit a short point. Never in a million years would I have anticipated such a bounce back from the last three weeks. I, and many of my blogging cohorts, had left Auburn for dead. Two road stinkers sandwiching a home debacle had us all talking about the importance of the Furman game. I joked about the PapaJohns bowl last week. Well, it depends on my mood, but I like Outback better than Papa John's anyway.

Some random musings:

-Jevan Snead...Does anyone have to ask why he transferred from Texas? He threw two picks Saturday, and he's lucky he didn't throw five. He was rattled from the get-go, and we see him calling out his teammates on the sideline? Congrats Jevan, you are the Mississippi version of Freddy Kitchens. Enjoy the remainder of your career not in the NFL. I'd take Chris Todd and his dead arm over you anyday.

-Speaking of Todd...RESPECT to you my friend. Way to hang in there when all of the numbskulls who have no idea what we are talking about (talking me here). I still think there is less zip than early on, but he's making adjustments and getting it done.

-The Running of the Bull...Eltoro. Gotta love this guy coming back after his Tennessee meltdown, missing the Arky trip, etc. He has energized the defense. The weakside is not so weak anymore. And how about all of a sudden we can pressure and tackle? If we keep this energy up, we are a pretty OK defense. (If we don't, we are a pretty bad defense, but for today that doesn't matter)

-Love SuperMario getting some touches. We are so much better we he can get the ball in space and make plays. Also, the Speedwagon gets to convalesce for two weeks. Love to see Ontario get another week off vs. Furman. I am sure UGA can't wait to see a 100% Ontario hit that corner.

-Tate is having the year that will make him one of the best (and likely most unsung) in AU history. Props to you, Big Ben.

-Mr 5-19 guy in the back of my mind got a good bit quieter Saturday. And I agree with Jerry at Warblog, Gene has done more in 09 with less than Tubbs did in 08. The kids seem to love to play for him. We are recruiting well. Those wins against Tennessee and State look pretty good now. And he is just steady. He keeps such an even keel. And he's not insane like Houston Nutt.

-Did I mention Houston Nutt is insane. He is also bound to fail at Ole Miss once Coach Footbauw's talent is gone at Ole Miss.

-Zac Etheridge, Godspeed my friend. I hope you get back on the field one day. If not, I am just glad you will be ok.

All right, a layup is next. It is a rival game at my house. My wife was a Wofford soccer player and she hates her some Palladins. (Not really, but I am trying to manufacture some personal fire about Furman).

WAR Eagle everybody!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ole Miss Review (33-20)

I owe this young man an apology...Chris Todd you proved me wrong! You came out against a tough and aggressive defense and looked as sharp as I've seen you look in quite some time. You were poised, took shots down field successfully (including a beautiful bomb to Terrell Zachery that only he could catch), and were genuinely and noticeably excited when you made a terrific play. You validated Coach Chizik's decision to stick with you as Auburn's "best chance to win." Thanks to you, I'm eating crow for calling you an injured shell of yourself. You proved me wrong, and I'm ecstatic you did. When you play like you did against Ole Miss we are capable of beating anyone! Congrats Chris Todd and keep it up!

What a remarkable turnaround! I've never seen a team look so inept one week look so amazing the next week against basically equally talented opponents. It wasn't a perfect performance, but it was a treat to see the offense come back to life, the defense play inspired, and the Auburn Tigers win a game the majority thought we'd lose (including myself). What I saw...

1. Seniors lead the way- Several Auburn seniors played their best games this season helping pave the way. Antonio Coleman played his best ball game getting pressure on the quarterback, Walter McFadden was incredible, Tommy Trott got involved, Kodi Burns contributed in big ways, Ben Tate continued being the beast that he is, and Clinton Durst flipped field position on a few crucial occasions.

2. Finally the breaks go the way of Auburn- We seemingly had more balls and calls bounce and go our way this game than any game I recall perhaps in the past 5 years. The biggest was the review and overturning of the Ole Miss interception deep in Auburn territory. I have no idea what the replay official saw, but if he was looking at the same replay we were watching, I don't see how that was enough to overturn the call. The McFadden INT and return for a touchdown...unbelievable! The blocked extra point bouncing to a corner with nothing but green grass ahead of him! And others. We were due for every good thing that occurred.

3. Tackling much improved- The defense played inspired football. It wasn't perfect by any means, but the effort was phenomenal and the scheme was improved. Much more blitzing and pressure on the quarterback which forced Snead to leave the pocket and disrupt timing. We hit him more times than any quarterback I recall this year. McCluster was a thorn in our side and had some huge gainers, but we limited those huge gainers to a few, instead of every time he touched the ball and by the end of the game he was feeling the effects of being pounded for four quarters.

4. Eltoro Freeman- Blitzes with a purpose! He also does a fantastic job of getting around blocks and to the ball carrier. His play was noticeably fast and aggressive.

5. Zachery and Adams re-emerge- Adams got the score, but Zachery twice flipped field position and set up scores with remarkable body control and strength to come up with critical catches.

6. Malzahn gets Todd comfortable quickly- Todd's first two throws were safe play action passes to running backs (Fannin and Smith) that picked up consecutive first downs. Todd began 2 for 2 and never looked back.

7. The injury to Etheridge looked bad- Kudos to Ole Miss RB Rodney Scott for recognizing the severity of the situation and lying motionless while the medical staff prepared the cart for Zac. The play ended Etheridge's season and his leadership in a young secondary will be missed.

8. Increased role for Fannin fantastic- Mario is a playmaker plain and simple. The more times he touches the ball the better. He did a superb job of being speed to Tate's power.

9. Kickoffs inconsistent- The opening kickoff went 4 yards deep into the end zone. Every kick thereafter was less and less deep. The final kick that was returned for a touchdown was fielded at the 18.

10. Chizik's sideline demeanor would make me love playing for him- Terry Bowden didn't even watch the defense when I played. Tommy Tuberville gave us the brief clap of approval when we made something big happen. Gene Chizik meets the players at the hash marks throwing atomic fists, yelling approval and praise in ways a head coach rarely does. I love it and would have greatly appreciated the head coaches recognition so openly displayed when I was a player.

All in all, this win does wonders for Auburn's bowl projection, confidence, and fan base. With two weeks to prepare for Georgia (same for Georgia...they play Tennessee Tech), here's to the Tigers riding this wave of success into Athens and beating the Dawgs!!

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 warblogeagle.com 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 for...fast, 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 mean...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!