Tuesday, September 24, 2013

LSU Review-Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

A first half downpour both figuratively and literally.

We came out of the tunnel scared Saturday night. We could all see it on the faces of the Auburn players.

A promising first drive resulted in a fumble on a miscommunication between Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne led to a very quick LSU touchdown. A mishandled punt snap led to another, and Auburn was quickly out of contention. You don't spot a national title contender 3 touchdowns on their home turf at night and expect anything but a loss. Unfortunately, Auburn behaved mentally like many feared they would in the first quarter.

Then something strange happened.

Auburn showed signs of life in the 3rd quarter, and after a quick score, we continued to watch, unlike most of the 'rabid' LSU fans who decided to sit through a rainstorm but leave after things cleared up. By the end of the game, the stadium was half empty, and those that stuck around might have been reaching for the Maalox had the booth review not screwed Auburn.

The bottom line is: if Auburn had come out in the first quarter like they did in the third, the outcome might have been very different.

So will Auburn come out struck with fear/awe of surroundings again? I really do not think so, because the road games down the schedule are not nearly as daunting, aside from the trip to College Station. And even then, Auburn, especially on offense should fare much better against a (being kind) questionable offensive line. Arkansas is always a tough place to play, but Auburn should be pretty seasoned by then, and Tennessee looks pretty manageable, even before they get tenderized by an impossible October schedule.

In a loss in Baton Rouge, this team grew up before our eyes, and future opponents should be on notice that if they sleep on Auburn, they will regret in. Other random thoughts....

--Montravious Adams needs to play more. I know for a true frosh he plays quite a bit, but the defensive line plays better with him in there. He raises the level of those around him. He will be a star in this league pretty soon.

--Get well soon Chris Davis. Auburn needed him as a run stopper and pass defender Saturday.

--Get well Craig Sanders-Auburn needed Sanders Saturday night against the run. We'll need him against the Freeze attack. He3's a firey emotional guy who can make a difference.

--Get well soon Jaylon Denson. Likely not until next season, though. The injury was unfortunate on so many levels, because 1) we need his run blocking 2) if his knee doesn't buckle he probably catches the pass for a first down. 3) He's a good kid who does the little things well.

--LSU read the weather report. Mettenberger threw with a wet ball all week. I''m not saying it helped but you could obviously tell it bothered Nick Marshall.

--Jake Holland. Err...nevermind, the kid has been skewered enough in the twitterverse in the last few days.

So chin up, you orange and blue. We have an extra week to get ready for the Rebels Black Bears. Hopefully, our arrogant cousins to the northwest will bruise em up a little before they head into Jordan Hare.

War Eagle.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dr. Z's LSU Preview-Anger Management

Beats all you ever saw, been in trouble with the law since the day he was born.

So Auburn travels to Baton Rouge this weekend to take on longtime nemesis LSU and their felonious running back Jeremy Hill. Hill was given a slap on the wrist for sucker punching a guy outside a bar last summer. Here's a shocker: that slap on the wrist came from a judge who is an LSU alum.

There is even a video of it. If you don't want to watch it, I will give you a quick summation: Hill sneaks up behind a dude much bigger and sucker punches him in the head then high fives all his buds. The guy filming the whole thing clearly calls him Jeremy Hill.

Of course an LSU fan might argue he was just showing the guy what might get you thrown out under the new targeting rule.

All of this might be chalked up under boys being boys, except Hill has been in trouble with law before. He and a buddy allegedly forced a 14 year old girl into performing oral sex in a locker room when he was a senior in high school.

To make a long story short, Hill is a scumbag who is really good at running the football, so LSU and Les Miles kept him around. You might remember a guy named Michael Dyer, another troubled running back, who was kicked off of the Auburn football team for far less egregious offenses. He was also dismissed by Gus at Arkansas State, and after taking time to get his life back together, he now plays for a very good Louisville team.

The bottom line is there are no consequences for Jeremy Hill at LSU. He now understands that he is a star and can do whatever he wants. This guy gives me very good reason to despise LSU and pull against him and the Purple Tigers in every contest this season. On to the game...

For Auburn to have a shot in this game, and I do think they have a puncher's chance, they have to get out early with a quick score. Auburn must also establish a defensive pulse early. They simply cannot wait till halftime make adjustments adjust. Auburn has to be ready to come out and take the fight to LSU.

I've heard all week that this will be a game won or lost in the trenches. I agree with that 100%, but I also feel like the team that gets the best pass rush with the front 4 will have the best chance. Montravious Adams will be interesting to watch in this one. No one has handled him yet and I for one would like to see the kid in the game more. Watching these upperclassmen wallow around on the defensive line grates on me. I say give the young kids a shot if things aren't going well. We cannot do any worse.

The key actors in this one will be the quarterbacks. Is Mettenberger really as good as he has looked all year? Will Nick Marshall parlay his brilliant drive to beat Mississippi State into a virtuoso performance Saturday? Again, pressure will be the key. If Auburn can get pressure on Mettenberger with the front four, they have a chance.

I don't want to dismiss the importance of the running game either, because if Auburn doesn't run the ball a little better, they will be in trouble. If Auburn doesn't stop the run, well, same thing.

Finally, intangibles will play a large role. Will LSU be looking ahead to a huge game with Georgia? How will Auburn's young team handle it's first road game?

I am dreaming of 4-0, but I just don't think we get it this week....

Auburn 21
Morally Bankrupt Corndogs 27

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Threatdown Week 3

Time for a look down the schedule to see where we stand against coming opponents. Last week here.

LSULast week - Blasted Kent State 45-13. This week's opponent looks like a monster, but after TCU fizzled at Texas Tech, the Tigers don't look quite as daunting. More tomorrow on the Bayou Bengals. Threadown Level...unchanged.

Ole Miss Last week- Destroyed Texas on the road 44-23. Everything's big in Texas, including holes in the defense. Still, it is a solid road win for the Rebs...er Black Bears. Threatdown level...up moderately.

Western Carolina Last Week-Lost to Citadel 28-21. I'm surprised the Citadel ever loses. Ever read Lords of Discipline? doing pushups while somebody pees on you is motivation enough to win. Threatdown level...NONE.

Texas Aggies Last week-Lost to Bama 49-42. Johnny Football is entertaining for sure. But the Aggies D made Bama's offense entertaining. You know how hard that is to do??? Threatdown Level....down slightly, but still very high.

FAU Last week-Beat South Florida 28-10. Remember when USF was good? Well they suck now, and FAU tooked care of business, though sloppy. Threatdown Level...Flatlined.

Arkansas Last week-Beat Southern Miss 24-3 Remember when Southern Miss was good? Well they suck now. Arkansas hasn't played anybody decent yet, except for maybe Samford, who is decent enough in FCS. Threatdown level...down slighly.

Tennessee Last week-Lost or Oregon 59-14. Yep, you read that right. The Vols looked overmatched, and I cannot understand how a team with such history and tradition gets embarrased like that. I say that and then remember Auburn in 2012. Threatdown Level...Down a bit from last week.

Georgia Last week- Bye Georgia's D looked pretty good this week. Threatdown level...unchanged.

Bama Last week- Beat A&M 49-42. Bama still has some work to do, even though all the folks here in Bama-ham have already coronated the Tide for their 200th national title. Threatdwn level...unchanged.

Tomorrow, I will preview LSU, and highlight their new convicted felon running back program.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mississippi State Review: Too Close for Comfort

It's a win, we'll take it...

I sat and watched this game with my old high school friends at my 20 year class reunion. To the members of the class of 94, it was great to see you. The ladies all looked great, the guys...well we just look old. We let up a roar after C.J's miraculous catch that shook the bar. I felt a strange sense of relief after that, knowing how far Auburn football has come in one year, but at the same time knowing we have so far to go.

It wasn't pretty, being gashed for another 400+ yards by a team with a backup quarterback, but in the end Auburn had its first SEC victory since 2011. And just looking at the facts, it's amazing that a team can turn the ball over 3 times, twice in its own territory, and still win the game.

I must admit I was pretty frustrated with play calling in the second half of this game. Gus just did not seem willing to let Nick Marshall cut loose in this one until he absolutely had to. We were stubborn about trying to run against an 8 man front for much of the game. The MSU defense is no slouch, so we can't complain too much. We are all in agreement that the final game winning drive was a thing of beauty. Marshall is fast becoming known for his steel nerve under pressure. He will need that down the road.

In the end he threw for more yards than anyone in quite some time. I cannot fault him on the INTs either, with one coming at the end of the half and another on a busted route. Nick is a work in progress. He still throws the ball with a little too much zip sometimes, but his decision making is spot on. As he and this team build confidence I think they will be a sight to see in the near future.

As for the defense, they have had better days. And up until the 4th quarter, they looked downright lost. I for one would like to see more of Montravious Adams. Maybe Coach Garner just doesn't think he is quite ready, yet but he knocks the blocker in the backfield 90 percent of the time so we have to keep getting him in the ballgame. Another thing to consider was the absence of Chris Davis, who injured himself on a punt return against Arkansas State. We need him back, not just for ability to cover but but for his ability to come up and stop the run. Get well soon Chris, we need you.

I say all that to say that the Auburn defense rose up when they had to, keep MSU out of the end zone for the entire 4th quarter, setting up the drama they may well keep the Bulldogs at home for the bowl season.

Special teams was again amazing, Clark and Parkey will keep Auburn in games this year. Quan Bray did a servicible job on punt returns, and servicible is way better than anyting we have seen in 4 years at AU.

I gotta say, I love the fact that Dan Mullin got lured into the 2 point conversion game by Gus. If he kicks an XP in the first half, Auburn's job gets a lot tougher on the final drive. My guess is Mullin's days at State are numbered, either by on his own or with some help from the State administration.

As the dust settles Auburn is 3-0. The past few trips down to Red Stick have not been pleasant, but I think this team can play with anybody, and I know the players are excited about the challenge ahead.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dr. Z's State Preview-Healing a Wounded Pysche

State comes to town this week for yet another SEC opener for both schools. There have been some memorable games in this series and some very forgettable ones (See 2012, 2008). Last year Auburn turned the ball over 5 times and State pulled away for a 28-10 victory. The game was actually close for 3 quarters, but it was the early sign that something very major was wrong on the Plains.

I don't know what to make of the Bulldogs of the west this year and neither do many other pundits, just based on what we have seen so far.

Against Oklahoma State in week one, the Bulldog defense got gashed on the ground by a team that historically likes to throw quite a bit. MSU also looked pretty putrid on offense against a defense not historically known for its prowess. What does all this mean? Likely absolutely nothing.

State will come in ready to play, knowing full well that the schedule looks very bleak down the road. Getting to a bowl game may be a tall order with a loss in Jordan-Hare. They know that as well as the rest of us.

My concern for this game is really not State. I think Auburn has better players, a better coaching staff and a all the motivation to win Saturday. My concern is Auburn's psyche. Auburn hasn't won a conference game since Ole Miss in 2011. In that span most of the games have been lopsided. The Tigers have shown themselves to have the potential to be a pretty good football team in 2013. How will they handle the SEC spotlight? They key to being 3-0 after Saturday night relies squarely on how quickly Auburn's players realize that they are a good football team. A good football team will beat Mississippi State Saturday.

So Gus must do the exact opposite of what Gene Chizik got to do in his first year in 2009. Auburn rolled State in that game because they knew they were supposed to. They had experienced success under Tuberville, and they knew how to win. Gus has a much tougher job to repair the damage of the Chizik era. Saturday night will be a huge test, not because State is a world beater, but because everyone in orange and blue, and I include fans in that, needs to learn to believe again.

Fortunately, as I mentioned before, Auburn has the talent and the coaching staff to make us all believe again. I expect a good showing from the Tigers at night in Jordan-Hare. When it is all said and done, Auburn will be 3-0, and State fans will be wondering what's so great about Dan Mullin. I say...

Nowhere State 17

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Way too Late Arky State Review/Schedule Threatdown

Apologies for being late with the review this week, I just got back from meeting with Alabama's congressional delegation to discuss vision care. Technically I met with their staffers. We didn't see a single congressman or senator. I am amazed that the country seems to be run by 25 year old poli-sci majors whose parents donated to somebody's campaign.

Auburn handled Arkansas State early and we all felt pretty much at ease after 2 quick scores. The running game for Auburn may be one of the best in the conference, with the 3 headed monster of Mason, Payne, and Grant. Throw in Nick Marshall and you have a dangerous run game that can attack you from anywhere.

For that reason I am less concerned about our passing game at the moment. There will come a time this year when Nick Marshall will have to win a game throwing the football, but for now, we should just enjoy this power eye offense that happens to be run out of a spread.

Defensively we still give up too many yards, but hard to argue with 9 points surrendered. As a whole way better.

Now on to the threatdown...

Last week we used the Def-Con system, we'll use the use that as a basis for how I am feeling about the rest of the schedule today...

Mississippi State- Last week- Whipped Alcorn State 51-7. Tyler Russell did not play in this game, still shaking off the cobwebs from his week 1 concussion. Threatdown level--Down a bit, based more on Auburn's easy win vs State's performance.

LSU Last week- destroyed a hapless UAB 56-17. Auburn should be 3-0 going down to take on a scary team at night in Baton Rouge. Threatdown level-up a tic.

Ole Miss Last week-Looked kind of meh in beating SEMO State 31-13. I am not buying stock in this bunch yet. Threatdown level-down slightly.

Western Carolina Last week- Blown out by Va Tech 45-3. Not worth talking about otherwise. Threatdown level-Non-existent.

Texas Aggies Last week-Clobbered Sam Houston St. 65-28. The Aggs haven't stopped anybody's run game yet. They get some players back on defense this week, and they will need them or else they will be totally flukered (see what I did there?) against Bama. Threatdown level- Still very high, but down slightly.

Florida Atlantic Run out of the stadium by ECU 31-13. Cupcake city. Threatdown level-None.

Arkansas Last week-Had to change their shorts after squeaking by Samford 31-21. Hogs almost got caught napping in this one as the Bulldogs actually had the lead in the 4th quarter. Threatdown level-down some form last week.

Tennessee Last week- Beat WKU 52-20. Kudos to the Vols for accepting the 5 first quarter gifts in the first 8 plays from the Hilltoppers. We'll know way more about the Vols after their trip out to Oregon. Threatdown level-unchanged.

Georgia Last week-Beat South Carolina 41-30. Georgia still has some defensive issues to work out, but they looked impressive beating the Gamecocks. Threatdown level-Unchanged.

Bama Last week-Did not play. According to Nick Saban, Unfluckering believable week of practice for the Tide getting ready for A&M. And if he gets one more Fluckering question about off the field stuff he will blow a Fluckering microchip. Threatdown level-Hasn't changed a Fluckering bit.

More tomorrow on State....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Arky State Preview

Twilight has ruined Red Wolves forever .

This is a scary weekend for the Tigers. Not as scary as that crap Twilight* movie the Mrs wanted to watch the other night. Vampires and wolves and vampire babies and vampire weddings. I think Selena Roberts wrote the screenplay. It was as close to watching Auburn 2012 as anything I could imagine.

Gus's old team comes rolling into town with a 9 games winning streak, and a pretty good group of talented players. You might remember David Oku, whom everyone, including Auburn wanted badly.

Needless to say this game has me worried.

It's 1:30 pm on gameday (my apologies, life sometimes supplants my blogging) so I will keep this preview short.

Auburn wins if:

-Montravious Adams improves from his impressive first game performance and inspires some of the other lineman to step up their game.

-Nick Marshall settles down and lets the game come to him.

-The linebackers show up. (my biggest concern right now is this group)

-Receivers help Marshall out by actually, you know, catching the damn ball.

Arky State wins if:

-They establish a running game.

-If they hold Auburn to more than their share of 3 and outs.

-Auburn turns the ball over.

I have heard quite a few talking heads say this one could be an upset. I don't see. Auburn wins tonight, but inside the number...

Auburn 35

Mascot from terrible teen movie- 24

Every once in a while my wife likes to watch these horrible chick movies like twilight. She told me she's also excited about 50 Shades of Grey coming out. I told her I didn't know she was into porn.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Schedule Glance After Week 1

Today we look down the schedule and analyze the threat level of our future opponents based on their performance. We'll use the old cold-war Def-Con system to grade the level of concern.*

Arkansas State: Last week-defeated Arkansas Pine Bluff 62-11 and rushed for over 500 yards. Granted, it was Arky-Pine Bluff, but 500 yards rushing?! My guess is they don't get half of that Saturday. DEF CON 4

Mississippi St Last Week-Lost to Oklahoma State 21-3, and looked bad doing it. Tyler Russell got knocked out and likely will not play this week. At home, I like our chances to whip the Bulldogs. We'll give them a DEF-CON 3, just because they are an SEC team.

LSU- Last week-defeated TCU 37-27, and looked damn impressive doing it. LSU can run the ball and to me appeared be the most impressive team from the SEC in week 1. DEF-CON 1

Ole Miss- Last week-Defeated Vandy 39-35. Ole Miss snatched victory from the jaws of defeat from the Dores in Nashville last Thursday night. They were streaky against a scrappy Vanderbilt team, but they absolutely could not stop the run, so until they can prove otherwise, DEF CON 3

Western Carolina- Last week- lost to MTSU 35-24. Western is a not-even-mediocre FCS team. Good time for a weekend leave. DEF-CON 5

Texas A & M Last week- defeated Rice 52-31. Johnny Football looks ready to torpedo his own team. His antics cannot be good for that locker room. I may even have to (throws up in mouth a little) pull for Bama against the Aggs. DEF CON 2

Florida Atlantic Last week-Lost to Miami 34-6, and looked pretty anemic offensively. Should be an easy W. DEF-CON 5

Arkansas Last Week-Impressive win over La-Lafayette 34-14. Arkansas looked ready to play, which is impressive given all of their injuries. Can Burt actually coach? I wasn't counting on that in the pre-season. After a good win over La-La,and given AU's recent history in Fayetteville DEF-CON 2 for now.

Tennessee Last Week-defeated Austin Peay 45-0. The Vols got an opening win, and they need to win them when they can with this schedule. They have a pretty big talent gap to make up. DEF-CON 3

Georgia Last Week-Lost to Clemson 38-35. Georgia played well against Clemson. Murray was solid as was the run game. Defensively, UGA showed that they are replacing a ton of talent. Growing pains expected, DEF-CON 1, based on what I saw.

Bama Last Week-Defeated Va Tech 35-10. Bama's offensive looked downright bad against Va Tech, who has a respectable defense. Nick Saban predictably bites the heads off of the poor beat writers who have to cover him. Based on what I saw Saturday, The Tide has some work to do. Still DEF CON 1

*I used this imperfect system to grade our chances against these teams. 5 obviously means high probability of a win, and 1, well, you know. This can change week to week, and it ain't perfect, especially after week 1.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Washington State Review: Back to the Business of Winning

Once again, squirrels are no longer safe on Auburn's campus.

I usually wait to write my reviews till Tuesday , because my knee-jerk reaction is often too high or too low. Having taken a minute to digest everything we saw on Saturday night, I reached the conclusion that none of us, not me, not you, (probably) not even Gus Malzahn, has a decent clue about how the 2013 will turn out yet. I saw things that made me optimistic, as well as a few areas where we need to get better and quick if we want to even make a bowl game. The bottom line is you cannot tell how a team is going to fare by the first game of the season. Case in point, raise you hand if after week one of 2012 you thought the season would be a dumpster fire.

I was happy to see Cory Grant get a chance and make the best of it against Washington State. He is Ontario fast, but he can break a tackle as well and my guess is he will eventually be a better asset than Ontario was for this season at least. The running game is general is going to be very good. Washington State stacked the box and dared Auburn to throw it deep, yet still got gashed for the most part on the ground.

The defense, especially in the second half was much better than at any point we have seen since 2010. I like the fact that Ellis Johnson allowed for some press man coverage which essentially ended the Leach air raid after halftime. Three picks (should have been 5 but whatever) is encouraging as well. Robinson Therezie filled in for Justin Garrett so well that we might consider the double star defense from now on, especially the way the linebackers played. More on that in a sec.

Special teams again helps get Auburn a win with no net return yards for Washington State. Not a yard in kickoff or punt returns. That makes a huge different. Mason's kickoff return for a touchdown was a momentum changer that got Auburn going. And how about Chris Davis actually gaining yards on a punt return. It's been since 2008 since we have seen any life there.

Now for the things that are cause for concern, and I mean a big, huge cold sore on a first date type of concern:

Linebackers: Jake Holland, a senior linebacker did not record a single tackle. Not. A Single. Tackle. And the rest of the crew wasn't much better totaling 2 tackles all night. This will cost us a win or two down the road. I have nothing more to add about Jake Holland. He's a good kid, but we need to let these underclassmen play. They are the future and can do no worse.

Nick Marshall: Nick looked like he was funneling 5 hour energy prior to kickoff. He was overthrowing receivers by twenty yards and was firing it in too hard even on short and medium routes. He looked flat out nervous in the first half. He settled down a bit better in the second half, but he still has a huge amount of work to do to make Auburn's offense competitive with the giants that loom later on the schedule.

Receivers: as a unit, they were underwhelming catching the ball and running routes in general to me, and this didn't help Wallace's cause any. You could see Gus doing some serious chewing on Ricardo Lewis on the sideline at one point during the game. I was happy to see that. Thinking back, I always remember Chizik jumping around like a cheerleader on the sideline after something went well, but I never recall him getting on a player for not executing a play.

Auburn got the W Saturday night against a team that was a little better than at least I thought they would be. Mike Leach is a good coach that does a lot with what he has. Auburn is learning how to win again. They took a big step in the right direction in Jordan Hare Saturday night. How far will they go? Hard to say right now. I will say that they had better strap it up against Arky St. They are a good program right now with good players. If you'll remember, feature Red Wolf running back David Oku was a highly sought after recruit who left Tennessee. They are dangerous and have the nation's second longest winning streak. And they would love to hang an L on their former coach.