Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Texas A&M Reax: Wallace! Wallace! Wallace!

The only upside to the total, epic beat down handed to Auburn Saturday night was the introduction of Jonathan Wallace. The kid who was an afterthought in the recruiting process and backed in to a spot on the Auburn team last February.

I don't know why Jonathan wasn't more highly recruited. I don't follow recruiting that closely. If you ask a guru like Justin Hokanson, he might tell you that Wallace is too small, or he lacks arm strength.

But based on what I have seen so far out of Wallace, and granted that is not much, he is our guy for now. The team lights up when he is in the game. That much is evident.

When Auburn signed Wallace, a very good friend of mine who is ver involved with the Central-Phenix City football team told me we found a diamond in the rough, and that he thought Wallace would eventually beat out both Frazier and Moseley for the starting job. My initial thought was my good friend Griff started sniffing glue again. But he was right. Wallace is a special young man. He has leader written all over him. The offense seemed to raise it up a notch when he was in the game against A&M.

Dr. Griff's quote to me today was "I am telling you Zack, he is a special kid. No real way to describe it. He will make a tremendous impact on that program if given a fair opportunity."

Whether Wallace pans out or not remains to be seen. But for now, I choose to look at Jonathan Wallace as a chance for a bright future at QB. Here's hoping this diamond in the rough, this recruiting afterthought gets Auburn back to prominence sooner other than later.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Texas A&M Review (Auburn 21 A&M 63)

We saw a team quit. We saw the very definition of ambivalence. A game plan shredded on both sides of the ball. Execution extinct. Pride nonexistent. Effort questionable at best. The most defunct Auburn football team in the history of Auburn football sunk to a new low Saturday night which is sure to usher in sweeping changes throughout the athletics department. And it should have already happened. In fact every day that passes without major change is another day of Auburn wallowing around in our own apathy. It's complete insanity, by definition. Same plans...expecting different results. What we saw against a middle of the pack Texas A&M squad Saturday was unacceptable by all involved, it was a complete embarrassment to all who care. Noncompetitive? Again? At home? Get real!

The worst part of this whole process is leaving the players in the dark with what's going on behind the scenes. They have coaches with one foot out the door in many instances. Coaches they're close to and in numerous cases, coaches that were the predominate factor in them choosing to become an Auburn Tiger. They have boosters and board members trying to come to a consensus without any true knowledge of football in general, let alone how it affects the young men we watch on Saturdays. They know change is in order, but the specifics are never shared and left to speculation. They should be the very first people to know the plan. They live with the decision in a way the decision makers and observers can't even grasp, so letting them know by means of SportsCenter is unacceptable. They deserve better than that and I hope they'll be treated with the proper level of respect and immediately informed when decisions transpire. They should hear it from the horses mouth rather than their classmates.

With regard to our coaches, we can argue about minutia all day long, but the reality is this staff apparently needs more than top 10 talent to win at Auburn. They need All-Pro talent to do so and that's an impossibility. They need guys that come already prepared for the next level because we certainly haven't shown an ability to do the necessary developing ourselves.

I've truly run out of things to say here. It's the same song, different verse repeatedly and it's a chore to try and fill space discussing the same problems every week. I'm weary from writing. I can't even fathom how weary this team is and how much they dread playing out the remainder of this season. What a sad state of affairs.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Texas A&M Preview

Prepare yourself to witness what could be the greatest disparity in the Southeastern Conference this season. Texas A&M will roll into Jordan-Hare boasting an offense that tops the league in nearly every statistical category. Auburn...rock bottom. A&M has a freshman quarterback making plays with both his arm and legs, is statistically annihilating what Cam Newton did to opponents, and plays the game with unbridled passion...a natural leader. Auburn will counter with an experienced QB, yet confidence shattered, playmaking ability minuscule, production nonexistent. A&M brings in a first year head coach having no problem adjusting to a new league, teaching a new system to new players, being more than competitive. Auburn brings in a fourth year coach, two years removed from being named National Coach of the Year, scratching his head...dumbfounded, unsure what buttons to push to even field a team that will compete. A&M will bring a passionate fan base, determined to see their program garner the respect of each new member institution. Auburn will parry with a fan base divided, in shock, sickened by the precipitous fall from a team seemingly getting worse each week. The contrast is real, it's sad, it's frightening, it's maddening, it's unacceptable.

I've said for many weeks now A&M QB Johnny Manziel is everything I had hoped Kiehl Frazier would be. Dual threat, team leader, keeps plays alive, exciting with the ball, opportunistic, fearless, playmaker. What is most disappointing is the difference between their mental development. Manziel has all the confidence in the world and because of that he plays care-free. Kiehl is just not mentally tough and because of that he can't overcome the previous play, he thinks too much, he doesn't trust his football insticts, he's overcome by the situation.

The offensive coordinator position is another area of stark difference. Kliff Kingsbury is in his first season as OC for A&M and is absolutely killing it. In fact a scan of his resume shows this is but his second season to be a true college coach (quality control assistant is equivalent to being a GA). His offense is shredding this conference. Scott Loeffler brings 14 years of coaching experience to the position. His quarterback tuteledge reads as impressive as I've ever seen. His offense however is the worst in college football...by a mile. It's hard to watch and even harder to swallow when I hear him say repeatedly how "close" they are. Let's at least crack the top 100 in a few positive offensive statistics before we use the term "close" again.

In my mind, there's too many differences to overcome this week unless A&M gifts us field position and turnovers. That being said, Vandy did just that last week and we still couldn't capitalize.

Even so, come support the young men that wear the logo. Come and enjoy fellowship with the Auburn faithful. Come and enjoy your family and friends and the sights and splendor that make Auburn home. Even during down times, I still choose Auburn over the alternatives. We may divide over coaches, ADs, the direction of the program...but we'll never be divided over our passion and desire to see all things Auburn succeed. Prove it again Saturday night.

Texas A&M-28

A&M Preview-Hullabaloo Caneck,Caneck

I have to admit, I have always been a fan of the the Texas Aggies, so when I heard they were coming to the SEC, I was excited.

A&M is a great place, if you have never been there. It is a lot like Auburn, just bigger with less trees. They also have a group of guys called the Corps. They walk around campus in their uniforms and kind of look like Niedermeyer fro Animal House.

Texas Governor and former presidential primary punch line Rick Perry is former Corps. The other students on campus call them the "Corps Turds"**

A&M has a rich history a great traditions, none better than going to visit prostitutes after beating Texas.

Check out thos dance moves! Johnny Manziel is going to be really hard to tackle if he can pirouette like those guys. For the record, I would question any man that can dance like that actually wanting to visit a whorehouse, but I digress.

There are three things Auburn needs to do to win this game.

1. Contain Manziel- He's a dual threat, so he will be tough to defend. The Aggies will also give the ball away, so creating a turnover or two will be critical.

2. Run the ball...at them-Auburn has really never tried the power running route and stayed with it. I've said this till I'm blue in the face. I don't really see it happening. I have no faith in Scott Loeffler. I've said that till I'm blue in the face as well.

3. I can't remember the third thing.

Auburn 13
Aggies 27

**I thank my Texan college buddies Paul and Derek for educating me on Aggie rituals.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vanderbilt Review (AU 13 Vandy 17)

I hope you've long ago stopped swinging by this site looking for a silver lining. It doesn't take a James Spann forecast to identify the colossal dark clouds hovering over Auburn athletics, the torrential downpour of discouragement, dejection, despondency we've endured, and the immense need for gale force like winds to usher in transformation.

The product on the football field Saturday in Nashville sunk to a new low, replacing the team I played on in 1998 as the worst Auburn team in memory. For many, that realization had long ago occurred. For me, I saw too much talent in 2012 to reduced these guys to 1998 level. I expected the light to come on at some point this season. Amazingly, they blew right past us Saturday. Not only is the light not on...there's no electricity.

Like Zack said below, we've written the same review every week. What's left to say? What positives can come from dropping to 1-6, extending the longest losing streak in conference play to seven. And the way we've lost them...blown out by UGA, destroyed by Alabama, don't show up against State, tremendous battle versus top 5 LSU, embarrassed by Arkansas, blown out by Ole Miss, perennial cellar dweller Vandy outcompetes. How can this be acceptable? How can this even happen? It's everything Auburn football should never be...passionless, aloof, hopeless, appalling. As I walked out of Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, even a Vandy fans said the following..."Chizik is toast, no? You can't lose to us and keep your job at Auburn can you?" His theory will be tested and we shall see.

I feel sick for the players. They play for coaches that make an insane amount of money given the task to put these guys in the best possible position to be successful. With this task they have failed miserably this season. Too many times we can't not only get our best players the football, we can't get them on the football field. It's one thing to recruit great players to Auburn. It's quite another to keep them there and to make them better than they were when they arrived. I believe one hand would be sufficient to count the number of players that have consistently elevated their game and grown as football players since their arrival. In fact one hand may leave plenty of room. That's a major problem.

This team has zero confidence and minimal true playmakers. We're quarterback challenged and woefully underwhelming at defensive line. Non-opportunistic defensively and penalty-laden at the worst possible times. Void of leaders and an offensive pulse with playcalling painful to watch. We can't stop the rush, we can't stretch the football field vertically. We can't score touchdowns in the red zone and we can't stop teams from scoring when we finally do. We look helpless, clueless, defeated as a staff.

And I commend the Auburn supporters for making the trip to Nashville. There were more Auburn fans than Vandy, and for a group struggling as mightily as our team, that speaks volumes about the passion of this fan base. Someday soon however, this program must give us something to be passionate about, other than the need for wholesale change. With the trajectory of this program regrettably, that would likely unite us all.

Dr. Z's Vandy Reax: Whipped by Nerds

The speech I would have given after the game.

Saturday we saw a team with much less talent come out and take it to an Auburn team with 4 and 5 star players. That speaks volumes.

We are looking at the worst Auburn football team in modern history folks, including the Barfield era.

Gene Chizik, only one and one half years after guiding Auburn to a national title, has guided this proud program off a cliff. What I saw on Saturday was a team with no confidence, no will to fight, no rudder.

We saw silly mistakes in the special teams again destroy field position.

We saw a defense that lapsed and the beginning of both halves, giving up touchdowns that made the difference in the game.

We saw an offense so misdirected that it made us laugh, to keep from crying.

It gets harder every week to write about this disaster. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Over and over, it's the same damn day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Great column from a guy you might know

Rob wrote a really good column yesterday for the Auburn rivals site yesterday. It's worth the read, and it gives us a nice history lesson about how it affects how players and how they react in the years to come.

Check it out here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dr. Z's Vandy Forecast: Revenge on the Nerds

So can we look at this as a revenge game?

If we think back to 2008, the Vanderbilt game solidified all the worries that we Auburn fans had about the Franklin experiment. Auburn lost to a middling Vandy team 14-13, scoring no points in the second half, dooming the rest of the season. Franklin was out the door a few days later. Tubs followed along with the rest of the staff in a couple months.

So let's hope against hope that we can get the ship righted against Vanderbilt, the nerds of the SEC.

If your're headed up to the game, enjoy the great city of Nashville, though its reputation is being muddied by the god awful ABC television show my wife made me watch the other night. It stars the wife from Friday Night Lights (movie and TV show) and one of the stand-up comics from Who's line is it anyway. It pretty much sucked. I'm talking Auburn vs Arkansas 2012 sucked, so hopefully my wife will forget it's on next week.

Anyway, as for the game, Auburn needs to forget the first 6 games. It's a 6 game season now. Go 5-1, we get to go bowling. Is that possible? Not very. But for the moment, let's be optimistic. After last week's scathing preview and review by horrible doomsday Auburn bloggers like me, let's pump some sunshine.

I believe this week we run the ball consistently. I believe the defense plays with a chip on its shoulder after getting gashed in the run game last week. I believe Coach Chizik threatened to beat Scott Loeffler with a folding chair if he runs a speed sweep into the boundary again.

I said last week, if things continue in this awful direction that Gene Chizik needs to be shown the door. I'm not saying that I want that to happen.

Auburn exorcises some demons this week.

Auburn 24

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vanderbilt Preview

What is there to say at this point? We control the market on putrid offensive statistics. Name an offensive category...we're in the bottom ten in the nation. Combine that with the single worst turnover ratio I've ever seen, at any level, any time in my life. It's a precise mathematical formula yielding no surprises, rather exactly what we'd expect: Terrible Offense + Turnover Kings = 1-5...and 8 point dogs to Vanderbilt.

We've seen a lack of leadership, play-making ability, urgency, fight, adjustments, attacking. We've seen guys we thought would loom large play minuscule roles, guys we thought would live up to their billing fail to arrive, players we expected to take over the reigns look timid and confused, guys make tremendously athletic plays only to be unseen/little used the rest of the game. Schemes we thought would suit our players executed poorly, mental errors mount continually placing our football team in untenable positions. Players question effort, coaches question themselves, starters benched, true freshmen elevate to starting positions, fans split on the direction of the program, former coaches call our manhood into question. It's been a disaster by nearly every measure.

Even so, I still can't fathom consecutive trips to Nashville resulting in losses. Every player on Auburn's squad could have gone to Vanderbilt. Very few on Vanderbilt's squad could say the same about Auburn. I have seen this Auburn team operate in a foolish, self-inflicted, poorly executed manner, but I haven't seen them quit. I can't say this staff has lost this team. But, with a loss to Vanderbilt...I'd have to rethink my position.

Vanderbilt will be hungry and they are a capable football team. In fact, there's not a game on their schedule that's not winnable for them...perhaps they'll be favored in the rest. Regardless, there's no reason Auburn should be losing football games to Vanderbilt...period. No matter how down a year we're having. No matter if we play true freshmen at every position. Auburn should always be better than Vanderbilt. And it's time for Auburn to grow up and start acting like Auburn. I'm ready to see a defense play with scary intensity, with a nasty demeanor. Forget about making mistakes and just go run to the football and bring hell with you when you arrive. That's the gameplan. Just beat the guy in front of you. Offensively, it's about time we see a QB that looks the part, a guy competent and willing to sacrifice his body for the team. A guy his team can count on. A guy that will lead. You don't even have to complete many passes. I don't care. Just throw the football away and don't throw it to the opposite colored jersey. You take care of the football and we have a chance to win football games. I'm ready to see a coaching staff ride the hot hand. If a WR makes a big play, reward him with another opportunity...don't substitute for him. If a we're running it down their throats, don't start running it sideways. If it's fourth one...show the offense your confident, you believe in them...make calls that are obvious to your team you came to win...not to keep things close for 3 quarters.

We're all pissed, frustrated, and embarrassed by the first half of this season. I assure you no one is more upset than the guys wearing the jerseys. The devotion it takes to just don the jersey is beyond explanation...most of you wouldn't want or allow your children to be pushed to those extremes. Kids come to school at Auburn because of they way Auburn makes them feel...supported, loved, united, passionate, devoted, important. Not a single guy ever thought it possible to struggle as much as this team has during their Auburn careers. Make them remember and forever appreciate your level of support in the lean years. Reward their effort with unwavering support regardless of the outcome. You can scold them, yell at them through your TV, abhor them, pray for their early graduation...but on Saturdays...you love them...you appreciate them...you root for them, even when they make doing so nearly impossible. I remember those days well, in fact I treasure those days.

I hope we win Saturday...I hope we compete four quarters and play mistake free football. For the players, I hope they get to taste the satisfaction of winning on the road. For the fan base, I hope we remember what makes Auburn so special.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Dr. Z's Ole Miss Review- A Sinking Ship

Not much to say as far as I am concerned about what we saw Saturday. Except to say I think Gene Chizik is a dead man walking.

I've seen my share of not so good Auburn teams. There were the early nineties at the end of Pat Dye's tenure, the 98 squad we've mentioned, Tuberville's 2008 debacle, but none, and I mean none match this 2012 catastrophe. How a team with so much talent can be so rudderless is beyond me.

Our only choice now is to clean house. Jay Jacobs must be the first to go. He brought in Chizik, and his other hires as an A.D. have been just as bad. We haven't even sniffed mediocrity in basketball, and the baseball program continues to underachieve.

Jacobs is the brains behind this mess. His head needs to roll first.

As much respect as I have for Pat Dye, he needs to be excommunicated from the program as well. I have no clue whom he thinks he is helping by going on radio shows trumpeting the bonafides of Gene Chizik. Talk about fiddling as Rome burns. Dye should have no comment from this point further and forever more. Does he not know that his reputation is tarnished every time he opens his mouth in regard to the current state of Auburn football? Coach Dye, do us all a favor and stop it. Let us remember you for what you did for our program in the 80's, not what you say about our program present day.

I will continue to support this team. I will continue to love and respect my Alma mater, but I see no way forward with Gene Chizik and the current coaching staff at Auburn University.

Ole Miss Review (AU 20 Ole Miss 41)

It was this week, after starting 1-5 during my sophomore season in 1998 Coach Terry Bowden was fired/quit (however you view it) the Friday night before our game against Louisiana Tech. The difference between our current team the one I played on...this one is uberly more talented, has less injuries to overcome, they lose going away whereas we fought for four quarters against teams that were just better than us, and even we beat Ole Miss. I simply can not justify or explain away in endearing terms a team losing badly to a foe that's lost 16 straight in the conference. In fact, we now own the longest losing streak in conference play at six in a row. I've never seen a team as outplayed and demoralized in fourth quarters with the inability to execute when the football game is on the line. I have seen, and played, on teams with poor QB play...but it's an unfair comparison. Ben Leard's offenses were one dimensional because we had no running game...we had five different centers, a makeshift offensive line and miniature tailbacks. Our QBs have the luxury of a decent rushing attack. We're one dimensional because in one scenario we're mentally not ready to compete...in the other we're physically challenged. Watching Clint Moseley lumber around Saturday was painful...he looked 20 going on 70. His arm looked weak as his deep balls were under thrown and his scrambling/running ability to keep a play alive is nonexistent. And when I look around this conference, pretty much every team minus Kentucky has fantastic QB play. It's absolutely killing us.

But most disheartening is what's going on in the fourth quarter of football games. We are 1-5 and have never trailed by more than four points entering a fourth quarter this season other than in Starkville where we entered trailing by 11. Yet we have loses of 18, 17, and 21...the last two coming against teams having no business pulling away from Auburn in the fourth quarter no matter how down a year we're having. We have scored zero touchdowns in the fourth quarter all season. In fact we've only kicked one field goal all season in the fourth quarter...our lone points...and that was way back in week one vs Clemson. Outscored 24-3 by Ole Miss in the second half? Not even the most pessimistic Auburn fans could have foreseen that. A team finding ways to lose is a team void of leadership, both on the field and wearing headsets. I don't see these kids quitting, I see them unsure of themselves, making poor reads, making the same mental mistakes consistently, shooting themselves in the foot when the stakes are highest. When it happens infrequently...I place blame on the player. When it happens every week...I place blame on the staff. It's their job to get it corrected and through week 6 they have had no answers.

And now we're 8 point dogs on the road at Vanderbilt. That's what we've descended to? Eight point dogs to Vandy in week 7 of the college football season? Perception is reality and reality for our football program right now frightening. Seeing a team lose is acceptable when they fight four quarters, play with passion, leave it all on the field. But seeing a team regress, lose games going away to teams with less talent and makeshift coaching staffs, getting weaker as the game progresses rather than stronger...I just can't stomach it any longer. Fair or unfair, my belief is what we witnessed in Oxford Saturday sealed the fate of Coach Chizik. It's unfortunate, it's regrettable, but has become unavoidable and necessary. And Jay Jacobs has been put in quite a bind by Coach Pat Dye's "he can lose them all" comment. He sticks with Gene...it looks like Pat Dye runs the program. He fires Gene...he makes his former coach look incompetent, out of touch. We seem to have the problem Alabama football had within their athletic department for 25 years post Bear Bryant. No single, solitary voice. Too many hands in the cookie jar. I don't know that too be the case...it's just my perception. But again, perception is reality.

These kids work too hard and sacrifice too much to not enjoy some success. It truly pains me to see a team struggle the way we have, having been in their shoes in a near identical scenario. If I had the opportunity to talk with these guys my advice to them would be to just have fun. Don't fracture your team, point fingers, listen to outside negativity, worry about the future. No one expects you to win football games so the pressure is off. You can go out and play with reckless abandon, take chances, force the issue. Remember how miserable it feels to walk off the field a loser and use it to outwork your opponents in the offseason, in preparation, in everything you do. And know just as quickly as things go south, they can be revamped, you can have success, you can draw from the low points to reach new heights. I was there. I lived it. I feel for you. But it's up to you to change the course, to right the ship. I'm pulling for you and always will and no matter how bad things get you can count on the Auburn faithful to be there for you, cheering you on. As Coach Chizik said after Arkansas, the fans didn't deserve what we got. I hope the players can never say the same about the level of support they receieve. These kids deserve our best, and during times like these is when they need it most.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dr. Z's Ole Miss Forecast

Wonder if Sandra Bullock is still running the program?

Let's review the state of Auburn football this week-

Sunday-Lutzy and T-Bell come out and rip certain players for lack of effort.

Tuesday-Freshman WR Sammie Coates rips upperclassmen for lack of leadership. Gene Chizik describes this as "one person's opinion".

Wednesday-Chizik's wife Jonna rallies Gene's fanbase on Facebook. (Coincidentally Jonna, if you poke me again I will write things on your wall that will make your computer cry.)

Friday-No starter named for the game Saturday at QB, because indecision with our offense has worked so well this year.

So my forecast for tomorrow is gloomy with a chance of four letter words uttered by me around lunch time tomorrow.

As for our opponent, you have to be pretty impressed with Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. He inherited a flat out mess, and has made the best of it with a pretty decent offense and a scrappy defense.

You might remember Hugh Freeze's character from the famous movie The Blind Side as the guy who didn't know how to coach Michael Oher, and Sandra Bullock took over, turning Oher into a pancake machine.

Freeze rode Oher all the way to Oxford and never looked back. Thank God for women like Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

From a talent standpoint, Auburn is way better than Ole Miss on paper. Oh if games were palyed on poaer these days. The difference in this game is confidence. Ole Miss is playing with it. Auburn is not. Ole Miss is hungry to get of the schnide and end their 16 game SEC losing streak. Auburn is busy with a streak of their own, and it's not the good kind.

Our best hope is to run the ball and hope we can out muscle the smallish Ole Miss front seven. If Ole Miss jumps out 14-0, you might as well do what I plan on doing if that happens, and play the 2010 BCS game in your DVR.

Defensively, Ole Miss poses a challenge, because Ole Miss will spread you out and zone read you to death. Bo Wallace was a great pickup for the Rebels. He has the engine in Oxford humming.

I'd love to say we circle the wagons and turn things around this week, but I just can't. I was made a believer in 2009, and my faith was reinforced in 2010. Those may be my two favorite teams in AU history. Since then, my faith in Auburn football under Gene Chizik may be irreparably damaged. I cannot see a victory tomorrow, not with this group. They lack confidence and swagger, and the coaching chops to get it done.

Auburn- 13
Ole Miss-24

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ole Miss Preview

This football team is beyond a crossroad. It is screaming down a path of no return. We've seen poor philosophical approaches bring about poor execution; poor execution bring about poor results; poor results bring about a non-unified voice of frustration in the locker room. We're a team about to hit the road for a crucial two game stretch midway through the season and we sit here two days out not knowing who are QB is, what our offensive identity is, dead last in this conference (with some pretty bad football teams) in scoring offense, rushing defense, total offense, interceptions, pass efficiency, sacks against, first downs, and turnover margin. Wow! Inconsistency here and there I expect. Regression and not playing to your strengths I do not.

It's one thing to lose to an Arkansas program in disarray. They have some weapons and will win more games as the season progresses. It's quite another to lose to an Ole Miss program having lost 16 straight SEC games. That's a streak you can't have end on your watch if your head coach Gene Chizik. When you've already been beaten by a coach spending more time trying to climb out of bankruptcy than in-game deficits and your lone win is an overtime defeat of a middling Sun Belt program, your margin for error is razor thin. Last week was a must win to salvage a season on the brink. This week is a must win to salvage a coach on the brink...at least in my eyes.

And Ole Miss presents an enormous challenge. Their fast-pace, unconventional offensive attack is what Coach VanGorder's defensive unit has struggled immensely to stop all season. Their JUCO QB, Bo Wallace, looks brilliant one play, Frazier-esque the next. He's thrown just as many picks as Kiehl, but has 4x the TD tosses as well. Which Bo Wallace shows up will go a long way in determining the outcome. What about our defensive front? Do they play dominant football as they did against LSU, or do they disappear and go completely unseen as was the case against Arkansas and others? Can we make an offense one dimensional and force an erratic QB into mistakes or do we allow them to run the football making life easier for both the OB and the coordinator? What do we get from Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley? Do they play with confidence and make wise decisions or do they flounder and flake as we've grown accustomed to? Do we have an offensive line determined to protect their QB and run the football with success at will or do we penalize ourselves with yellow flags...consistently imploding on ourselves with drive killers? I don't know? I don't know what Scot Loeffler chooses to do, how (or if) our QBs can mature, who on this team takes the onus of becoming a playmaker and leads by being productive, efficient, successful?

Are we tough enough mentally to win on the road in this league after such a disappointing season? Do we trust one another, love one another, willing to give the guy next you everything you can possibly muster to win the small battles within the war? Do we have a group capable of walking into a stadium on the road undoubtedly beleaguered and scarred, but locked arm-arm ready to fight for four quarters against the team across the field, the guy across the line, the whole crowd if need be...everything in red and blue. Stand in the ring and not only match punches, but throw so many the opponent can't respond because you're a machine. You're on the offensive. You refuse to take a body blow because you refuse to stop punching. That's what it'll take from this Auburn team because quite frankly, we're not good enough to win any other way. Not yet. And until we are, if we continue to walk into stadiums across this conference and play any other way...we'll lose. And we have no one to blame but the guy we see in the mirror. You leave it all on the field against Ole Miss...you win. I'm not convinced we have that type of character...and that's what is saddest of all.

Ole Miss-24

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dr. Z's Arkansas Review-Implosion

I have no idea where to begin with my review. Rob pretty much summed up my feelings. If you you haven't read his post, you should. He has been there. In 1998, I sat in the stands for Rob's entire season that began with a debacle against Virginia and ended with a lead blown against Alabama.

1998 and 2012 are very different monsters in my opinion. In '98, Auburn suffered through a myriad of injuries to go with a lack of offensive talent. The 2012 team is just a group of underachievers with little to no leadership, and very poor coaching and planning on the offensive side of the football.

Why Scott Leoffler continues to throw 2 out of every three times flummoxes me. He has neither a quarterback or an offensive line that are capable of doing so. When he chooses to call a running play, he insists on doing so with a 165 pound running back and no lead blocker. Our most successful runner so far this season had 6 carries in the game Saturday. The All American fullback, the only All American on the offense, was on the field about 20% of the time.

Loeffler has no, or at least appears to have no consistent plan for his offense. Are we a spread team? A power eye team? I wonder if even Loeffler knows. And for a guy who was touted as being a specialist in quarterback development, he showed Saturday that he has two that haven't even come close to developing.

All of this falls at the feet of Gene Chizik, who has utterly failed the Auburn family since the second half of 2011 and first half of this season. Now we have players calling each other out to the media. This team is imploding, and fast. It makes 2008 look like a good situation.

At this point I don't know if Chiz survives to coach the Tigers in 2013. Raise your had if you think Auburn wins two conference games. How about 1? At this point AU has little hope of beating Ole Miss and Vandy on the road, much less A&M and UGA at home. And forget about the Iron Bowl. Trust me, I am trying to. I may find myself doing yard work or volunteering in a soup kitchen that day. 3-9 after three straight top 5 recruiting classes will not get it done.

My advice to Chizik and Leoffler is to burn the playbook. Find yourself about 12 power running plays and 6 pass plays. Play middle school football on offense and let the defense keep you in the game. It's the only shot we have.

I cannot believe what I have seen so far in 2012. This is one of the most disappointing Autumns that I can recall.

War Eagle anyway.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Arkansas Review (AU 7 Arkansas 24)

I am by no means an Auburn apologist. Don't get me wrong, those that know me best know my heart, my allegiance, my passion to see Auburn excel in every undertaking. Those that know me best also know me as a realist, someone who'll give a heart-felt, honest assessment whether life is good or life stinks to high heaven. Right now, for Auburn fans, life is tragic on Saturdays. And this will not be an easy assessment to write.

What we saw Saturday was quite simply an unprepared football team. Not at every position, not each individual to a man, but overall a team one step slower, one notch less passionate, one level less intense, hungry, DESPERATE. A team displaying poor execution, a team who's only consistency is being inconsistent...ending drive after drive after drive with sacks, penalties, fumbles, interceptions. It's a disgusting sight...historically a sight we are unfamiliar with as Auburn people, but a sight we are undoubtedly being force-fed in heaping amounts on a routine basis. The results have been difficult to defend for some time, but after losing to an Arkansas team without a pulse, coming off a bye week, the results have become indefensible. If we're being honest with ourselves...we'd have to hire David Axelrod or Karl Rove to spin the state of Auburn football in a positive light. Not even the late Johnnie Cochran would take this case.

The sad reality is this team is probably a mediocre at best QB away from being a decent football team still in the thick of the SEC division race. Unfortunately, the lack of mental development at this position is frightening, has been the chief impediment to this group having success, and is solely the responsibility and failure of coach Scot Loeffler. For a coach whose MO coming into Auburn was quarterback development, he'll leave Auburn with his resume forever stained by his tutelage of Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley. Five games under our belt and I still have no idea what our offensive identity is? Are we a finesse/misdirection offense, a spread offense, an I-back, one back, no back, 5-wide, three TE, downhill attack or sideways attack? The answer is we're all of it...we are multiple indeed...but we do none of it well enough to win. We're a train wreck offensively and it's pathetic to watch.

Loeffler is not alone in his ability to stink up the place. The consistently inconsistent play of our offensive line and TEs, our inopportune turnovers, our presnap penalties all effectively killed drives...nothing Arkansas did...rather self-inflicted wounds. I didn't expect this offensive unit to set the world on fire Saturday, but I did expect to see improvement, to see two weeks worth of preparation against a miserable defensive unit to be the Rx for what ails us. Instead, we got more of the same and it's unacceptable...Coach Chizik was first to say so. When you're forced to apologize on more than one occasion for the way your football team played in a given season you're forced to look beyond the players and straight to the coaches preparing those players. They're not getting it done.

When Kiehl Frazier time and time again refuses to simply throw the football away I point to preparation. When Onterio McCalebb fumbles a KO return I question his mental preparation. When Trovon Reed repeatedly allows punts to land and roll giving up valuable field position for a struggling offense I wonder why it doesn't mean more to him to benefit his unit. When Tre Mason has but 6 touches the entire game I question what in the hell our offensive coordinator is thinking, and why is our head coach not demanding #21 carries the ball more. When I see Steven Clark let a punt snap slide through his hands...hit his helmet...and nearly have his punt blocked out of the end zone I know something is amiss. When we come out after the half and our first play is false start by our most experienced offensive player in Phillip Lutzenkirchen I know we're still not on the same page. When the offensive line gives up more sacks to a team than that opponent has accumulated against all teams combined I see the signs of a unit content with going through the motions.

Defensively, I thought we played about as well as we could against this team. In fact, I nailed the Arkansas score in my preview prediction (I missed the Auburn score however by 30!). I would have liked for us to have opened up with more success out of the gate to set an initial tone and let Arkansas know it would be a long day. We didn't do that. Most discouraging was allowing Arkansas to drive 75 yards for a TD immediately after our offense shows a pulse and cuts the lead to three. Just when a three and out was in order...we fail to come through with a stop. The inability to get pressure on Wilson was a problem, but in truth...the defense made it a ball game into the fourth quarter. Without their effort through three quarters the game is over at the half. They have improved. They have guys that play with passion and intensity and are a unit that from game one to five have begun to get it. I don't get the impression defensively we're poorly prepared or lack basic fundamentals. We're young, we're still learning a system, but we're now playing well enough to win football games.

From here...I just don't have an answer. It's increasingly difficult to see Coach Chizik survive this start. For a coach with such promise, such conviction and belief in his way of doing things, his post game head-scratching leads me to believe without running the table from here out, his days are numbered. There's been too many players not live up to even a fraction of their recruiting stature. Too many decisions regarding personnel that haven't panned out and have set the program back. Too many losses in which Auburn has looked totally inept, unable to answer, unwilling to adjust, incapable of providing a challenge. Too many losses against the teams we love to beat (LSU, Georgia, Alabama) and the teams we expect to beat (Mississippi St., Arkansas, Clemson) regardless...based on program and tradition alone.

I like Gene, think highly of Gene, have always wished I could have played under Gene, but his football team has regressed and there's simply no where else to point the finger than at the head coach. I'm sure there are things behind the scenes we have no knowledge of, hurdles particular players must overcome to compete, challenges away from the football complex that make his job more difficult than we could ever imagine. His greatest attribute during 2010 was his steadiness, his ability to absorb the criticism, the doubt, the detractors and do so with grace, with poise, with loyalty, with a steel chin. Those same qualities being displayed toward on offensive approach...a coordinator and QB unable to deliver positive results...may be precisely what leads to his undoing. Sad.

All that being said, Auburn will continue on being the Auburn we know and love. There will be those that attempt to divide us and some of us will let them be successful. There will be a strong contingent loyal to Coach Chizik and that should be respected. There will be a strong contingent wanting a clean sweep and that too should be respected. Regardless, we all know we will return to the pinnacle of college football where Auburn University belongs and we will be all the more grateful, all the more humble, all the more in a position to relish the ride because of the adversity we endured. When times are tough I always think of the old proverb, 'Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.' It rings true. Whatever happens, handle it with class, dignity and an appreciation of the players who live with the decisions others make on their behalf. I've been exactly where these guys sit. Support them. Love on them. Don't give up on them. Better days are ahead.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dr. Z's Arkansas Preview-It's Get Well Saturday

$25 40 million in debt and counting, and he still is cheerful enough to ask people to smile.

Game 5 is here, and in to town comes the trainwreck that once was Arkansas football. Arkansas was a team that started out in the top 10 and now sits 1-3, with blowout losses to Bama, Rutgers and the Texas Aggies, along with a stunning OT loss to La-Monroe (Can you even imagine a team like La-Monroe even taking an SEC team to OT? Don't answer that.)

To trace the Arkansas downfall, you have to go back to last year, when Ole Jetgate Petrino thought it would be a good idea to take his mistress on a motorcycle ride. Keep in mind this is a little bit after he decided it would be a good idea to hire said mitress for a position (likely missionary) in the Arkansas athletic department. He also decided he had the authority to do this without informing his athletic director.

Petrino's idea crashed and burned...literally, when his donor-cycle slid off the Arkansas highway, with him driving and his hot new assistant on the back. Neither were wearing helmets. I say this not because of safety concerns, but because I am utterly shocked at the brazenness of a famous football coach who rides around on a motorcycle with no helmet so the world can see him...with a hot chick on the back.

Maybe the folks around Fayetteville just thought to themselves "how nice of Coach to give his niece a ride on his motorcycle". In a move that would make Bill CLinton proud, Petrino then tried a cover up which included some of Arkansas's finest. It failed, and caught in a lie about hiring a mistress to a position (reverse cow-girl?) in the Arkansas athletic deptartment, he was rightfully forced out.

Arkansas then hired a bankruptcy attorney's wet dream in John L Smith, who was hoping to land a permanent gig. The guy actually left Weber State to take the Arkansas job in the most startiling instance of "well, it looked like a good move at the time" I have ever witnessed.

So now the Hogs come to town in a state of decomposition. Auburn needs to bury them.

I am still a bit concerned about Tyler Wilson. He is a good QB who loves playing Auburn. The last time he was in Jordan-Hare he set the world on fire. But let's face facts, Arkansas has the worst defense in college football. If there was ever a weekend for Keihl Frazier and the Auburn offense to get well this it it.

I am hoping to see some gashing runs from Tre Mason tomorrow. I am hoping to see another receiver step up and make a catch or two (LOOKING AT YOU, Trevon Reed). I look for Tyler Wilson to bet hit early and often by Ford and Lemonier.

I look for a big victory on get well Saturday.

Smile! Though your heart is aching-17

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Arkansas Preview

This will be a hard fought battle. Neither team wants to walk off the field Saturday afternoon the cellar dweller of the SEC Western Division. The team that loses is just that.

Arkansas has been an absolute train wreck this season. It's been a long while since a team receiving as much preseason hype has fallen as hard and as quickly as the Razorbacks. Their effort seems poor, their mistakes too many to overcome, their coaching amateurish, injuries to key players unfortunate, their schedule littered with quality football teams--not quite to the same level but similar to what Auburn has faced. They're a team that scares me because offensively they're potentially explosive. They spread the ball around at a fast pace with a QB that's experienced, poised, and accurate--something we've struggled mightily to defend this season. This won't be LSU's offense rolling into Jordan-Hare trying to outphysical us without stretching us. Arkansas will take many shots downfield and have a tailback more than capable of taking it the distance when you least expect it. Defensively, if we lack intensity, if we sit back and react rather than forcing the action, if we play with poor fundamentals in our assignments and execution we run the risk of getting in a shoot-out with a team more than comfortable playing that role. This game has to be won with our defensive front seven and our offensive line. We can't be forced to commit extra defenders to stop Arkansas from running the football. Our secondary has it's hands full as it is. We have to get pressure on Tyler Wilson. If we can't get it with four, bring five. If five's not enough, bring six. Whatever it takes to make him move, throw off the rhythm and timing of their offense. They will have some success and score some points. That can't cause Kiehl Frazier to panic and feel he must match Wilson throw for throw. The offensive line must match Wilson by dominating the Arkansas front and controlling the football. Keeping Wilson on his sideline with methodical, punishing drives.

I will be watching Kiehl Frazier closely this week. For me, the training wheels must come off. He must be unleashed to be an athlete. He needs to get involved in the Auburn rushing attack. He needs to force defenses to defend the threat of him running the football. We don't have to put in a true freshman QB to accomplish that. Kiehl proved perfectly capable last season in that role. We have to be smart with the football but we also have to stretch the football field on occasion (not just laterally with McCalebb either). Go deep. Put pressure on their safeties, their corners, their defensive coordinator. To do otherwise puts the Auburn OL in a perilous situation. It's easy to stop a one-dimensional offense, even for a terrible defense like Arkansas. Complete some passes, have some success through the air and this Arkansas defense folds like cheap suit. Frazier gains confidence, the offense feeds off his confidence, the defense feeds off of the offense having a pulse. It's a game of momentum.

There's no question this is a must win game. This team must win if they're going to make any noise this season. Coach Chizik must win because a loss to a John L. Smith coached team, fair or not, is not what you want on your resume and perceptually would be nearly impossible to overcome. Both teams need a win desperately and with a lame duck coach in Smith, Arkansas can be fearless, break tendancies, let it all hang out. What's the worst that can happen?

I feel these two teams are moving in opposite directions, and no Terry from Talledega that doesn't mean I'm satisfied with a 1-3 mark. I am seeing this team improve, starting to buy-in and believe, and feel they are not far away from being a team no one wants to face. I don't get that feeling from Arkansas.