Thursday, September 30, 2010

La-Monroe Preview

I'd say we are due a layup.

After 3 straight weeks of biting our nails, pulling our hair out and apparently dropping F-bombs 897,000 times, we get a deserved break this week against La-Monroe. Yeah that La-Monroe who beat Bama back in 2007, triggering Darth Saban to compare the loss to the 9/11, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the Hindenburg, and the final season of 24.

So LAMO might appear threatening since they came into T-Town a couple years ago a thoroughly embarrased the Tide, but for this weekend I think we are safe. But they did hang around with Arkansas for three quarters until Mallett decided to quit playing Farmville and go throw some touchdown passes.

LAMO also hung around with SE Louisiana for 4 quarters before finally dispatching the the FCS team by 1 point last weekend.

My wishlist for the weekend:

- Rest Cam, Dyer, Speedwagon, Bynes basically every starter out by 1st series third quarter. We need to rest these guys and have them ready for a make or break 4 week stretch.

-Passing game improvement. OK, we know we can run the ball. I'd like to see the short passing game develop mixed in with a home run or two.

-New faces (and not so new). I'd love to see DeAngelo Benton get back into the mix. He hasn't played much this year. Maybe its the hand, maybe its Trooper's doghouse, but I'd love to see the guy break out like I think he can.

-Better pass defense. I know, South Carolina has great recievers and we were keying on runstopping, but aside from Mississippi St, our pass D has been suspect at best. I'd love to seem some kinks get worked out this week.

I'll say:

Auburn- 52

Also, if you're headed down to the game this weekend, try not to run over Rob's wife Dana, as she'll likely be running down 280 to the game, getting ready for her next marathon (she's actually qualified for Boston, that's hard core!). I say this only because if you accidentally hit her it will likely total your vehicle and not hurt Dana at all, because there is a strong possibility she could be a terminator. Lova ya Dana!!!

Dana training for a marathon

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Louisiana Monroe Preview

Louisiana Monroe is a 1-2 team from the Sun Belt Conference. They lost to Arkansas and Arkansas State before beating Southeastern Louisiana by one point last week. Interestingly, Arkanasas State's offense had more success than the Ryan Mallett led Razorback attack as Arkansas only led 7-0 at the half and 14-0 after three quarters against the Warhawks. Their QB is also their leading rusher...and he's a freshman. It should be ugly.

This matchup comes at a fantastic time. Three very exciting, hard-nosed, emotionally draining contests can take its toll on a football team. Hopefully this game provides some younger bodies the opportunity to showcase their talent, build depth, rest customary starters, and gain some valuable experience. Let's hope we approach this team with the right mindset and get the younger guys the playing time they expect and deserve. Without a scheduled off week until after Georgia, we have to take advantage of teams like Louisiana Monroe and Chattanooga and use them as a pseudo-off week. The only way that's possible is for the starters to play with intensity and show up on gameday. Let a team like this hang around for any length of time and they begin believing they may make SportsCenter...then all bets are off. I think this team has too much character to let it get to that point.

I am excited to be taking my entire family to this game. This will be our first game this season, the first game my twin boys have ever attended, and we're excited as can be. Special thanks to Ben Leard*, Bo and Laura Megginson of Mobile, and my brother for providing tickets to our family. When the Pate army shows up, Jordan-Hare should be filled to capacity. Will post pictures as the Post Game Review!

LA Monroe-13

*QBs always have tickets...must be nice!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

35-27, Cock-a-doodle-Done

Winner,Winner, Chicken Dinner*

Ever get the feeling Ted Roof is just wingin' it? He reminds of guys I went to college and Optometry school with. Doesn't really study until the night before a test, then comes in a pulls a B.

I can see Malzahn coming in buzzing from his 14th cup of Starbuck's, carrying a stack of playbooks 3 feet high. Ted's polishing off a plate full of hotwings and about to doze off to sleep.

Gus: Aren't you worried? I mean, Lattimore? The Ol Ball Coach?
Ted: Nah, I'll figure it all out by halftime...besides Cam's gonna get us 30+ anyway. I can hold em under thirty. Now if you'll excuse me, it's nappy time.

Seriously, Roof's ability to make halftime adjustments is uncanny. Auburn's given up seven points in the second half of every game. Three out of those four we have looked utterly lost in the first half. Maybe he threatens to shave Josh Byne's dreads or to turn Eltoro into El-steer-o. Whatever works I guess...

Other random thoughts...

Special thanks to Spurrier, who decided to pull his starter for a true frosh on the road at one of the toughest stadium's to hear oneself think in the SEC. Granted, Garcia looks like he's perpetually stoned, but replacing him with QB buzzcut? I just don't know man. I also don't believe all that about Garcia's bell being rung after the second fumble. That was strictly a punishment move for the turnover.

Cam Newton is We have a chance to win out because of Cam. Not saying we will, but he will keep us in every game. If we can stop the costly turnovers, then we will be tough to beat.

Speaking of, Super Mario, we hardly knew thee. My preseason SEC pick and Luper's 1000 yard guarantee not looking so good now. Sad really. He had all the potential in the world when he arrived here in 2007. I wonder sometimes with him if its not some weird Mackey Sasser type psychosis, where he couldnt throw the ball back to the pitcher.

In closing, you may know by now, Rob is really into numerology, but he also picks game winners by throwing chicken bones into a pan and pouring goat blood over them. We're both going to retire by 45....

*Photo courtesy of

South Carolina Review (AU 35 USC 27)

photo of Superman's father, Jerrell (Jor-El)(courtesy of Mike Kittrell, Press Register

Cam Newton is an absolute freak. I hope the Auburn faithful realize what a blessing it truly is to have an unbelievable talent leading this football team week in and week out. This caliber of player does not come along very often and we should soak it in while we have the opportunity. I played against some talented, successful QB's during my time at Auburn...Aaron Brooks (Virginia), Daunte Culpepper (Central Florida), Tim Rattay (La. Tech), Mike Bobo (Georgia), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Rex Grossman (Florida)...none of them were as difficult to prepare for and as multi-faceted as Cam Newton is. He's not perfect, and I'm sure Coach Malzahn could tell us a zillion ways he could improve, but he's confident, he's a leader, he's athletic, he can run by you...over you...throw past you...throw through's fun to watch.

South Carolina wilted in the fourth quarter thanks in part to a fast paced offense, a ball-hawking defense, and the energy the crowd created to spur Auburn along. Auburn had been there, done that...South Carolina had not, were not battle-tested, had not trailed, had not played on the road. They fought hard and are a good football team; they will compete against everyone and I think could beat Florida and play in Atlanta. Don't underestimate the importance of this win by underselling the South Carolina Gamecocks.

What was great...

1. Third down conversions- we constantly kept the chains moving and kept USC on the field all night. We did it with a regular pace and a fast pace and ultimately it wore down the Carolina defense. Many times it was with the feet of Cam Newton running through a defender at the first down marker, but that is just fine by fact it's a backbreaker, very disheartening for a defender when the opposing teams QB runs for a first down (particularly when he runs over your middle linebacker or strong safety).

2. The number 25...Exhibit A...kick-off coverage. Running down the middle of field beside each other was #12 Demetruce McNeal and #13 Craig Sanders. McNeal made all the tackles as Sanders took on all the double teams. Covered kicks like mad-men. Add their numbers...25. Exhibit B...timely turnover. Auburn marches to the one yard line down by one and false starts. Enter All-American kicker Wes Byrum and he has a Leigh Tiffin moment drilling the right upright from an awkward angle. What happens next... Darren Bates forces fumble by Garcia and Tigers recover at the USC 26. Four plays later, Litzenkirchen TD catch. Darren Bates number...25. Exhibit C...Auburn total offense. 434 yards between Cam Newton and Mike Dyer. That's 88% of AU's total offense. Put their numbers together...25. Exhibit D...the date. 9/25. The stars aligning!

3. Distributing the ball to various playmakers. Litzenkirchen, Emory Blake, T. Zachery, Darvin Adams, swinging the ball out to running backs out of the backfield, an occasional draw or sweep with McCalebb. Lots of guys with playmaking abilities touching the football.

4. Run defense. All the hype surrounding Lattimore and his ability to carry the load. Not when you average 2.4 yards/carry. Kudos to the front seven and Josh Bynes in particular. I've got my #17 jersey on order.

5. Playing to the whistle. On Emory Blake's TD (an incredible run by the way with tremendous effort), wide out Jay Wisner pancaked his defender at the goalline. Multiple times offensive guard Mike Berry pulled around leading Cam Newton into the hole, but none were bigger than the linebacker he destroyed at the goalline on one of Newton's TD runs.

6. Forcing turnovers defensively. You win the turnover battle, you win the game 9.9 times out 10.

What was bad...

1. Pass defense in the secondary. Poor ball skills all the way around. Out of position on numerous occasions flipping field position. Particular Etheridge. I really respect Etheridge for his aggressiveness, his leadership, and obviously his ability to overcome a broken neck and still suit up on Saturdays. Nonetheless, he has been a liablity thus far, particularly defending the pass, as difficult as it is to say it.

2. Fumbles! Unbelievable. All from tailbacks too who earn their keep protecting the football. That's how they start and end every practice, protecting the football. We were lucky as ever Carolina couldn't maintain posession on the Eric Smith fumble. I have no faith in Mario Fannin holding onto the football. I love his athleticism and playmaking tendencies, but he's fumbled too many times to carry the football consistently if I were in charge of personnel. I move him to slot receiver and situational H-back. As far as Dyer and Smith, they sleep with a football in their hands the rest of the season.

3. Still no Trovon Reed. At this point you almost wish the guy had just redshirted. After stealing the headlines all preseason, his absence is frustrating.

4. False start at the one yard line. Unacceptable!

5. Missed field goal from extra point distance? Did Damon Duval slip into Wes Byrum's uni at the half? Oh no, I saw Byrum take his helmet off after the yellow hair dye observed. Missed FGs happen, but what a terrible time to miss one!

6. Giving up first downs on third and long. We've got improve on getting off the field on third downs, particularly against the pass or a team like Arkansas will score all night long against us.

It truly was a remarkable effort yet again. Dr. Z texted me during the game saying how much he loved this team. I would have to agree. They are fun to watch, they play four quarters, they give you everything they have, they're humble, and they love and defend each other. Surviving September unscathed is an enormous feat for any team, but for Auburn in particular because of the schedule. I believe we've probably been tested more severely than just about any other program in the country. It's not always pretty, but it's been enough to survive and advance. Their motto has been good to great and they are learning how to win the close ones. That's the first sign. The sky's the limit for this team.

P.S. I need tickets to this weeks game against La Monroe. Taking the whole family plus one so eight in total. If you can help please let me know! Thanks!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SC Preview: Small Step Forward or Giant Leap

Don't you just love college humor?

Saturday will be another true test for Auburn. We have had our share of true tests already this year, so why not one more? We have a great opportunity to be 5-0 going to Kentucky with a win this weekend. I think a win is a big leap forward, not just a baby step, because so far the competition has been better than the '09 season.

I have mentioned many times that my wife's family is from Carolina. There are several Gamecock fans in the family. Carolina has a loyal fan base. They sell out, even when they are awful (and historically they usually are). I would call them the Cub fans of the SEC. They always show up and are in good spirits, a bit preppy, but basically good sports about being terrible. They pretty much behave like Bama fans did under Shula (how I long for those days).

Now SC has a great opportunity to pierce that upper crust. They beat UGA at home, riding the superfrosh Lattimore to a 17-6 win. They have a sketchy QB in Stephen Garcia, who hasn't lived up to expectations so far. They play hard nosed defense and they'll hit you in the mouth.

But I cannot help but think in the back of my mind "They are still South Carolina." Before the season started I was way more worried about Cousin Clemson than USC. I still feel that way today. I may be totally wrong but Clemson had a really good quarterback and three 1st day draft guys in their defensive line. South Caroliina has a freshman running back, an underachieving quarterback, and the old ballcoach (emphasis on old). I think USC is better than previous years, but I just don't know how much better.

My wishlist for Saturday:
-Mario gets involoved: Hand it to him, throw it to him, it doesn't matter. He needs some touches for us to be great offensively.

-Creativity from Malzahn: I don't mean then double reverse pass to Cam. I just mean some motions, screen passes, slants, etc. Am I the only one who feels his playcalling has been a little stale? I would also love to see the pace increase dramatically like what we had in the 3rd quarter of Clemson game.

-Defense comes out ready to play: I will hand it to Ted Roof. When he does his homework he usually is great. His adjustments at halftime were stellar last weekend. But can we come out of the gate at least looking like we halfway know what is going on defensively?

-Let Cam be Cam: Time to take the kid gloves off and see Cam do what we think he can do. We'll need his A game if we are to win.

I think it will be tight, but I think the home crowd pulls us through again...

Auburn: 21
KFC bucket: 17

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

South Carolina Preview

South Carolina will be the best team Auburn has played to date. That being said, Auburn will be, by a long shot, the best team the Gamecocks have played this season. South Carolina has badly beaten overmatched Southern Miss and Furman, and beat an out-manned Georgia squad without their premier playmaker in A.J. Green. USC has yet to play a road game. Carolina hasn't trailed for single second this year and got an enormous bump in the polls by beating a Georgia team that's not as good as they will be when we play them. Auburn on the otherhand has the experience of an SEC-style slugfest under its belt. It has gone on the road and played in a hostile environment in primetime. It has trailed 17-0 and weathered the storm, gathered their composure, and stormed back themselves to beat Clemson. Auburn is battle-tested; South Carolina is not.

The crowd has the potential to be an enormous, if not the most critical factor in this weeks game. South Carolina has not had to endure the crowd noise this season on the road, and Auburn could undoubtedly benefit from the emotion, the energy, the passion only the fans within Jordan-Hare can conjure coming off an unbelievable street fight against Clemson. If you're going to the game but don't want to yell and wreak havoc against South Carolina, do the players, coaches and the Auburn faithful a favor and give your tickets to someone else that looks rowdy. No excuses for that place to not be absolutely could be the difference between winning and losing.

What I'm looking for in this one...

-Auburn defense must get off the field on 3rd down. How do you do that? You shut down the run on 1st and 2nd down and force USC into 3rd and long and into predictable situations. You give them 3rd and 3 all night and it'll be a long night.

-Secondary must play the football in the air better. USC has tall, athletic WRs. That's both a blessing and a curse. The good is they are a little easier to run with and diagnose their routes. The bad is they relentlessly go after the football and have unbelievable ball skills. They'll make some plays, just can't make them all night long.

-Pressure the QB---pressure makes life easy for a defensive back. Get to Garcia and the Auburn secondary will garner its first INT of the season (and Spurrier throws his visor repeatedly). Give him time to go through all of his progressions and Spurrier grins his devilish grin.

-Auburn offense must make USC defend the whole football field, including the flats, the TEs, the RBs out of the backfield, and the space between the safeties and LBs. Give Newton some short, confidence building throws to get him going and to set the fast-paced tempo.

-Have to eliminate penalties in the red zone. This has killed us 2 weeks in a row and kept both teams in games we were closing out.

-No kicking game blunders.

-Begin each half by being the giver, not the taker (like we did to start the 2nd half against State and the start of the Clemson game)

This game is going to be a tough one (extremely cliche, understatement I know). But I also see the Gamecocks having some struggles of their own. We desperately need to jump on them first and make them play from behind, handle adversity, deal with the noise, and change their Alabama-esque game plan (play stellar D, run the football, pass to keep them honest). Could be another OT thriller!

South Carolina-27

P.S. Don't believe the "they'll be worn out from the Clemson game" hype. I played virtually every defensive snap four consecutive years at Auburn and never felt like one game affected the next physically...not even a little bit. Emotionally...that's a totally different animal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clemson Review (Channel Your Inner Balboa)

We hear the term a lot in football "get out early and punch em in the mouth." Saturday night in Jordan-Hare, we got punched in the mouth, the gut, the ribs, etc. We got knocked down. A standing 8 was issued. We were groggy and cut.

Then came the bell for round number 2.

Auburn got up off the mat, and came out swinging in the 3rd quarter. The comeback was a sight to see. It was the most exciting quarter of football I've ever seen in Jordan-Hare. Auburn's fans in unison screamed "Get up!" and Auburn responded.

I don't get down to as many games in person as I used to. I sometimes forget what an inspiring crowd the Auburn faithful can be. They never quit, even with the dismal first half stats sitting right there for the world to see. They never stopped believing. The home schedule is one of the reasons I have such confidence in this team this season.

That being said we still have our problems. Our o-line flat out sucked in the first half. They were dominated by Clemson. Cam looked average on his throws and made some poor decisions.

Defensively we got pushed around the entire first half. Those guys were on the field a whole lot, but as Rob mentioned, you gotta show some urgency, especially on third down.

Our running game was so-so. Dyer had moments and Speedwagon looked good getting to the corner, but running the ball has to get better and at this point it falls on the offensive line to improve.

I gotta say hats off to Clemson. They were tough, hard nosed, and impressive. They will make some noise in the ACC.

The atmosphere outside the stadium was electric. It was almost like a Georgia or Alabama game. I don't know what it was but the fans seemed ready for the game, even if the team didn't.

Next week we go for the Palmetto sweep. The Gamecocks will be ready. I think at this point they have to be the SEC East favorites. We better be ready to play...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Clemson Review (AU 27 Clemson 24 OT)

This was an outstanding play by Demond Washington and an unfortunate anticipation pass interference call by the referee. That call kept Clemson alive after momentum had swung to Auburn.

Great win against a hungry Clemson team eager to prove its worth and playing for the pride of its beleaguered conference. Clemson looks to be the class of the ACC and gave Auburn more than I personally thought they could. I knew with the Alabama influence of its coaching staff these guys would have their team chomping at the bit to win in Auburn. What surprised me was the physicality Clemson played with. Regardless, what matters is we survived and advance with another win and move on to play the Palmetto state's best football team with even more on the line.


-Darvin Adams continues to impress and is as confident and skillful a WR Auburn has had perhaps ever.

-Resiliency...coming out of the locker room down two touchdowns and absolutely exploding in the third quarter was a sight to behold. Credit to the coaches for halftime adjustments, but really to the leadership on this team for not allowing their teammates to quit. Overcoming a 17-0 deficit and scoring 24 unanswered speaks to this teams character and bodes well for them in the immediate future. Should they fall behind in the weeks to come, this game will pay enormous dividends in the psyche of this relatively young team.

-Athleticism of Newton. He made a few throws he'd like to take back, but my confidence with him leading the offense is sky high. He'll only improve and gain more confidence with each passing week and I would personally not look forward to competing against him.

-Wes Byrum! Smooth as silk! Money!

-The crowd noise. Wasn't there but it looked to be a raucous atmosphere and played beautifully on ESPN. Not a big fan of the blue shakers though.


-Allowing Clemson to take the opening kickoff and march it 80 yards down our throats. We did not come out flat...we just got whipped at the line of scrimmage and couldn't get off the field on third downs. Of course, Clemson has probably been preparing for Auburn for 3 weeks and I'm sure added wrinkles we'd never seen. Even so, third down has to create an urgency to get off the field and we just couldn't do it. That was disappointing.

-Newton's inability or unwillingness to check down to an intermediate or dump off back/receiver. He has an all or none mentality which put us in some difficult third and long situations and/or put the defense back on the field quickly. We have to be able to sustain some drives by dumping the ball off on occasion. I love the big plays, but pick and choose your opportunities wisely...when it's not there, 5 yard gainers will move the sticks and keep that defense happy sipping Gatorade.

-Third week in a row we bring a first down inside the 15 back because of a holding penalty. Untimely penalties are becoming the norm.

-Offensive line was man-handled in the first half. This group should be dominating defensive fronts, but for whatever reason it's not happening. The loss of Greene doesn't make things any easier either.

-Too many busted coverages by our safeties, Etheredge particularly. I know he will improve weekly but he got caught several times out of position, including the unbelievable diving TD grab just before half he was fooled on.

-Punt return yards. Love that we fielded every punt cleanly. Wish we flipped the field on occasion to give the offense a short field to work with.

-Too much East/West running with tailbacks. Doesn't work so well when you play equally talented opposition. How many first and 10s became second and 16 because of lateral plays diagnosed defensively by Clemson.

Like I said last week, by tomorrow, no one remembers the score of this one...only that Auburn has 3 W's and 0 L's. We do have a long way to go however. We've got to be tougher defending the run and less apt to break down in pass coverage. We've got to be more dominant with our senior-laden offensive line and win the war running the football. We've got to develop a downhill running attack with Mike Dyer and limit the sideways stuff. We've got to stop killing drives with self-inflicted mistakes (inopportune penalties, INTs, etc.). We've got to come out the gate swinging for the chin of the opponent to begin each half of play. We've got to understand the importance of getting off the football field on third down defensively and develop a sense of urgency in those situations. Lots to work on. Another huge challenge awaits.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Clemson (Bizarro world AU) Preview

Please oh please don't do this.

Very excited to be heading down 280 Saturday for the "Blue Out". I am hoping all the rumors regarding the team uniforms are bogus. I hate the gimmicky stuff like Georgia's black outs. I say we show up in our old uni's, ante up and kick end.

I am also pumped that my wife Beth will be coming to the game. She hasn't made an Auburn game since the 04 Tennessee beatdown. I have mentioned many times that my Bethy is not exactly what I would call a football fan. She usually hangs in for a few minutes watching the game at home, then ends up vacuuming or something. She'll probably be grading papers by the 3rd quarter. How I married a girl so non-pigskin is beyond me, but she is a good sport about it at least. Although I have gotten into trouble with her for brainwashing our 3 year old into think that the University of Alabama is basically an evil elephant who lives with a old skunk named Saban. That's pretty much true, right?

I also get to share the Auburn experience with our friend who is a huge Clemson fan. She went to college with Beth, and she is a huge football fan. She knows more than most guys I know. I bet she would love to talk secondary rotations with Rob or something. Can't wait to see what she thinks about Tigerwalk, the Eagle, and (hopefully) Tooomer's corner.

As for the game, I am unsure about many things. What kind of team does Clemson have? They beat a team last week called the Blue Ho's(sic?). That is a really tasteless name for a girl's Intramural team. Before that they handled the Mean Green. Don't know why they didn't schedule Syracuse and Stanford next. I agree with Rob that they should have a pretty large drop off in talent from last season. I think its pretty impossible to replace a C.J. Spiller.

They have a great player in Kyle parker, who hit .344 with twenty bombs, and signed a 1.4 million dollar contract with...wait, what the heck is this guy doing playing football? Hope you're insured Kyle if Nick Fairley plays like he did last week.

I also have questions about what Auburn offense shows up. Will we be the fast paced team that forced Tennessee to burn timeouts last year because they were so gassed or last weeks Tubervillian grind it down offense that couldn't finish drives?

I think this is one of those dangerous in between games with a suddenly tough Carolina team coming in next week. We have to be careful about Dabo* and his band of Purple Tigers. I think we pull out a another nail biter. I say....

Auburn 28
Auburn (Palmetto Version) 24

*Parents obvioulsy hated him

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Clemson Preview

Clemson remains a bit of mystery having played no one to this point. They are probably better known for having a sophomore quarterback who's a millionaire thanks to his prowess in a different The one thing that catches my eye about this team is their coaching staff which is laden with former Alabama players/coaches (Dabo Swinney, Charlie Harbison, Danny Pearman, and Kevin Steele). To me this means these coaches have an ingrained hatred of Auburn and will express that to their players all week. Having a bye week following this game also stands out. They will hold nothing back physically having two weeks to get over the bumps and bruises. Clemson will be ready to play.

The good news is Auburn has more talent on both sides of the ball. As much as everyone doesn't want to see Cam Newton shouldering the workload of our rushing attack, Clemson struggles mightily in slowing down mobile QBs. They would love nothing more than to see Cam stay in the pocket and hand the ball off every down. My thought is the threat of having an athletic QB like Newton take off at any moment draws enormous respect from a defender, opening up alleys for RBs and cushion for WRs. We can't afford to take away the dual threat of Cameron and thus make life easier for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. So I say run Newton early and often and make them respect his ability to beat you with his feet. I'm telling you first hand as a defender, you'd rather tackle (insert an AU running back) than Cam Newton.

I also believe another impact player in Trovon Reed will emerge and make his presence known this week as a speedy player with unbelievable instincts with the ball in his hands.

Defensively, Clemson will be the most balanced offense we've played to date. The QB is not great, but he's athletic enough to make a play when the one called breaks down, and he can squeeze a pass into tight coverage with some success. Our defensive backs will be challenged down the field considerably and they must be prepared to make plays on the football. If we can get pressure rushing only 4 like we did against State with the beastly play of Nick Fairley and crew, then life will be much easier in the secondary. I believe we are capable of controlling both lines of scrimmage and if so, this game's not close.

I see everything coming together in this one. Mike Dyer emerges as the primary ball carrier with McCalebb breaking off 10-20 yard gainers routinely. Trovon Reed becomes a big play guy along side Adams and Zachery and Cam Newton continues doing what he does. The defense gives up some yards but stiffens in the red zone. It's close early but Auburn pulls away in the second half and runs away with it by two touchdowns*.


*I have minimal respect for ACC football at the moment

Friday, September 10, 2010

17-14. Put that in your cowbell and smoke it.

Welcome to the Show Mr. Blake

Raise your hand if you thought Auburn would score 17 first half points. (mine's up) Now raise your other hand if you thought we'd be shut out in the 2nd. Yeah, me neither.

Like many of you, I am torn between a pretty good defensive performance at times and at other times a shoddy offensive one. I am particularly curious about the Gus Bus moving so slowly. To reiterate what Rob said, I have a hard time understanding why we took so long to get plays in from the sideline. I never thought I'd be saying "Snap the ball" as the playclock ticked down in a Gus Malzahn offense. We burned two timeouts on one drive, quite Mike Shula-esque if you ask me. I almost got the feeling Gus didn't trust Cam to make throws downfield. He made one bad read on the interception. The rest of the time I'd say he looked pretty sharp.

Defensively, Nick Fairley was wreckin fools (obligatory white guy trying to talk street). The front four was pretty good all night and the linebackers are playing pretty well at this point. It's also nice to see that Savage and Etheridge found the W/D 40 to get the rust out. I thought both played pretty well.

That being said, I'd like to see Neiko Thorpe play a little better. He and Demond Washington had trouble getting off blocks. And Mississippi State receivers were open a lot. Fortunately Featherstone from the Texas St. Armadillos must be the WR coach at State. Either that or Greg Knox is helping coach receivers at State along with the running backs.

All in all, it's a SEC road win against a team that will beat some people because they play solid defense and can score points. I'll take it. Now bring on Clemson....

Mississippi State Review (AU 17 State 14)

Nick Fairley had the game of his life, completely dominating the interior offensive line of MSU and wreaking havoc in so many ways, leading Auburn to a road conference victory againt a western division rival. Sure it was what. When we take the field next week againt Clemson no one remembers the score of the previous weeks game. All that matters is what's in the won/loss column. Congrats on out-scrapping a hungry team convinced it could pull off the upset on a national stage. You weathered the many storms, many self-inflicted, and left Starkville victorious. Many SEC teams will fail to do so this season.


^The quick start. Taking the opening drive and punching MSU directly in the mouth and putting 7 on the board. Beautiful!

^Putting the kibosh on State's offense after the recovered onsides kick. All the momentum in the world and then 3 incomplete passes

^Outstanding QB pressure with a 4 man rush...Nick Fairley, Mike Blanc, Goggans, and Carter

^Kick coverage is phenomenal...especially Craig Sanders

^Another weapon in Emory Blake

^Mananged to hold MSU to under 250 yards total offense without Craig Stevens or our fourth corner Mincy. Their return (if they return) will bolster our depth, and with Stevens our experience, considerably.

^Losing our perennial starter in Ziemba early, only to have Moseley step right in and never miss a beat.

^Allowing MSU to return the favor and take it's opening possession of the second half the length of the field and score. Three and out, great field position, and score would have put the game away early.

^Penalties that brought plays back that would have given AU the ball inside the 15 yardline...twice!

^Poor clock management to end the first half...two weeks in a row. Why not throw one into the end zone and at least take a shot? Why take a timeout into the lockerroom?

^What happended to defensive rotation. DL rotated sparingly, Bynes and Bates never left the field.

^Corners had a tough time locating the football in the air and making a play on it. Nice job running stride for stride with the receivers for the most part, but a little slow to swivel the head and bat the ball away

^Too soft on the bubble screen. We never stopped it for less than a eight or nine yard gain.

^Offenses inability to deliver the knock-out blow.

^Blocked FG with a chance to end it. Guard got plowed over (not low enough) and allowed too much penetration--almost caused the game to go to overtime...would have if State hadn't dropped so many balls in their final drive.

^Still no Trovon Reed.

^Slow pace. I do not like having our offense stare at the sideline to get a play. Several times Cam was looking to the sideline as the play clock was winding down. He then had no time to survey the defense to pick up potential blitzers he may have to elude. If he can see where they're coming from he'll rarely be sacked. When he has no idea because he's having to look at Malzahn for a last second play-call, we take away his eyes and thus his elusiveness.

Proud we stepped into a potential hornets nest and came out on top. Winning ugly is still winning. We dominated the line of scrimmage, moved the ball with success, tackled reasonably well, and never trailed on the road with a relatively young team. We kept State in it by gifting them their first TD and committing untimely penalties. We will continue to improve. I like where we are.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mississippi State Preview

If I had a say, I'd be watching this, not Auburn football.

I hate Thursday night ESPN games. Well, at least when Auburn plays in them. I remember in 2006 we got a huge scare from South Carolina when we were the 3rd ranked team in the country. And to be quite honest, I have a feeling we'll be in for a huge scare again on Thursday night.

Because for whatever reason the Mississippi folks have this game circled. It is a stepping stone in their eyes. And after absolutely taking Memphis to the woodshed coupled with our lackluster defensive performance against Arkansas St. Saturday, many are calling for the Miss. St upset. It must be contagious, because I am pretty sure the Roundtable Radio guys(all Bama homers) here in the 'Ham all are picking the Bulldogs, I am not really worried about that because those guys rarely know what they are talking about, and the quality of their Auburn analysis has gone in the can since D&B moved over to FM.*

Again I will say this: I hate Thursday night ESPN games. As for the game:

I think it will be a struggle. I have no idea how good State is but I have a pretty good idea about how bad Memphis is (try worse than UAB bad). I also think when it all pans out at the end of the year we'll say Arkansas St. will have a pretty decent offense.

Special teams plays a big role in this one. Look for Demond or QCarr to make a big play in the return game.

I also expect some of the AU freshmen to be turned loose (looking at you, Dyer, Reed).

Here's hoping for no turnovers and another Cam-tastic performance. (I am finding so many uses for the word Cam, it is really camazing).

AU pulls away late, and has a headache on Friday from the cowbells.

Auburn: 42
(Thank God for) Mississippi St: 33

*Retribution. Pate's not good enough for the FM dial, D&B? Because I can't 'Stan' to listen to your Auburn analyst these days.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mississippi State Preview

Word is MSU is a changed team; Coach Mullen has the cowbells ringing in perfect harmony and all's perfect in Starkville. State puts up 40 something against a terrible Memphis team and suddenly State is a dominant force in the west. I agree Dan Mullen is just what the doctor ordered for a program that was in complete disarray and on the verge of quickly becoming the doormat of the SEC right next to Vandy. He has won over his players and they believe in the Mullen way. I am not, however, buying that State is ready to compete for an SEC title because they played well against Memphis. I do believe this will be a scrappy, well-coached, disciplined, tough-nosed football team beaming with confidence and eager to prove itself on a national stage. I also believe the last sentence adequately describes the Auburn Tigers as well. And I believe if Auburn jumps out to a fast start against State, it may rekindle the recent past and State may fold in a hurry. It will be interesting to see. Of course, we haven't seen how this Auburn team, Cam Newton in particular, responds to adversity (and there will surely be some Thursday night).

Keys to the game:

1. Auburn cannot turn the football over, period! The offense must make life easier for the defense and carry them early on this season as they knock the rust off. Giving State extra possessions, good field position, and putting the defense in precarious situations will spell disaster.

2. We cannot give up the big play. I fully expect MSU to score some points in this game and that's fine...but we must make them earn what they get and cannot allow easy scores. Most offenses can't complete a drive without either a drive-stopping penalty or committing a turnover. Make their offense be perfect.

3. Make MSU one-dimensional. MSU wants to throw the football more. Again that's fine. Throw it all night long. Just don't allow the running backs to gash you for long gainers when they do decide to run the football. Much like Auburn, MSU will pass to open up the run. Stopping the run makes life as a coordinator and defender much simpler when you know they're throwing the ball.

4. Weather the storms. First conference road trip with a new QB is always interesting. How will Cam and the team respond when/if he throws an INT or fumbles away a critical possession?

5. Establish the line of scrimmage and run at will. We have a lot of weapons to run the football. If we can run the ball with success, we'll be hard to beat all year long.

Defensively, success hinges on pressure and making MSU one-dimensional. Whatever our biggest weakness is as a defensive unit will be evident after this game and we will know more about what we truly have. Whatever the case may be, I believe you'll see enormous growth out of this defense with each game.

Offensively, it's all about mental fortitude, taking care of the football, and cutting out silly penalties. We have superior talent. We just have to be patient and keep plugging away. It won't come as easy as it did last week.


Think Your Team Had a Bad Opening Weekend?

Check out this from Red Cup Rebellion. Wow...just wow.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Well I'll be Cammed

The famous man-cave urinal

Told you this thing existed. And its a good thing, because if I would have seen Cam Newton's sick 16 yard run on a full bladder, I would have wet my pants.

I keep watching replays and telling myself that this can't be real. His passing accuracy was his biggest knock coming into last night. I didn't see a whole lot of problem, you? I was also shocked with the big guy's moves. I never thought I'd describe a 6'6" guy as "shifty", but that was pretty shifty.

As for the rest of the offense, pretty much what I expected to see, except that Dyer got more carries than Mario (which was a grand total of 3!). The Speedwagon is still fast and Dyer is, man oh man.

I'm with Rob on the defensive struggles. I hate the soft secondary, but re-acclimating Savage and Ethridge may have been a concern. I also hope that Roof and Company spent very little time on Arkansas St. and more time on Miss. State. I will keep telling myself that until Thursday.

Love the new D-line and how Toro and Bates are flyin around. Special teams looked light years better to me as well.

So, let's be worried about this one. A Thursday night trap game with a team that is also on the rise. After Saturday, of the 2 Mississippis,who are you more worried about now- Ol Miss or State? Me too.

Previews on MSU in a day or two...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Arkansas State Review: AU 52 Ark St. 26

Photo courtesy of Hal Yeager, The Birmingham News

I saw lots of positives and much to build upon in Auburn's opener against Arkansas State. It obviously wasn't perfect all night, but all in all I see a team with enormous potential to accomplish some incredible feats this season.

What I liked...

-Cam Newton's ability to improvise

-Tons of defensive linemen rotating into the game

-Craig Sanders desire covering kicks

-The trio of McCalebb, Fannin, and Dyer. As a former safety, I would not have looked forward to playing against that trio all night.

-The run defense was extremely solid

-Q. Carr's confidence fielding punts as well as emerging as another offensive and punt return weapon teams must account for.

What I disliked..

-The slow start to begin both halves. Better teams will make you pay in a hurry (See Arkansas 2009).

-Fannin's continued case of fumblitis


-No turnovers against a pass-happy team new to the spread with a young quarterback.

-Tempo not as quick as what I observed in practice

I'm hearing/reading lots of concerns about the defense (i.e. poor tackling, no pressure, too many points against a no-name team, etc.). Don't worry about the least not yet. I think this group is different than last years and will improve week to week instead of regress. Much of that will be due to these guys pushing each other in practice for playing time because many positions have back-ups nipping at the starters heels. This defense was mostly vanilla and did a better job tackling than what I saw last season. The safeties seemed to have the hardest time with blown assignments and missed tackles, but this will improve dramatically I'm confident. A broken leg, a ruptured achilles, and a freaking broken neck have hampered each of these three respectivley and this game will go a long way in getting their feet wet once again and re-aquainting themselves with the speed of the game. We also played without arguably our best linebacker in Craig Stevens. With his return from suspension (hopefully this week) we will only improve.

And offensively we are in excellent shape. We have the most dynamic quarterback in the conference, if not the country in Cam Newton. Things will get dramatically more difficult in the coming weeks, but he is obviously a special talent and is surrounded with experienced weapons en masse.

Overall, good initial perfomance...not great. But definitely see a team with all the ability in the world to accomplish all the goals these guys have set. Could be a special year.