Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview

What an incredibly fickle year for the Auburn faithful! A year in which the Auburn Family experienced the pinnacle of college football as well as what has become synonymous with the worst in college football, Harvey Updyke (Winner of the Paul Finebaum Caller of the Year Award!). We saw four talented players destroy their lives with heinous, incomprehensibly poor decisions, as well as Auburn sign another stellar recruiting class tops nationally. We were introduced to the "bag man" and assured by "credible sources" our National Title would be stripped, and we celebrated as another Auburn great (perhaps the greatest) went on to become the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. We lost a key component to our defensive tenacity in Coach Rocker joining the staff of the Tennessee Titans, and had our curiosity piqued by the staffs unsuccessful attempt to lure Russell Wilson to run the Malzahn attack (our first clue to offensive problems on the horizon). We saw Barrett Trotter win a hard-fought QB battle only to lose his leadership role never to return, ushering in the Clint Moseley era. From scrapping back to pull off a shocker over Utah State to going into Columbia, SC and winning in big boy, old school fashion...beating a top 10 team on the road and going 3-2 through the most difficult October stretch in the country. From stuffing Mississippi State at the goalline to preserve the nations longest winning streak, to getting blown out to our biggest rivals. The NCAA closing its 13 month long investigation into Auburn and Cam Newton in which Auburn turned out squeaky clean in all things Cam related, to losing two coordinators, a five star recruit to Alabama (bless his heart), our best offensive player...all in two weeks! It's been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride!

All that to predict Auburn wins the Chick-fil-A Bowl. They win it going away. Yes, without Mike Dyer, down a coach, with an outgoing offensive coordinator...this team will play it's most inspired football game we've seen all season.

Defensively, no one has been more critical of Ted Roof than me...right here on this blog. I like Coach Roof, have met him, like his demeanor, the respect other coaches speak of when referring to him, the love his players displayed for him...but his time had come and Coach Chizik has lit a fire underneath this defensive unit. Listening to Auburn defenders trying to verbalize the stark differences between a Gene Chizik run meeting/practice and a Ted Roof meeting/practice has been eye-popping during bowl preparation. The "little things" had been neglected resulting in big (mostly bad) things on Saturdays (now going on three years). Playing defense is all about attitude and Coach Chizik will have these guys with the proper bent come Saturday night. I think it will be reminiscent of the effort we saw at South Carolina.

Offensively, this group will desire to send Coach Malzahn out in stellar fashion and I'm intrigued to see how it's accomplished with Mike Dyer no longer an Auburn Tiger. I have to believe we have more talent than Virginia and think a "hold-nothing-back" approach by Gus Malzahn could be a thing of beauty. I almost feel we will be asking ourselves post-game, "Where was that all season?!"

The only caveat is the mental preparation. Bowl week has lots of distractions. Lots of opportunities to make poor choices. Lots of opportunities to loss sight of why you're actually there. Surely Auburn holds the advantage in this department as it's united in ending this season positively for their coaches.

The Auburn Family needs something positive to occur Saturday. It's not a "must win" game by any stretch...Auburn will hire capable coordinators, will sign a tremendously talented class, and will be right back in the hunt next fall. The roller coaster cycle has us in a downward plunge at the moment and the Chick-fil-A Bowl is our opportunity to begin our ascent. Get ready for the ride cause things are about to get interesting!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time to Reflect: Random Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bama Reax-Season to Forget

I hope that's not a contract extension.

2010 was a season we'll never forget as Auburn fans. 2011 will go down as a season we wish we could forget. 5 losses, none of them close. 2 losses we blew a 14 point lead. Blown out, embarrassed by arch rivals.

Most of us can stomach 7-5. If the losses were close. Now we look for answers.

To me, it has to start with Ted Roof. Rob and I both have advocated for a new direction on defense. In 2009 we blamed lack of depth. Nick Fairley covered up a whole lot of problems last year. This year we used inexperience early. But this unit got worse. No improvement, just regression.Those of us who grew up with Hall, Oliver, Chizik, Muschamp know That defense at AU is a cornerstone. Under Ted Roof, it has been an afterthought.

Offensively, I am just as disappointed. I wondered aloud in the summer about why exactly we were interested in Russell Wilson. I think now we know the answer. It's easy to be an offensive genius when Cam Newton is your signal caller. It's also a much simpler job when you have an experienced offensive line. When you have neither, you get 2011. As in 14 vs Arkansas, 10 vs LSU, 7 vs UGA and 14 (none on offense) vs Alabama. We are rudderless without a decent signal caller. Trotter and Moseley at this point are not even close to being SEC caliber quarterbacks. Frazier may develop into a good one, but at this point he resembles another sought after high school quarterback from Arkansas. That guy wound up having a pretty good career at receiver for the Tigers.

I expected and expect better from Auburn. Two top 5 recruiting classes and a third on the way say so. We must continue to improve. 2011 is a cast away season.

I too see a bright future on the plains. There is too much talent there for me to think otherwise. We'll see some changes in the off season. In all likelihood Guz will be headed for a head coaching job. If and when that happens, do we stick with the same type system or go more in a pro-style direction?

And like a 40 year old house, it's time to replace the roof. It's leaking, and it will eventually destroy the house.

I love Auburn and nothing will ever change that. I still believe in Chizik. I think he has been a great get for our school. I am with him. He needs us as fans to support him, as do the players. I'm still all in. I know you are too.

War Eagle...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alabama Review (AU 14 UA 42)

How do you analyze a thrashing of epic proportion in a rivalry deserving far more than we witnessed Saturday on Pat Dye Field? As I watched, I was astounded by the vast expanse separating both teams as well as the voluminous disparity wedged between this years Auburn team and last. I knew this years Tigers would take a step backwards from last seasons unparalleled success. I did not expect a giant leap in reverse. The gap created between our Auburn Tigers and the preeminent teams in the SEC in one short year is larger than I thought it would be and Coach Chizik and staff have a major challenge ahead to close the chasm by next season.

I thought defensively we did about as good as we could expect against the run in the first half. We sold out to stop it and in doing so allowed AJ McCarron to have a career day. Chalk AJ up as yet another suspect QB playing the game of his life against the Auburn defense this season...which begs the question...are we that unlucky defensively to run into these offenses at their peak? Is it our defensive philosophy/gameplan? Or is it the players attempting to carry out that gameplan? This is the question Coach Chizik must address immediately to begin Auburn's ascension to the top of college football once again.

I cannot explain why we neglected to cover the Alabama's TE? I can only assume a linebacker totally blew his assignment. I promise matter what defense was called from the sideline, it doesn't involve ignoring the TE. Alabama did a fantastic job of softening up the Auburn defense with easy passes early in the football game working towards running it down our throats as the game progressed. Having played on teams at Auburn with pathetically anemic offense at times, I can tell you first hand as the game progresses and you see your offense is not going to have any semblance of success, it makes you think twice about continually sacrificing your body to bring down a stud like Trent Richardson. It's an extremely difficult position to be in as a defender.

Auburn now must turn its attention to the future. Having this time to practice during bowl preparation is enormously important for this young football team. I promise you the Tennessee's of the world are at an immense disadvantage for being off till spring football, and Auburn has to get better, and grow up during this extra practice time. Second, Coach Chizik must address the coaching situation. I still believe he should take the reigns as coordinator for the bowl game and either bring in a new coordinator for next season or just do it himself. I have been tough on Coach Roof as of late, but truth is it's not all his fault. To expect 18 and 19 year olds to physically whip the best players in college football is not logical and was destined to fail. His body of work however has not lived up to Auburn defensive standards...not even close.

In 1998 we finished the season 3-8. We were pretty good defensively, downright terrible offensively. If you had asked me then, I would have told you no one in the country outworked us and that our offensive staff fit our personnel just fine. In reality, I couldn't have been any farther from the truth! When Coach Tuberville and staff (particularly Kevin Yoxall) arrived we were introduced (quite brutally) to a brand new realm of work we had never known. The point...every player, fan base, any most of the time coach believes their program is doing everything the right way, with the right people, with the right philosophical approach. In reality, if you're not constantly reevaluating your program, your coaches, your personnel, and everything in between, then you run the risk of falling behind. Programs catch on and catch up in hurry. Auburn can right the ship just as fast as it veered off course. To do so will require some very tough decisions be made.

I still wake up the day after an Iron Bowl loss thankful I'm on the Auburn side of the rivalry. I know many fantastic Alabama people that love their university every bit as passionately as I do they should. But love of Alabama is easy love, cheap love, lazy love. The enormity of their sidewalk alumni proves this point. To love Auburn, you must first experience Auburn...and once you do it's in your blood forever. Sometimes, the Auburn football program breaks our hearts making love a difficult exercise. But, the stronger the winds blow, the fiercer the attacks, the more persistent the ridicule...the more solid we become, the sweeter the ride is to the top, the more united we all are! As goes the old proverb, "Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger the wind...the stronger the trees!"

Auburn will be back in the short-term. I believe Coach Chizik will take the necessary steps to resolve what ails us. Let's support Coach Chizik, his staff, and the players that are left to endure the steps taken to create change. War Eagle!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dr.Z''s Iron Bowl advice-Wreck it.

So sorry I didn't get this out sooner, but my game day is live from Folly Beach SC. Lots of family stuff to do today so I'll get right to it.

Nobody gives you a shot to win today Auburn. You are a 20+ point dog at a place where you haven't lost since 2009.

They say your offense is a shell of its former self. You have a defense that only looks decent when the offense downshifts to Mal Moore speed.

You have been pretty decent this season, say the experts. 7-5 is a great year for a team that lost so much from a 2010 National Championship. But you know better.

Now walks in Alabama, with their world gift wrapped for them. Sure, they could have taken care of business in there own house a couple weeks ago, but they choked it away against LSU. Since then we've had to endure whining about kickers, and rampant speculation about how they could backdoor their way into a rematch for the national title.

All that pretty much happened by the way. Every star aligned for Bama. Beat you tomorrow Auburn, and they get their wish.

So here is my advice to you, Orange and Blue: Wreck it.

For all of us who have to listen to the noise from the other side of spoiled, entitled Bammers. For the fans who adore you and live and die with you. Those of us who choose you because we believe that to be successful requires work...hard work. We cherish every win, every championship.

The other fan base? Not so much. They believe that every Championship is theirs. So much so that they claim ones that aren't. So much so that if you win it, they poison your oaks.

So no prediction today. I'm not going to break down offense v. defense. Just a request:

Wreck it. Everything has gone right for the entitled, tree-poisoning Nation. It's time they are reminded who the defending national Champion is. Or who holds a winning record in the series since Bryant died.

We all need reminding sometimes.

Wreck it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Alabama Preview

You have to wonder if the football gods have declared Alabama 2011 National Champions already. How else can you explain the epic meltdowns of Oklahoma State (losing to Iowa St!), Stanford (losing to Oregon), Oregon (losing to USC), Oklahoma (losing to Baylor!)? No other team in college football could possibly be so lucky as to be rewarded for losing your division?! I'm sure the folks in Baton Rouge are scratching their heads over the way things have played out in Alabama's favor. It's inexplicable.

My immediate thought when the dominoes fell in favor of the Tide was the 2004 Auburn Tigers. Here we have a team capable of running the SEC gauntlet unscathed yet watch the National Title game on TV instead of as worthy participants. Can you imagine Alabama or LSU or Florida going 13-0 and left out of the championship game? Somewhere Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, Tommy Tuberville, Cadillac Williams, Carlos Rogers, and the rest of the 2004 Tigers are shaking their heads to see Alabama sitting in its current position. I know I am.

Which brings us to the 76th edition of the Iron Bowl. A game in which the Auburn Tigers can single-handedly crush the preconceived notion of Alabama playing for a national title. In a college football landscape as utterly chaotic as the one we're currently living through, it seems almost prophetic for Auburn to pull the shocker. It's been a long time (2002) since a heavy underdog has won this game. Auburn enters the largest underdog perhaps in the history of the rivalry. Perhaps the stars are aligning.

Auburn must do two things to win this football game. First, they have to sell out to stop the run and eliminate dying a slow death by allowing the Alabama running game to impose its will. The game must be put into the hands of A.J. McCarron. If Alabama can beat you through the air, you tip your hat and congratulate them on their first victory of the season in which the QB had a role. If Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy pound you into submission, that's unacceptable for allowing Alabama to be successful offensively the only way they know how. Second, the Auburn offensive line must protect the QB. Alabama's defense is as talented a group I've seen in college football at all levels. Coach Malzahn and Grimes have their hands full controlling the line of scrimmage. I'll be interested to see how we choose to attack Alabama's defense and what type of success we have against the statistical leader in virtually every NCAA statistic.

This is the one week every year I miss playing for the Auburn Tigers. People constantly ask if I miss not playing and I always answer, "No, I don't miss doing the things it took to compete at that level!" That being said, when I see the Auburn orange and blue come together with the Alabama crimson and white I must admit my desire to suit up and play one more time against a bitter rival eats away at my inner being. I am jealous of the young men capable of participating in a game and rivalry second to none, yet humbled and thankful for the opportunity I had to take part in the fiercest rivalry, most intense atmosphere college football has to offer. Neither fan base will admit it, but we need each other to be great. This game carries much less significance if Alabama and/or Auburn aren't national heavyweights competing for championships on a consistent basis.

I have just as much fun provoking Alabama fans as the next Auburn fan. At the same time, I do respect the success of their program and the many great players who've worn the crimson jersey. Participating along side many of them prior to this season kicking off in the Rivals Unite for Recovery charity event following the devastating Tuscaloosa tornadoes put the rivalry into proper prospective for me (I hope you'll take the time to read the link).

This game deserves nothing less than everything you've got. This Auburn team has yet to play a complete game all season. The defense has struggled to slow down most offenses. The Auburn offense has been sporadic at best. The only thing making me believe Auburn has a chance is sheer pride and emotion. The realization of the enormous opportunity we have to play spoiler to Alabama backing itself into a BCS championship game appearance. What a win this would be for the Auburn faithful! It will take an effort beyond anything we've seen this team produce, but in my heart of hearts, I know this game is capable of producing just that sort of desire! Come on into Jordan-Hare Stadium and let's trade punches! You may win...but you'll have to kill me first!


And I leave you with my greatest Iron Bowl memory from my playing days...WAR EAGLE!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Samford Reax-Yaaawwwnnn.

The name? Because it most assuredly wasn't.

Sorry no preview from Friday. Unlike my esteemed colleague, I blew off work to get my new boat in the water. It took all day. I happened to like the boat so much I spent Saturday on it doing some touch ups and listening to the game on the radio.

I won't lie. The first half made me want to climb the mast and jump off. But Auburn eventually wore down the scrappy Bulldogs, much in part due to Michael Dyer's 30+ carries, because it's a good idea to get your star running back 30+ carries the week before you play the best defense in the country.

Our big uglies have some work to do if we are to stay in the game with Alabama. I haven't seen much improvement over the course of the season in the offensive or defensive lines. I think that has been the most dissapointing thing to me for 2011, we just haven't gotten better.

So we all know what this week is. We have the talent to give Bama all they want. The question is-will we? More to come later this week.

Until then, may the wind always be at your back and may the seas rise to meet you.

Samford Review (AU 35 Samford 16)

My apologies for no Samford preview. Obamacare has me implementing a new EHR (electronic health record)in my office that benefits no one...except the EHR software development companies bottom lines. It has me working more hours, documentation is worse, wait time is increased, and I spend more time looking at my computer than at patient's eye balls. It's a classic case of governmental red tape reducing the quality of health care in this country...but I digress!

Samford. Unbelievable. I took my family and thought for a long while I brought them to the worst upset in the history of Auburn football. Samford came unimpressed nor intimidated by the surroundings and played inspired football. Auburn came uninspired nor excited about the opportunity to sharpen its play prior to the most important game on the schedule...this weeks Iron Bowl. As a former player, I fully understand the mindset. It's virtually impossible to be emotionally charged against a team you know nothing about. As fans, we shouldn't blame the players one bit. If you were in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, you are well aware it was as serene and peaceful a stadium as I've ever seen. Auburn tennis matches are louder. It was louder Sunday morning during my church's worship and praise. So don't get on players for not being emotionally charged when we all know none of us did anything to create an atmosphere to spark enthusiasm!

That being said, we continue to struggle mightily in the trenches. Our defensive front was stalemated at the point of attack allowing Samford to rush the football with far too much success. The Samford QB was never sacked on 33 passing attempts. Running lanes were enormous from the upper deck...section 107...row 24 (no...I don't get free tickets...people ask that all the time. I scalped four 1/2 an hour before kickoff for $130 and had three given to me by a friend). Offensively, the turnovers were silly. Coach Malzahn was as upset as I've ever seen after the McCalebb fumble. Even the mild mannered Malzahn had seen enough to cause a Saban-esque explosion.

I do continue to be impressed with true freshman DB Jermaine Whitehead. His instincts, awareness, football IQ, and playmaking abilities will elevate him to another level on this defense for years to come. He has a chance to be a special talent. Erique Florence is another young DB with all the potential in the world. I was also happy to see Trovon Reed become involved this week with several catches and elusive runs. Clint Moseley can be a weapon if given time. Auburn will face its most difficult challenge all year keeping Clint upright this weekend against Alabama.

Again...I don't look at the game against Samford with excitement nor discontent. They did enough to win, stayed relatively healthy, and honored one of Auburn's greatest treasures in Samford head coach Pat Sullivan along the way. If I had any negative feelings about the game walking down the ramp from the nose-bleed section with my kids, they were put into proper perspective by the Samford band as it played "It is Well With My Soul"...a far cry from the post game jeer we'll hear Saturday immediately following the contest by either winner (although I DO LOVE the Auburn version of Rammer Jammer!! In fact I lost my voice for a full week provoking the Tide fans after the comeback win last year in their/our house!).

Let's support our team, our program, our university this week and every week thereafter knowing how lucky we are to be Auburn Tigers! Be thankful this thanksgiving season for the many blessings God has graciously bestowed upon you with the firm understanding things could always be worse. Your fan bases' living legend could be named Harvey Updike! IT's ALWAYS GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER!!! WAR DAMN EAGLE!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dr. Z's UGA Roadkill Review

Run over on the road

I've been dreading this review ever since Saturday. Forgive my tardiness. Call it shock or PTSD, but it took me a while to figure out what to say here. So let me try...

We stunk Saturday. How's that?

I've watched quite a few AU stinkers over the years, mostly with one Thomas H. Tuberville at the helm. But I have never seen an egg laid as horribly as the one I saw Saturday.

I can't even fathom what went wrong? Are we that bad? Is UGA all of a sudden the Green Bay Packers? We have a long way to go, for sure, but I expected more out of this group of talented young players. I expected them to compete.

Now the Auburn fam is faced with a whole new set of questions. Is this the new norm for our Tigers? Did Newton and Fairley mask a whole host of problems lying under the surface? Who will our quarterback be in 2012? Did our better than expected October give us false hope about a young team just trying to find an identity?

As for the answers to all these questions pointing us in a crooked line*, I have none. It's been a frustrating year. We all kind of knew it would be, and hopefully, it will make us hungrier in 2012.

And I don't care how many we lose, or how bad we lose them, it's great to be an Auburn Tiger.

*I admit it. Thanks to my wife, I have become an Indigo Girls fan. Tear up my man card if you must.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Georgia Review (AU 7 UGA 45)

Ball Game!

What an embarrassing utter disrespect to a storied traditional rivalry. The South's oldest rivalry became the nation's most lopsided affair. Sure, other teams may have lost by a larger margin on the scoreboard Saturday, but no team was dismantled as severely as our Auburn Tigers. It was sickening to endure and can only imagine how frustrating it was for those of you whom traveled to Sanford Stadium. I was glad I didn't drive 30 minutes across town to watch the game with Dr. Z, never mind making the trip to Athens. If I had gone, I'd write to Jay Jacobs and demand a refund for the price of admission. If I had shown up, I'd expect the team I came to support return the favor.

In my time at Auburn I played in some games we were completely overmatched in. Florida had our number in 2000 scoring on its first 5 possessions. Arkansas crushed us in 1999 in Fayetteville. Virginia dominated us in 1998 to open the season. I'm sure there were many more games that left a bitter taste in your mouths over the course of my playing career...maybe even the way I played. But I never walked off of a football field between 1997 and 2000 and felt myself or my teammates cheated Auburn by cashing in and not competing for four quarters. I wonder if this group can look in the mirror and say the same? Quoting Emory Blake after the loss..."I think a couple of guys shut it down...we need to keep believing..." That's what's unacceptable. I can live with getting beat by superior talent. I can live getting completely run out of the stadium if I think everyone gave maximum effort. I can't live with guys that "shut it down." It disrespects disrespects disrespects the player...his family...his teammates...his coaches...and everyone associated with Auburn University.

I scratch my head and sit baffled at the way we go about running our offense? If we can't protect the QB in the pocket, then why don't we move the pocket? Can we not throw on the run? If we think Trovon Reed is a special talent and one of our premiere playmakers (in practice) why can't we get him the football? I guess my frustration stems from repeatedly doing the same things yet expecting different results. Isn't that the very definition of insanity? At this point, why not go to the I formation and pound Dyer behind a lead fullback (Ladarious Phillips perhaps) with two TE's and play action pass? The former player in me knows it's not feasible to revamp an offense and make an unconventional offense conventional overnight, however the fan in me says show me you're willing to try something different.

Many fans message me during and after this (and multiple other) games stating Roof should go (I'll address that next), but nary a word about the disaster we see offensively against teams with a heartbeat defensively. This offense has been anemic at best against the best competition without a human highlight reel running the show in Cam Newton. We need to either find a Cam Newton clone or find a little more willingness to adapt a game plan to what we do well.

And the defense. It was a crime scene...take your pick as what you want to call the offence the Georgia offense committed on the Auburn defense. Battery? Assault? Mayhem? Theft? What they did was steal Auburn's desire to compete and pretty much had their way with our defense. The sentence...a defensive coaching shake-up is in order.

I've been a supporter of Coach Roof...not so much because of what his defenses have done on the field, but more so because of who he was trying to accomplish it with. He doesn't have the luxury of studs on defense. He did last season in Nick Fairley, the most dominant defensive lineman I've ever seen. Yet we still played most games from behind. Every game we play against a legitimate offense turns into no contest. I could live with a deficiency here or there. I can't live with complete annihilation both on the ground and through the air. And compound that with poor fundamentals? It's time for a change (and I don't make that statement a former player who endured a coaching change myself, I know firsthand the difficulties created). And the change may not involve the dismissal of Coach Roof. Perhaps he's a stellar linebackers coach, a terrific recruiter...if so, keep him on staff but remove his DC title. Coach Chizik should take the reigns. Never understood why many head coaches double as the offensive coordinator, but no head coach ever remains the defensive coordinator anyway?

I know I sound frustrated and sarcastic. My intention is never to be a pot stirrer or anything less than a fine representative of Auburn University. I am also aware that things are never really as bad as they seem nor as good as they seem. I've tried to maintain a realistic optimism regarding this season and fully expected a decline from last year...who didn't. Not many understand the difficulty in winning on the road against the top 10 talent we've fallen to this season as much as a former player in this league does. I didn't expect to beat Georgia. If you read my blog you'll see I picked us to lose...just as I did against LSU and Arkansas. But back to back road games of being completely noncompetitive has ME reeling. And I really don't live and die by Auburn football. I can't even imagine how those that do feel! So I feel like my views represent the majority of Auburn fans? Maybe I'm wrong? Let me know on air Tuesday night on EYES ON AUBURN...6-8 PM across the state of Alabama via the War Damn Radio Network.

War Eagle!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dr. Z's Georgia Crybaby Preview

After the 2010 version of the South's oldest rivalry, we spent 2 weeks listening to our neighbors from the east cry about their loss to Auburn:

"Nick Fairly's dirty. He tackles too hard."

"Cam Newton's should have never played in the game."

"Michael Dyer Runs too fast."

They even have several youtube vids giving a digital face to their whining:

The armchair psychologist might call this projection. Perhaps they are so unhappy with their own sad program that they must try to point out the things they dislike most in others. I might feel the same way if my team was in a horse race in the SEC Least division. When you are duking it out with the Gamecocks minus Lattimore for a spot to get eviscerated by LSU you might project in the same way.

In any case I'm done with the UGA fans and their whiny mediocre team. If you swap the schedules of AU and UGA you know what, UGA would be 5-4 right now, and Auburn would be 8-1.

And Georgia is a 13 point favorite in this game. That line looks pretty out of whack to me.

The key to this game for Auburn is to stack the box and stop the run. The dogs have no superstar receivers. Play press man and see what happens.

On offense, we cannot be afraid to let Clint Moseley throw the ball. I'm hoping we see more first down throws this week. I expect Mr. Blake to be amazing Saturday.

Here's another game where special teams might win Auburn another game, or lose Georgia another game. UGA's near the bottom in the country on kickoff coverage, net yards per punt, and kicker Blair Walsh has been so bad he's been known to toss his helmet in the garbage can after one of his 10 missed field goals this year.

First team to thirty wins it...

Auburn 31
Crybabies 27

Oh, and if you really want to experience sheer bliss, check out this clip from Rob's Jr year at AU and my first semester at Optometry School....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Georgia Preview

Huge game Saturday night in Athens for both programs. For Georgia, they control their own destiny with regards to an SEC title shot. Beat Auburn and Georgia all but assures itself a trip to Atlanta with lowly Kentucky remaining on the schedule. Georgia is also looking for validation as they've yet to beat an SEC team with a winning conference record (unbelievably will have only played two all season--South Carolina and Auburn...and if UGA and Bama beat Auburn, UGA will have only played one team with a winning conference record). Auburn on the other hand is still looking to play its first complete game of the season. They came very close in their last outing against Ole Miss with the exception of poor run defense in the first half. A win over Georgia does wonders for bowl slotting and essentially gaurantees this Auburn team exceeds the expectations of even the most unrealistic Auburn fans.

There are some match-ups in this one I don't like...

1. Georgia's offensive line vs Auburn's defensive line. Georgia has the biggest OL in the country...larger than every NFL offensive line! Girth doesn't necessarily translate into dominate offensive line play, but a group that enormous leaning all day against a defensive line as young and thin as ours is not a match-up favoring the Tigers.

2. Georgia's defensive line vs Auburn's offensive line. I don't think this match-up becomes an issue unless Auburn struggles to run the football. If Georgia makes us predictable and forces obvious passing situations, their 3-4 defensive scheme and edge rushers will have a field day. To prevent this we must be incredibly balanced, break tendencies, give Clint Moseley some easy throws to build upon, and get Onterio McCalebb into the mix by forcing the Georgia defense to defend the run game from sideline to sideline.

3. Aaron Murray. The Georgia QB may be the best the we've seen this year. He will complete some passes and have success. We just have to make him earn everything he gets and make him pay when he makes the slightest mistake. We can't afford to allow Georgia to jump out in front several scores early. We just aren't built to play from behind.

In Auburn's favor...

1. No team seemingly does less with more than the Georgia Bulldogs. This Georgia team is really not very good if you've seen them play this year. They play to their opponents level. Their wins against some terrible teams have required far too much fight down to the wire. I have never seen an easier path to an SEC championship game than the one the Georgia Bulldogs are currently on. Mark Richt may have been on the hot seat but when the combined conference wins of all the SEC teams you've beaten to date is 5-24, the hot seat cools off in a hurry! Georgia most definitely caught a break from the scheduling gods.

2. Georgia hasn't played a team as capable as Auburn since it's first game against Boise. No, I'm not comparing Auburn to Boise. But the speed Auburn will play with will seem remarkably different to UGA. Contrast that to Auburn, who's seen LSU in Death Valley...all games from here on out are in slow motion.

3. The two-headed attack of Dyer and McCalebb. Something makes me believe Onterio goes off in this game. Georgia has always been the type team with terrific talent that plays terrifically undisciplined. Onterio McCalebb is the guy that will break a defense's back when assignments are missed.

4. When was the last time Emory Blake and Trovon Reed lined up at WR at the same time this year? Clemson? Emory is a playmaker...this we know. Trovon? He needs to play the game of his life in an Auburn uniform this week. Become the playmaker we've been waiting for!

I still feel like it's an uphill battle anytime you're playing a QB as inexperienced as Clint Moseley. The game plan must unfold perfectly and Auburn's defense will need to give our offense plenty of opportunities. The diffence in my mind is what takes place in the trenches. Georgia's line is superior to Auburn's at this point. Because of that I feel like Georgia has the edge. Prove me wrong Tigers!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Ole Miss Reax: One Handed Kirchen

I've said once or twice Lutzie is the best tight end in college football. He does all the little things. He blocks well, he gets people into the right position, he runs very good routes.

Every once in a while, he reminds us why we love football so much. The catch and score in the waining minutes against Ole Miss was poetry.

I think #43 has to be happy his close friend Clint Moseley is now the Auburn QB. He gets way more balls thrown his way. I am happy too, because I get to see more plays like that.

All in all, Auburn had a pretty complete performance against a desperate team Saturday night, although they gave up a few too many rushing yards to suit most of us.

Some random thoughts:
- Clint Moseley looks at home as Auburn's quarterback. A 257+ passer rating speaks for itself. It kind of makes me look back to Arkansas and Clemson and say what if.

-Eltoro is Spanish for "the toro". I wish #10 would've been given more of a chance 2 years ago. He just gets better and better. Sometimes you just have to tell a guy to go out and hit whatever you see.

-Think Auburn missed Mr. Blake? Emory gave Auburn an instant boost coming back from injury. If that's 75%, Georgia better be very very worried.

-Do punter's get dead legged? Steven Clark is still hanging punts high, but his average has dropped around 7 yards over the last three games. Hopefully he'll enjoy the week off to get a little more distance.

-Gabe Wright is frickin huge. He wears Nick Fairley's #90, but he's bigger than Nick, with a huge wingspan. He will be a beast soon.

-I think I'll just go ahead and score that meaningless touchdown. I guess if I'm Houston Nutt, I'd do the same thing. Maybe it will make him feel better when he gets canned after losing to Mississippi State.

Overall, this was a good win for the Tigers. I think we'll see a confident team head to Athens in a couple weeks. In the meantime, let's all enjoy our week off.

Ole Miss Review (AU 41 Ole Miss 23)

Welcome Back Mr. Blake!

October draws to a close and...if we're being honest with one another...the best case scenario played out for our Auburn Tigers. Most experts expected an 0-4 run through USC (road), Arkansas (road), UF, and LSU (road). Ole Miss was considered by many the only game this young football team would be winners. Instead of staring 4-5 in the face and needing a win over UGA or Bama to become bowl eligible, this team now has nine victories in its sight...10 if it took down the self-proclaimed "Muhammad Ali of college football" in Bama and followed with a bowl victory. You talk about heads exploding!

I was thrilled to see Clint Moseley be both bold and efficient Saturday. No hesitation to let it fly deep, made good decisions, and threw the ball with fantastic precision. He looks extremely comfortable in the pocket and will flourish as long as we give him time.

I was also happy to see Mike Dyer run with aggression and passion. He must be the most underrated back in this conference as he's done more this year without the help of a passing game and with a drastically inferior offensive line than his highly touted counterparts from Alabama and South Carolina.

I did not like the way we allowed Ole Miss to run the football down our throats the first half. Why we don't stack to box and make a terribly inexperienced, poor passer like Ole Miss' Mackey beat us with his arm is beyond me? Most of the first half we only had six men in the box when it should have been 9!

Overall, I'm happy this team beat an inferior opponent the way it did. Auburn teams of the past would lose games it had no business losing (see Texas Tech losing to Iowa State). This team's only losses remain incredibly difficult road games at top 10 Clemson, Arkansas, and LSU. There's no team in America that runs that gauntlet unscathed.

I know these guys are ecstatic to finally have a bye week. Two weeks to prepare for Georgia as well as a week to allow guys to heal and recover from dings and strains is beneficial and critical in allowing this team to go on the road yet again to face a talented football team. Rest up and prepare well for those Georgia Bulldogs. Would be a tremendous feat for this team to sweep the best teams the East has to offer!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr. Z's Rebel Black Bear(?) Preview

Wait, that's not a ridiculous-enough picture of Houston Nutt...

That's better

It's judgement day on the plains this week. We should know a whole lot about Auburn after about the lights go out in Jordan-Hare come Saturday night. Auburn got flat out trounced by LSU last weekend. Ole Miss comes limping into town with a defense that should be the cure to what ails the Gus Malzahn offense.

We may also be seeing the farewell tour of one Houston Nutt, a crazy looking, crazier acting coach who has been the clown of the SEC since 1998. He has handed Auburn some of its worst losses over the years, though mainly when he had names like McFadden and Jones in the backfield.

These days he is reduced to yelling at columnists in press conferences and griping about Auburn stealing his recruits, and up until this year, he has been the only coach to hold Gus Malzahn's offense in check.

Can you imagine what Arkansas would've done with McFadden and Jones had Nutt just left Gus alone back in 2006? Instead, Ole Miss is firmly seated in the basement of the SEC.

After the LSU debacle, the offense desperately needs some confidence. Mike Dyer needs to get off quickly. Trevon Reed needs to emerge. Clint Moseley needs to show we actually have a bit of a vertical threat. And let's face it, after LSU, Ole Miss should be closer to his days at Leroy High as far as speed of the game.

At this point, I think the defense is playing pretty well considering. I look for them to have a statement game.

My guess is the Rebs, err...bears, put all they had emotionally into beating Nutt's former team. I don't think they can get up again in a tough environment, to beat the Tigers.

Auburn- 28
Giggety- 17

Ole Miss Preview

Houston Nutt entered the SEC as a head football coach my sophomore season, 1998, at Arkansas and has been been a thorn in the side of Auburn since his arrival in this conference. I truly feel like Nutt's existence on an SEC sideline hinges on the outcome of two games...this one, and the Egg Bowl. He loses to us, I think he's done. I certainly hope we don't allow this opportunity to slip away...unless of course, Gus Malzahn is on their short-list (although if Gus turned down the opportunity to coach the East's doormat in Vandy, not sure why he'd desire to coach the West's cellar-dweller?).

This game boils down to one thing in my mind...the big play. If we don't give up the big plays and make Ole Miss earn their points with consistent drives all game--we win. I don't believe they can do it without our help. If we're overly penalized, turn the ball over, allow them a defensive or special teams score, consistently give them a short field to work with...we could be in trouble and lose to an inferior team.

I'm interested to see Clint Moseley perform against a below average SEC defense as opposed to the stellar NFL caliber defense he saw in his first start. The game should play out in slow motion for him comparatively this week. The onus falls to the offensive line to keep Clint upright and give him time to throw the ball downfield. The offensive line play of late has been the biggest disappointment and reason for most of our offensive, thus this team's, woes.

The Ole Miss offensive has been awful all season long. They rank 107 in passing, 107 in rushing, and 104 in points scored to this point. For comparison sake, AU is 106 in passing and we know how putrid our passing game has been. Ole Miss has been worse! We rank 35th in rushing.

On paper the match-up appears to be just what the doctor ordered for the Auburn Tigers. Of course, Ole Miss appeared to figure out what they do well last week against Arkansas and are hitting their stride just in time for Auburn. Evenso, Ole Miss has no business winning this ballgame.

I'm still waiting for the Auburn Tigers to play a complete game. Perhaps this is the week. And maybe we never see a Houston Nutt coached football team again!

Ole Miss-20

Monday, October 24, 2011

LSU Reax: The Woodshed

Saturday was hard to watch. I have very little to say about it except 'Ouch, my backside hurts.'

The LSU Tigers are for once a complete team. For all of the jokes Les Miles has endured over the years, he has a juggernaut in 2011, and in my opinion, the best team in the country based upon what I have seen so far.

Auburn, on the other hand, is far from complete. We are a work in progress to be sure. No one really expected much else from the 2011 Tigers. I did expect better in some areas.

Offensively, we are flat out awful right now. The O-line looked flat out afraid of LSU's front 7. Clint Moseley may be pretty good in the future, but it is awfully hard to tell as he runs for his life.

The defense has moments where I think they have a chance to be pretty good, but the secondary still has these flat out awful lapses. That happened twice in the first half Saturday, essentially sealing the deal before the break.

Ole Miss and Coach BatS&*t crazy come to town this weekend. We better be ready. Nutt has a history of pulling an upset. They almost did against Arkansas at home on Saturday.

Not much else to say really. If you're down, take solace. Nothing cheers me up like dancing Auburn children...

LSU Review (AU 10 LSU 45)

Ball Game!

The trip to Baton Rouge was both remarkably terrific yet completely miserable. As you know, my wife and I pick one conference game each year to attend without our tribe of children. As a player, you're wisked in and out of campus and see very little, so I enjoy seeing the campuses, meeting rival fans, experiencing other team traditions and game day atmosphere and comparing them to the Auburn experience. With respect to what goes on outside the stadium, I must admit I was blown away.

The LSU fans were the most hospitable group I've ever seen offering Dana and me more food and drink than we could consume. Alligator sausage, boudin (pronounced BOO-DAN), duck gumbo, red beans and rice, hoghead cheese, and catfish all made up my pregame meal. I was fed by three or four different tailgates, people that just came over with enormous bowls or platters wanting to share food and fellowship. It's more than a gathering, it's a party...a celebration of culture consisting of genuine people that live life to the fullest. At Auburn I get the feel of thousands of individual tailgates. We say War Eagle or nod or waive and walk on to "our spot." At LSU, it felt like one enormous party from one tailgate to the next. There were no ropes marking off spots...just tent after tent after tent of fine cajun cuisine freely offered to all passers-by. It was a clinic in tailgating.

The reason for my rant on the hospitality...walking to the game from our hotel a man stops his truck a few hundred yards from us. He gets out and waits for us to approach. He lets us know we are about to be walking through a bad part of town. He insists we ride in his truck and shuffles his grown kids around in the cabin to make room for the enemy. When we get to the stadium and part ways he insists we return to eat. On the way back...same story, different family. They took care of us and we were appreciative! We ran into a couple of LSU's finest representatives and left humbled in more ways than one.

Inside the stadium, LSU showed us how far we have to go to return to the pinnacle of college football. We were outmanned, outmatched, outcoached, and over-run from opening to closing whistle. We did all the classic things you can't do when you're playing a superior team in their house...inopportune penalties that kept drives alive resulting in points for LSU, giving up the big play, poor punting, losing the field position battle, inability to protect the quarterback, inability to establish the running game. To beat just about anyone on the road these things can't happen. To beat the number one team in America, and quite possibly the most athletically powerful team I've ever seen, you must not only be dominant in these categories, you need to be a little lucky too.

I was most frustrated by the silly defensive penalties in the first half, all of which sustained drives by gifting LSU 1st downs, and all of which led to touchdowns that shouldn't have occured. 1st drive...3rd and 4--> illegal defensive substitution giving LSU the first down. Second scoring drive...2nd and 10--> Jordan Jefferson fumbles snap and is sacked for a loss of 10 negated by a silly personal foul grabbing of the facemask penalty. 3rd and 20 becomes 1st and 10. Two plays later they're in the endzone. Third scoring drive just before half. It's still a ballgame. 3rd and 5. Demetruce McNeal breaks up the pass on what should have been an INT setting AU up in LSU territory. Instead, pass interference on Chris Davis. Automatic 1st down. Three plays later, repeat bomb to Reuben Randle. Game effectively over.

The next most frustrating was watching our special teams, particularly our kickoff returners get absolutely destroyed kick, after kick, after kick. LSU was bringing the hammer and we were content with being the nail. It's been a long time since I've seen a special teams group make ours look inept and frankly cowardice.

Final most frustrating moment...listening to their crowd chant, "WE WANT BAMA" with half the game left to play. That added insult to injury knowing this game was over long before the final whistle.

But when you step back and look at the big picture, things aren't as bad as they seemed walking out of Death Valley. Entering October, I wrote a best case scenario would be to split the four game gauntlet. We did just that. When you look at who we have lost to...Clemson, Arkansas, LSU...all ranked in the top 8 with combined records of 22-1. Our schedule has been the nation's most difficult according to Sagarin and we remain ranked in the BCS (#23) even with 3 losses and no ranking in the Coaches Poll (the computers recognize the schedule strength).

At one point during the second quarter, I pointed out to my wife Dana we had six true freshman on the field at one time defensively...including the entire defensive backfield. Last year those guys were playing high school ball. This year they're playing the top team in college football. People get tired of hearing about youth, but it's legitimate. These kids are still cutting their teeth, but I promise you something. This is the kind of beat-down you don't forget. This is one that pushes you during spring and winter drills when no one's watching. You never forget what it felt like and you promise one another the next time you play this group there will be hell to pay. There will be a day of reckoning and it will make it all the more pleasurable and fulfilling having experienced the low point.

This team can still win eight or nine football games and far exceed even the loftiest of expectations. Will be interesting to watch how they respond against Ole Miss.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dr. Z's Bubonic Chronic LSU Preview

Hey Hey Hey, smoke weed everyday.

I am constantly amazed at how dumb college athletes can be. LSU's best offensive and defensive player are suspended for failing a drug test. It's a selfish stupid thing to do. Now a chance at a national title may be in jeopardy for the Bengal Tigers. But hey, at least we now know why the honey badger has such an appetite.

I agree with Rob on the aspects of the game. Steven Clark must have a big game keeping LSU offense pinned down. The defense has to stuff the run and make Lee beat us.

Offensively, Clint Moseley has to walk the fine line of being a gun slinger and game manager. He must make confident throws but not turn it over. To use a baseball phrase: "don't give him anything good to hit...but don't walk him".

Rob has been giving me grief about not going to Baton Rouge. He needs to see it for himself as a fan. I was there last in 1997. The experience was so bad I decided BR was a place to scratch off my list. If anyone gives Rob any grief, Dana the Terminator will protect him.**

For the record, I never said I don't think we have a chance in this game. Rob is the one picking us to lose, so go on the Rivals board and trash him. I'll be on there. My handle is "Antwon Nolan's python".

Auburn 17
Puff, Puff, Give 13

**Another reason I'm not making the trip is I'm broke from my New England Vacation. Rob kindly offered for me to share a room with Him and Dana. But they like to walk around naked, which makes me a tad uncomfortable. They also insist that I walk around naked, which makes me feel a tad more uncomfortable.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LSU Preview

I couldn't think of a worse weekend to be breaking in a new starting QB. Pulling off a road win against this LSU team is an unenviable, tall task. I would equate its likelihood to receiving a meaningful tax cut from a modern day Democrat…in most cases it’s not happening. Winning on a national stage with a rookie QB making his first start? Even more improbable! There are, however, reasons to remain optimistic about Auburn’s chances within Death Valley Saturday afternoon.

1. The resurgent Auburn defense. Their play has improved remarkably at all levels. Confidence is high as it’s obvious the processing of the game has slowed immensely for this extremely young group.

2. The Auburn defense vs the LSU offense. For whatever reason, Ted Roof’s defenses seem to thrive against downhill, pro-style offenses. Auburn struggles against the spread attacks. LSU is the epitome of power football for which Coach Roof always seems “ably-manned” and tactically sharp.

3. Clint Moseley brings a confidence to the quarterback position Auburn has lacked now for several weeks. Granted, that confidence may be short-lived against one of the nation’s top defenses. It does, however, force LSU to defend the pass, rush, and potential QB running threat. Auburn has to be multiple to consistently move the ball.

4. LSU suspensions. Probably not a dramatic alteration to the LSU or Auburn game plans, but any time you lose your starting tailback and a ball-hawk/play-maker like Tyrann Mathieu it hurts. Maybe it’s a rallying point for LSU? Maybe it’s a distraction? Either way, it won’t hurt to have those guys in street clothes Saturday!

5. Auburn rushing attack. Ranks twenty-seventh in the nation, two spots ahead of LSU. The ability to control the football, run clock, protect an inexperienced QB and young defense has been critical and the impetus to a 2-1 run through October. To go to 3-1 the Auburn rushing attack needs to be spectacular.

6. Steven Clark. The ultimate weapon and national leader in pinning teams inside their own twenty. Clark has the ability to make life miserable for the LSU offensive staff with poor field position. He’ll be called upon frequently and he must deliver.

7. Possible return of Emory Blake and/or Trovon Reed. Auburn’s passing game needs a true threat to keep the LSU defense honest. Either or both of these guys at 100% and on the field could potentially be a shot in the arm for the offense.
I could make a list of just as many reasons to doubt Auburn’s ability to pull off the unthinkable upset. I’ve seen strange things happen in Baton Rouge with my very own eyes. I’ve seen even more bizarre things happen within this series since my playing days concluded. For Auburn to win Saturday…stranger things have happened.

Dr. Z and I have made a road trip each year since we've been doing the blog. Year one saw us trek to Athens and lose by a score. Last year we went to Lexington and won on a last second Wes Byrum kick (prelude to a national title!). This year it's Baton Rouge. One small problem. Dr. Z doesn't think we can win, so Dr. Z is sitting at home in Trussville, AL and watching from his living room. I, on the other hand, will travel on to Baton Rouge...with my bride...wearing the brightest orange Auburn shirt I could find. I don't see us moving the football enough to win the football game either. I do see us fighting four quarters and making LSU earn everything they get. I do also see me having a hell of a time willing my team to victory within hell itself (Death Valley). Sort of hoping to fist-fight my way out of Tiger Stadium. And to win my trip cost back at the casino!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

There is Life After 40 After All

You might remember just before the National Championship game, I posted about my college buddy J.R. I am happy to tell all of you that my friend received a liver translant last night. His transplant nurse was an AU grad of all things.

I'm sure it will be a long road to recovery for J.R. But he now gets a shot and a full recovery. I am so happy and thankful that it all came out OK.

So here's to you buddy. Can't wait to see you up and around and back to cheering for the Tigers in Jordan-Hare.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dr. Z's Mother-$%&$*@^?! Florida Review

The phrase "going postal" may be changed to "going Muschamp"

And you thought Will Muschamp had mellowed after becoming a head coach. His reaction to the no-call on the muffed punt was so expletive laced that the kids from Me Myself and Irene were turned off by the offensive language. He didn't even wait for an explanation from the officials before he started showering the crew with F-bombs. I was actually in shock that he didn't get a flag after he called timeout, just to get in more swearing. It was like watching Gordon Ramsey on Hell's Kitchen or soemthing. And I'm not sure the call was wrong, either. Rainey obviously waited very late to signal fair catch, and he didn't raise his arm up over his head.

I don't thing the call mattered in the general scheme of things. The Gators were so inept on offense, the would've blown it anyway. Muschamp has a long way to go with this bunch he has. The are mismatched for the system they try to run on offense, and they are not very disiplined.

The first half of this game was hard to watch. Auburn followed their predictable offensive game plan as of late, by pounding it on first and second down, getting behind the sticks on 3rd down. It is pretty obvious Trotter has lost confidence. His throws have no touch and are off the mark. It's like he's throwing the ball too hard. Moseley was a nice change of pace, and he looks like he can at least keep the pressure off of the running game.

Defensively, we looked pretty good, but I have tempered my optimism just based on the fact we have stuffed two teams that have bigger QB issues than we do. I love Eltoro Freeman making plays, and bringing a little energy to the game. He and Darren Bates will have to continue to get better if we have a chance at all to get to 9 or 10 wins. All in all, I love how much this unit has improved.

I think we have a shot in every game with the defense getting better. But our special teams play is helping us win ballgames. Rainey didn't drop those punts by accident. Steven Clark's punts are so high that they have to be hard to catch. Chalk up Saturday as another game the special teams have won for Auburn.

Auburn has found a way to win 2 out of 3 so far in October, and that's 2 more than most experts said we would win before the month started. Saturday will be a huge test for the Tigers. We'll have to bring our A-game.

Here's hoping we will.

Florida Review (AU 17 UF 6)

An ugly game to watch. A beautiful outcome. The Chizik staff did their very best Tuberville impression and came out a strategic winner...doing it with field position, turnovers, and terrific defense. A few weeks ago, Ted Roof was everyone's punching-bag and punch-line. The majority wanted Roof fired. Today he looks like he deserves a raise (although I'm sure Chizik will get the credit in the eyes of many for the defensive resurgence?). Alternatively, our offense continues to regress. It's like pulling teeth watching this offense bang it's head against the wall running against 8 and 9-man fronts. That being said, it still amazes me the success this team has on the ground even as the defense gears up solely for the run knowing the passing threat is minimal to nonexistent.

This was my first game to attend this year, and a few things stood out to me with an opportunity to see the entire field.

1. Our youth is unbelievable, particularly in the secondary. True freshman playing critical snaps at both corner positions, both safety positions. Occasionally, our entire defensive backfield were all true freshman. Early on this season, that was a liability. As the year progresses, you can easily see the game slowing down for them and their athletic ability becoming evident. Our DBs are going to be the best group in the country in the near term.

2. Intensity of Jordan-Hare. I know it seems silly and perhaps improbable, but I forget how loud that stadium can get. Crowd support was incredible, and I assure you meaningful, for this young football team. It's the ultimate home-field advantage!

3. Daren Bates is a headhunter! I thought he played a terrific football game. He looks to have become the leader of the defensive unit and plays with unbridled aggression and effort. Whether or not he played excellent assignment football within the scope of his required duties I have no clue. What caught my eye was the punishment he delivered. It was a sight to see!

4. The substitutions on offense seem pointless sometimes. The play ends and we frantically shuffle in and out a handful of different receivers. We snap the ball...they block. We frantically run in a few more receivers. We snap the ball...they block. Seems like the same guys could block a few plays consecutively? Not a big deal, you just don't see all the offensive substitutions on TV.

5. Tackling has improved immeasurably! At every position it is obvious Auburn has spent some time addressing the fundamentals as it relates to tackling. Tackling alone is the top reason for the defense's newly found success.

6. Clint Moseley provided a noticeable shot of energy to the entire stadium. His entrance was palpable and he did not disappoint. He didn't set the stadium on fire, but he forced Florida to defend the pass as well as the QB run. He looked to be the dual threat we've all been hoping for...only we thought it would be Kiehl Frazier.

7. Jake Holland deserves mention. The guy played with a broken wrist, two bad knees, and an injured bicep. And his first series he immediately made his presence felt with a few plays behind the line of scrimmage. Eltoro Freeman has been fantastic in Jake's place, but Holland deserves some credit for his play against the Gators.

8. Coach Chizik's emotion on the sideline. He throws an atomic fist dang near every good play his team makes. He bear hugs his players when they make a great play. He meets his defense beyond the hash-marks on third down stops. I love that! I love a head coach not afraid or too big to show how much he cares and appreciates the effort given. I never had that, and to see it makes me wish I could have played for this staff.

9. Will Muschamp needs anger management. If ever a coach will stroke out on the sideline (God forbid) it's Will Muschamp (followed closely by ND Coach Brian Kelly)! Perhaps he should be forced to coach from the press box in an attempt to allow kids to watch UF games on TV without forcing parents to explain F-bombs. Florida games are rated-R with Will at the helm.

10. The start of fourth quarter new Auburn tradition of acknowledging the fans with a quick jaunt toward the student section. I noticed the officials running along the team and immediately directing them back toward the AU sideline. Last year the officials never blinked...could've cared less what the Auburn sideline was doing. Wouldn't be surprised to see a new rule added to the rule book next season forbidding this type of expression...what with fun, and exuberance, and college football players involved!

All in all, big time win for this Auburn team. Lots of recruits, and lots of bowl representatives were in attendance. This win will go a long way in determining Auburn's bowl game destination. Auburn remains a player in the SEC race and continues to defy the experts. Is it possible this team has what it takes to go into Death Valley and shock the college football world? We will soon find out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dr Z's Florida Preview from New England

Greetings from Maine. I'm typing my preview from an IPad so hopefully the auto-correct won't embarrass me too much.

So I walked around Boston yesterday looking in my AU sweatshirt looking for a War Eagle. I didn't get one. I didnt even get a "scam Newton". I think the the city is still pretty depressed about the Red Sox blowing a huge September lead and fall out of the playoffs. Can you imagine a super-talented team with an insurmountable lead blowing it late? Yes, Sox fans and Bammers have much in common, I have a feeling Red Sox nation depression is similar to Bama Nation depression post Iron Bowl.

As for the game, we have two evenly matched teams who both need a win. Florida has been beaten and battered for two straight weeks by Bama and LSU. We have quarterback issues in case no one noticed, but so does Florida. Our running game is better than theirs, with Dempsey and Rainey being banged up.

I think we have a good shot at winning this one, with a night game and the home crowd. Hopefully, Barrett Trotter has seen the sports shrink from that bad cable show. Dyer in/Speedwagon out is the way to win this one...

Auburn 21
Boom #%*%><€+| 17

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Florida Preview

The Florida game is a pivotal game for both teams. Both teams are practically mirror images of one another at this point struggling with the same issues...youth, injuries, poor QB play, brutal gauntlet of a schedule. Both teams badly need this win for confidence, bowl positioning, and to stay relevant in the SEC race.

Keys to the game...

1. Coach Malzahn needs to get Barrett Trotter comfortable and allow him to have some early success. Give him some easy throws, establish a rhythm, throw on 1st down some, give him some play action to work with. By no means am I saying we shouldn't pound the ball with Mike Dyer, but rather allow Mike Dyer more success by making the Florida defense defend both the run and the pass.

2. We must win the turnover battle. We were fortunate to get four against South Carolina and survive on the road. Three more last week against Arkansas was too much to overcome. With Florida starting an inexperienced QB, on the road in one of the most hostile environments college football has to offer, we have no excuse to not win this battle!

3. Speaking of inexperienced QBs...the Auburn defense under Coach Ted Roof has a miserable record of allowing wide-eyed, inexperienced, young QBs to come into Jordan-Hare Stadium and look like Heisman contenders. We can't afford to sit back and let another young (but talented) Florida QB get comfortable and play the game of his life. I hope Coach Chizik/Roof and Co. throw the kitchen sink at the young QBs and make life absolutely tortuous. They need to be hit all game long and by nights end feel as if Auburn played defense with 13 guys!

4. Fan support. Jordan-Hare needs to be rocking and rolling for a prime-time night game. This is an enormous recruiting weekend and these high level recruits should leave having experienced a truly unique and raucous setting. And as player, I used to admire the fact our support never wavered, even during years we made it hard to be Auburn fans. Bring your 'A' game to the stadium Saturday night and support a group coming off of consecutive road games against Top 10 talent.

5. Tackle! Florida's only chance in my opinion is to break the big play. I don't see Florida driving consistently without making mistakes of their own. Auburn can not afford to give away cheap TDs with poor tackling, poor assignment football, poor angles, a short field with turnovers. Florida will give their QBs easy routes to throw and hope their speedy play-makers can be just that. Tackle well and Florida's offense will struggle.

I like our chances!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Arkansas Texts

So Rob and I started making public our texts we do during the game. They are knee-jerk, off the cuff, and probably reflect what 90% of fans are thinking at the time. It's mostly humor with some insight. If you get bent out of shape over it, well, go read Phillip Marshall or something.


R: I'm not texting with you. $*^% ends up on world wide web.

Z: Defense gets better and better.

R: D getting pressure

Z: Looking good early. Chiz does a good job of getting them ready to play on the road.

R: Overcoming the bad punt was unbelievable.

Z: Thank God after a turnover we run it...oh nevermind, Gus waited 2 plays for a double reverse pass.

R: Outstanding game plan execution

Z: If we run the ball like this, we camn be in every game.


R: Tough pill to swallow for Hog fans to see home-grown talent scoring on you.

Z: Yep, but I hear Dakota Mosely has eligibility left after his 5-10 stint.

R: That was a bad defensive series for Holland.

Z: Yeah, he's a living Yogi Berra analogy-How can I think and hit at the same time.

Z:We are pretty one dimensional. Trotter needs to find some confidence.

R: Have to help trotter on 1st down

Z: Little unsure about what the heck we're doing offensively. We're abandoning the passing game totally.

R: Holding on Lutzenkirchen a tough call.

Z: Didn't see it (a hold).


Clark is a weapon. Damon Duvall couldn't hold his jock strap.

Z: Better stop em here or we're done.

R: Possession @ 50 must equal 7

Z: We need the pump fake play. Where's Chris Todd when you need him?

R: Getting nothing out of punt returns

Z: What else is new.


R:Trotter could do it if we gave him more decent opportunities. He only throws on 3rd and 14.

Z: If you have a rivals account, ask for your money back. #DeangeloBenton

Z: I think you should sell your Hyundai after that UGA Hyundai commercial.

R: Benton needs eye exam

Z: Nike Strobe training.

Z: Your last week Kodi Burns analogy may be spot on.

R: Bad d always Roofs fault. Be interesting to see if players or Malzahn get blame

Z: Glad that's over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Arkansas Reax: Hog-tied

Cam's the hottest rookie qb since Peyton Manning. I'd ask you about your precious Matt Jones, except I already know he's up for parole in 18 months.

For a second, however brief, I thought we'd just run all over Arkansas. I've been wrong once or twice.

Is anyone else surprised at the butt-hurt the Arky fans have towards AU right now? I mean, they booed Dyer the entire game, but can anyone blame this guy for getting out of Arkansas? Pretty good move, I'd say.

The passing game is non-existent at this point and at this point we're reduced to some bastardized version of a Pat Dye offense from 1984. Barrett Trotter looks like he has lost all confidence since the Clemson game. He reminds me of a pitcher who can't find the strike zone. He's not missing by much, but just enough to make catches, especially with the group of receivers we have right now, impossible.

Keihl Frazier is a nice change of pace, but this in and out stuff every other down gives me fits. How can we establish any rhythm this way?

Defensively, I thought we looked much better, as strange as that is to say after giving up 38 points. They faced a short field much of the night, and other than one long touchdown run, they held their own with the SEC's best offense in the second half.

The question now is: Can we put it all together? Trotter looked great early,but Rob's right, we are not instilling any confidence by asking him to make difficult plays behind the sticks. We should play action more and throw more on 1st down.

I see a silver lining here. Once Emory Blake gets back we get a pretty big boost. Florida is banged up and to be honest, we should line up and beat them. LSU looks like a monster, but do Ole Miss and UGA scare anybody?

We still have a good chance to have a very good season, but some offensive coaching will help with that. Gustav has to do a better job of coaching up the QB's for that to happen. I think he will. Remember, he has a pretty good track record of doing more with less. Let's hope this year is no exception.

Arkansas Review (AU 14 Arkansas 38)

For every positive step the defense has taken as this season has progressed, the offense has countered with an equal yet opposite reaction. Watching our offense Saturday night was painful. It reminded me of Navy or Georgia Tech or Delaware. Teams that throw the ball as a last resort only...and look horrible when they do. Quite honestly, I'm amazed we were as successful rushing the football as we were when the passing game was completely abandoned. Kudos to the offensive line for putting up great rushing stats despite Arkansas loading up the box expecting run every play.

I was extremely underwhelmed with the offensive playcalling. There's no question Coach Malzahn is running the ball nearly exclusively at the command of Coach Chizik. It's keeping us in the ball game, allowing us to win the time of possession two weeks in a row, and is a major reason in the new found success of our defense. At the same's making us painfully predictable, preventing a quarterback from establishing any sort of rhythm, and apparently causing receivers to forget how to catch because all they do is block.

I really feel for Barrett Trotter. He would be the first to tell you his play has been anything remotely acceptable. But the offensive playcalling has done little to breed confidence or put Barrett in manageable situations to convert through the air. Here's a typical drive in which Barrett throws a pass...1st and 10-->Dyer up the middle for no gain. 2nd and 10-->Dyer up the middle for loss of 1. 3rd and 11-->okay Barrett, we need you now...convert 3rd and 11 for us as Arkansas throws the kitchen sink at you! He never throws on 1st down. Rarely on second. The play action pass is non-existent. Of course Gus Malzahn has forgotten more football than I have ever known, but I do know Barrett Trotter has been asked to deliver only in tremendously difficult situations when the success rate of doing so is drastically reduced.

At the same time...if we've decided to totally abandon the passing game, then Kiehl Frazier should be our QB. At least he is a threat to run the football. I guess you could continue to bring in Trotter for obvious passing situations. Or what about Clint Mosely? If the QB decision was so difficult to make, shouldn't Clint Mosely's play in the spring and summer be enough to warrant at least one series in a meaningful football game?

I truly believe Barrett could be a success in this offense. He's not far away. He received no help from his WRs. He received no help in the offensive playcalling or the offensive philosophy. He puts a little too much zip on some passes he doesn't have too. He seeks to get outside the pocket a little to quickly. He doesn't throw the ball away sometimes when he should. But he'll only be a success if we go back to throwing the football the way we did in weeks 1-3. In those weeks, Barrett Trotter was the last thing we were worried about as fans. He was the positive!

When our defense looks's Ted Roof's fault. When our offense looks's our player's fault. That doesn't add up to me.

Defensively, we played well enough to win the football game. That is the best offense we'll see the rest of the way. I was proud of the determination and effort put forth. We still struggle with the little things in playing zone defense, and tackling sometimes rears its ugly head, but overall this group has grown by leaps and bounds. It's now time to allow the offense to hit on all cylinders, run the true Malzahn attack without fear of how our defense will respond to more time on the field.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dr. Z's Arkansas Preview-The Feral Pig Nuisance

Auburn fans, you are clear to fire at will.

While doing my crack research into this week's game, I found that the state of Arkansas is actually encouraging their residents to shoot and kill any Razorback they see roaming the state. Apparently there is a feral pig nuisance in Arkansas. Glad the state actually came around to something the rest of the SEC has known for years.

I think I would be conflicted if I was a hog fan about the idea of shooting my mascot. Granted, Auburn has the majestic eagle while Arkansas has the razorback, a wild pig that eats and root in its own excrement. So may be blasting way at your mascot is less of a problem for Arkansas fans. I'm sure PETA will be filing a complaint soon.

Rob will tell you as a player he hated this game because it felt almost like a non-SEC game. History tells us that Auburn has had a pretty good success rate on the road in Fayetteville, at least before Petrino took over.

Arkansas, despite their hype, is a bit of a mystery. They got run over by Alabama. Then again, who hasn't this year. They looked less than stellar for the better part of a half against Texas A&M, who's hype video song for 2011 must be "Give it Away" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

One thing for certain is they can't stop the run, which favors Auburn. They have a great passing game, but the Qb has taken more hits than Rick Perry at a GOP debate.

The key to this game is to run the damn ball. Mike Dyer will be ready to stick it to his home state. We should run him and then hit 'em with play action.

The other key is pressure on the QB. We remember Tyler Wilson absolutely shredded us last season. He's been good this year too, throwing for over 500 yards against A&M. He gets knocked around a good bit, thanks to a banged up O-line.

We really need a similar defensive game plan to what we had against Carolina. Stuff the run, press the wideouts and 'bring the hammer' to Wilson.

I think we have a good chance if we can do that.

I picked us to lose last week, which was obvious bulletin board material, so I'll say

Nuisance Pigs: 31
Auburn 29

but I'm hoping for this...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Arkansas Preview

I say this every year. Arkansas is the most difficult opponent in the conference to face. Not always physically/athletically...although they're always good enough to beat you if you don't arrive ready to battle. When you play Arkansas, you know a physical game in store. The problem for most SEC teams is Arkansas doesn't get the competitive juices flowing. How many recruiting battles come down to Arkansas and fill in a SEC school? A few...but not many. Going to Fayetteville is even more daunting. It's hard to get to, a long trip, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, in a smaller stadium filled with squealing fans wearing pig noses. It's just different and the difference is palpable as a player.

What I like about the match-up...

1. Auburn is catching Arkansas at the right time. They got pounded by Alabama and survived a brutal battle against A&M. The Hog defense gave up over 620 yards against Texas A&M including nearly 350 yards on the ground! We want to run the football to control the clock and Arkansas has had great difficulty in stopping the run. Lots of defensive injuries for Arkansas after these two games. They are limping defensively into their off-week after their game with Auburn.

2. Auburn's performance on the road last week on national TV against a top 10 team. Tells me the stage this week (virtually the same as last) is not too big for a young football team. We should play with plenty of confidence.

3. Our greatest depth defensively is in the secondary and at defensive end, the two most important areas when attempting to slow down this Arkansas offense.

4. Punter Steven Clark. Having an All SEC caliber season and killed South Carolina last week by pinning their offense deep. Poor field position cripples an offensive coordinator and for a team struggling to run the football and wanting to air it out, Steven Clark's foot could be an enormous advantage in this game.

5. The game means something to key individuals wearing orange and blue. Gus Malzahn, Mike Dyer, Kiehl Frazier...all want to return home with their chest out for the holidays.

What I don't like...

1. Precision of Tyler Wilson with a stable of elite wide outs and one of the best offensive coordinators in all of football. This offense will be the most talented this Auburn defense faces all season. The blueprint to defending Arkansas was designed two weeks ago by Alabama. Pressure and hit Wilson consistently, give them the underneath stuff and punish the WRs after the catch. We must tackle great after the catch.

2. Back to back road games against top caliber competition. We proved last week we're capable. Doesn't make the challenge any less daunting this week.

3. Bobby Petrino vs Ted Roof. Perhaps the largest mismatch of the season (and it doesn't favor the Auburn Tigers!). It's gonna take an entire team effort once again to outscore the Razorbacks.

4. Emory Blake's doubtful status. Barrett Trotter has obviously developed a rapport with #80. Time for another WR to emerge as a playmaker.

Last year this Arkansas game was the only game I predicted a loss. This year...I believe the match-up overwhelms our defense. I just don't believe we hold Arkansas down for four quarters and the loss of Blake and Reed is too much for the offense to overcome. If we grind it out on the ground and play ball control, and score TD's instead of kick field goals we could win the game. I hope I'm proven wrong!