Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shula, roundball, etc.

OK, so no Iron Bowl recap today. Apologies. Thought I had today off, but the Man informed me otherwise Monday. His fault, so no water balloons.

Instead, the usual random responses:

1. Shula stays, Shula goes, whichever. Still believe giving the guy who took the job no one else wanted one more year—sans Rader—is the gentlemanly thing to do and would pay off big-time karma-wise for the Tide. But Shula’s “OK, this week we’re turning the corner” demeanor and non-aggressiveness (regressiveness?) sure don’t look like the stuff of SEC titles. I’d hardly blame Mal for cutting bait now given that we know Shula’s simply never going to be a great coach, the only kind that will make Bama fans happy. Speaking of which—I’m probably not the first person to ask this, but what kind of name is Mal? Is it short for Malbert? Malfred?

2. If they’re so inclined, Bama fans can console themselves in that their roundball team is a Final Four candidate. Watched most of their win over Xavier (themselves a top-25 team) Monday night on Fox Sports-Virgin Islands and can tell you that 1) Ron Steele is still a stud 2) everyone else on the team is a freak, this new guy Riley included, unfortunately. It’s a damn dangerous combination. LSU’s got the hype, but they don’t have a point guard, as to this point Tack Minor has shown as much passing ability as I have ability to post consistently. If Steele stays healthy and Gottfried can get Davidson to stop bricking 10-foot jumpers (he missed half-dozen during that game), they’ll win the SEC West.

3. Oh wait, the sidebar says this is an Auburn football and mid-major hoops blog, doesn’t it? Well, not much going on with the former, unless you count twiddling thumbs until the team finds out if it’s going to Dallas or Tampa. (My thoughts? I think Penn St. in the Outback would be an easy mark, but beating JoePa’s bunch in 2002 didn’t do much for us the next year, did it?) And I’ve got plenty of hoops thoughts—most of them along the lines of “Goodness gracious do I hate, hate, hate Jay Bilas”—but got to get the Iron Bowl recap out of the way first.

4. While we’re on the subject of basketball, though, I will point out that it’s hard to get excited about Auburn basketball when they do things like lose to AUM. I know it was an exhibition. But it was AUM’s basketball team playing Auburn’s basketball team, they had officials and a regulation-sized court and everything, they played for 40 minutes, and in those 40 minutes AUM scored more points than Auburn. This is not a good sign for the Jeff Lebo Project.

Iron Bowl recap up in the next couple of days, I hope. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

10 more Amen Corner thoughts

With where I stand on the 2006 regular season already posted, here's 10 other quickie thoughts on the 2006 Amen Corner:

1. Here’s to hoping Neil Caudle is worth a damn (or Blake Field undergoes a Campbell-like transformation), because we’ve got to get Brandon Cox more rest next season. The mega-clutch guy who we saw against Georgia and ‘Bama last season wasn’t even a blood relative of the guy we saw play quarterback against them this year, much less the same person. Some of that blame goes on the offensive line and Nall and Borges’s failure to get it fixed—you’d be skittish too if you’d been sacked at the David Carr-esque rate Cox was this year—but you’re not going to get much going offensively with that kind of play from your quarterback.

2. That said, Auburn needed just one play from their QB to win last Saturday, and on the road, against a solid defense, without his favorite receiver, Cox made it. I’m glad we’ve got him for one more, hopefully injury-free season.

3. As mentioned previously, the Georgia loss was, without question, the worst loss of the Borges era. Make no mistake--you could call Georgia a “dangerous,” “due,” or maybe even “talented” team, but they were not what you would call a “good” football team. Good teams don’t lose to Vandy and Kentucky, scrape past Colorado and Miss. St. at home, and get soundly beaten by Florida and Tennessee. You could perhaps even argue the loss was Tubby’s worst since his inaugural season—since then no team to win at Jordan-Hare has finished with more than five losses, a total the Dawgs would equal with a loss to Tech and surpass with a bowl loss. (Note that I wouldn’t argue this with the 31-7 drubbing at Bama’s hands in 2001 out there. But you could.)

4. Glad to see Kenny Irons score a TD, go over 80 yards, and average better than 4 yards a pop in his last Iron Bowl. Given healthy limbs, a better commitment to the running game, and an o-line that warranted that commitment, he would have done some amazing things this season. See you on Sundays, Kenny.

5. Whatever Tubby’s doing to prepare his teams for 11:30 kickoffs, he needs to stop doing.

6. I used to get my hackles raised by people calling Ohio St.-Michigan or Florida St.-Miami or anything besides Army-Navy the game’s best rivalry over the Iron Bowl, but not anymore. If you want to define “best” as “intensity plus national profile,” OK, whatever, pick something else, I don’t care. But the Iron Bowl is the most intense, bitter rivalry in the country, period. In all of American sports, UNC-Duke in college hoops or Sox-Yankees in MLB are the only possible candidates to equal Auburn-Alabama. No other game in college football means so incredibly much to so many people year-in year-out, No. 1 vs. No. 2 games be damned. You either understand that or you don’t.

7. I’ve gone back and forth on this, but if I’m Mal Moore I tell Shula that if he overhauls his staff, he gets another year. Shula’s willingness to accept the rancid, stinking pile of refuse that was the job in 2003 means common decency dictates he gets one “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Of course, when you’re talking about a fan base that’s willing to publicly blame a 20-year-old right tackle for “ruining my life” and starting a poll on whether he’s the worst lineman in the history of college football (94% say “Yes”), decency doesn’t necessarily play a big role, I suppose. (Note that the fan in question is not the author behind the site, please.)

8. I don’t blame UGa fans for crowing about the win, but just as I would have gladly swapped seasons with the Dawgs in ’99 (when Ben Leard threw for approximately 763 yards and nine touchdowns in the first half of 4-5 Auburn’s takedown of 6-2 Georgia) so I’d rather have our 10-2 than their 7-4. Could that fact have been lost on Journorock, who I have a great deal of respect for (we work in the same profession and I enjoy his posts) but who violated the Don’t Celebrate Other Teams’ Accomplishments karmic dictum and saw it turn out badly in the end. Not that I have room to talk after my oh-so-casual dismissal of Georgia followed by a lengthy discussion of Auburn’s national title hopes, mind you. Stupid, stupid, stupid. At least Journorock got some traffic out of it.

9. That said, the Iron Bowl was decided as soon as Corso and Herbstreit agreed that Alabama would win the game. “Good pick!” Corso told his colleague. Yes, taking the 6-5 team whose best win came at home over Hawaii over the 9-2 team who had beaten LSU and Florida … an excellent choice.

10. OK, so this isn’t really an Amen Corner thought, but I have to post the site news somewhere. For whom, I’m not sure, since I’m pretty sure 90 percent of the JCCW’s readership (i.e. nine of my ten readers) bailed the week before the UGa game and the remaining 10 percent surely did when the site went postless Iron Bowl week. If there are any stragglers, let me apologize—Sorry, know it’s not fun to check a site you like and see nothing new—then make excuses: my souvenir from my Chicago trip was a raging head cold that turned my routine this week into work-sleep-wake-up-work-sleep. I’ll try to make it up to you with a recap of the ‘Bama game. Coming Wednesday, or I’ll post my address and you can wait outside my door with water balloons.

AU 2006: Happy to be sad

I’ve never been so delighted at feeling disappointed.

Let me make it clear: I’m not delighted at Auburn’s 2006 season, or the end to said season. The unquestionable worst loss of the past three seasons, followed by a victory that proved little else beyond the frightfully, laughably mediocre depths to which the team we just beat for a fifth consecutive year sank this season? No, I’m not doing cartwheels, or a jig, or the Hustle, any other celebratory shimmy over how Auburn closed things out this year. I doubt any but the absolute most cheerful and sunshiny of Auburn fans are, barring those few wonderful souls that hate the Tide with a fury that borders on psychosis and really would be happy after an 0-11 turned 1-11 season.

But here’s the thing: What does it say about what Tubby and Gorgeous Al have accomplished at Auburn that a 10-2 season is considered a disappointment? That winning every game save for (1) an ambush from what later turned out to be one of the SEC’s best teams and (2) the overdue return to form of a proud and talented team and coach isn’t enough?

What it says is that Auburn has arrived. Over the course of our program’s history, it hasn’t typically been Tiger fans who have been disappointed with 10-2 seasons—it’s been Gator fans in the Spurrier years, or Seminole fans in the mid-to-late ‘90s, Nebraska fans, Miami fans, Ohio St. fans, or if you want to go back a bit, of course, fans of the team Auburn just beat for the fifth consecutive year.

The usual Auburn response to that “go back a bit” bit is to say “Oh, but Tide fans still aren’t happy with 10-2 seasons, they still expect the national title every year, ran Bill Curry off, never got over the Bear, etc.” No question there’s some truth to that, but the colder truth for Alabama fans is this: by and large they were jubilant about going 10-2 last year, even when one of those two was (Honk Honk!) a complete immolation at the hands of their most bitter rival. The Auburner essentially pointed this out midweek, but all you need to know about where Auburn and Alabama currently stand in relation to each other is to look at how these two 10-2 years have been perceived. However Alabama votes, it’s an Orange-and-Blue state now, and shows no signs of changing anytime soon.

And that is more than enough to get delighted about. Our team is so damn good these days, we have a right to be upset about winning 10 out of 12 games, including (I don’t recollect if I mentioned this) the fifth in a row over the Tide. War Damn Eagle.

I don’t want to imply that Auburn fans should be happier with the 2006 effort in itself. I consider myself a pretty doggone rational fan as fans go, and after the UGa game, No, I’m not all that happy even with the Iron Bowl win. The team failed to improve as the year progressed, playing two of its best three games of the season in Weeks 1 and 3 and the other in Week 7. Both losses came at home, the second to a reeling rival with a freshman QB that had previously lost to both Vandy and Kentucky. Most depressing of all is the sense of lost opportunity—this was the kind of schedule, the kind of SEC, and the kind of national disarray that could have erased the sting of 2004 if Auburn had simply played up to their level of talent, maybe even if they’d just done so against the Hogs. I can be a very, very happy fan without a national title. But I cannot be happy at all when a team with as much talent as this one has gets embarrassed the way it did two Saturdays ago and follows up with a win—-however sweet—-that, let's be honest, had as much to do with the opponent’s incompetence than Auburn’s resolve. The bottom line is that we all hoped 2004 meant Tubby had learned his lesson after 2003 and that the Capital One Bowl fiasco was an aberration. Nope. Same old Tubbs.

Which, of course, for the reasons described above, I will gladly take over the alternative. I do feel like I ought to give Tubby more slack for his occasional egg-layings, seeing as how I expected two before the season even began. (Though I hoped one would wait until bowl season.) We know he’s not going to have a championship season when his team is the favorite to win said championship, and we should probably quit forgetting that just because Auburn gets past LSU. In that sense, maybe Tiger fans really should be happier about having gone 10-2.

But that’s not us anymore. We’re not Alabama. We’re Auburn, and 10-2 isn’t always going to be good enough. Honestly, why would we want it any other way?

Friday, November 10, 2006

good news / bad news / picks

There’s bad news and good news this week for Auburn. Because I like happy endings, we’re going with bad news first.

Bad news: If you saw Arkansas’s win over South Carolina, and you’re aware that while the ‘Cocks gained more yards than both Auburn and Tennessee in those games but gave up 495 yards to the Hogs and fell 150 total yards short of them you know that just as much chance of Rutgers Wake Forest Duke playing for the national championship as Auburn has of playing for the SEC title. It’s conceivable that LSU or the Vols could rise up and steal one of the Hogs’ remaining games, but both? At home? There’s simply no chance whatsoever.

Good news: Auburn’s chances of landing in a different BCS bowl game are just as good not playing in the SEC championship game as they are playing in it. Beat Georgia, beat Bama, and that’s an 11-1 season. An SEC title sure would be sweet, but a megabucks Orange Bowl tilt with, say, Georgia Tech? I for one am not going to complain about that.

Bad news: Georgia’s and Bama’s losses last week to Kentucky and Miss. St. mean that if Auburn wins out, it won’t make much of an argument with pollsters or the computers.

Good news: Georgia and Bama lost last week to Kentucky and Miss. St.! Tee hee hee! I’m usually not that into the whole schadenfreude thing, but as long as Auburn comes through against them, it’s worth it for the laughs. Kentucky! Miss. St! They lost to Rich “I died six years ago and must coach my team to a bowl game to undo the Mumme’s Curse” Brooks and Sylvester “Yes, I have a playbook, I stick it under one my office desk legs to keep it even” Croom! Friggin’ unbelievable, man.

Bad news: Despite the Big East going down in scarlet flames, Auburn still has virtually no shot at the BCS title game. It’s not that tough to see Arkansas losing to LSU and then beating Florida, making Auburn the top SEC team. It would, at that point, probably come down to picking a one-loss team out of Texas, Auburn, and the Pac-10 champ, which looks very, very likely to be Cal. As Auburn would be the only one of the three without a conference championship, who outside of SEC diehards would make an argument for them?

Good news: Because, screw it, it’s fun to speculate, and if we lose to the teams that lost to Kentucky and Miss. St. I’ll be embarrassed enough already, we should point out that there is still a reasonable scenario that gets Auburn to Glendale without the SEC title. As mentioned before, Arkansas loses to LSU but beats Florida. Texas falls to either A&M or to Nebraska in the Big 12 title game—the second one seems much more likely, since the Big 12 title game’s only twin purposes since its inception have been to ruin a team’s national title hopes or embarrass Colorado. The Buffs won’t be there, so it could be a “national title hopes ruined” kind of year. Then, USC beats Cal but loses to either Oregon or Notre Dame. This strikes me as least likely—unless you’re the sort of person who has a peculiar and unyielding sexual fetish for the colors of garnet-and-gold, Cal is pretty clearly head and shoulders above the Trojans at this point. But if Oregon can knock off USC this week—and really, who would be surprised?—the Trojans might have just enough pride to turn it around against Cal the following week.

That’s a lot that has to fall into place, but none of those results, individually, are that much more unlikely than what happened last night, are they?

Bad news: God, I just wrote a “For Auburn to make the national title game…” scenario paragraph. As if the “home team in the Auburn-Georgia game” and “Cheerleader of the Week” jinxes weren’t enough already.

Good news: The “We’re quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford, our receivers can’t catch the ball, and our defense hasn’t stopped anyone” jinx should also be in full effect.

Bad news: The JCCW does not have GamePlan and will not be watching Auburn-Georgia at home, so no quarter-by-quarter recap until the ‘Bama game.

Good news: The JCCW will be in Chicago for the Decemberists concert this weekend and will be watching the game at Joe’s sports bar instead. On the tiny, miniscule, infinitesimal chance that you’re reading this Friday night/Saturday morning and will also be at Joe’s tomorrow, say hello. I’ll be the guy in the Auburn cap and Auburn shirt with the Auburn fans. Not that that helps you.


Quickly: Houston (-3) over SMU; South Carolina (+13) over Florida; Wake Forest (+8 1/2) over Florida St.; Oregon (+8 1/2) over USC; Arkansas (-6) over Tennessee; Michigan St. (+1 1/2) over Minnesota.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Picks (for entertianement value only)

Remember that poster from your ninth-grade science teacher’s classroom wall, the one with the frog already inside a stork’s mouth, but the frog has his, uh, hands around the stork’s throat? So the stork can’t swallow? And underneath the picture it says “Never give up!”?

Yeah, if it wasn’t for that picture, I’d have given up on my picks a while back. 2-4 again last week, 21-24 for the season. I can’t remember the last time I picked an SEC game correctly. But if that that frog can put his hands around that stork’s throat, I can persevere, too.

The picks:

Indiana (+5 ½) over MINNESOTA: Really? The team that beat Iowa and Michigan St. is an underdog to team that hasn’t beaten a soul all season? OK.

VANDERBILT (+17) over Florida: You just KNOW Vandy is going to make this a tight game, then lose by 10 points at the end. That’s what they do.

Kent (-16 ½) over BUFFALO: Probably shouldn’t be picking MAC games, but Buffalo’s only win in 2005 came over Kent, and Kent is about a thousand times better this season. I’m all about the revenge factor this week. Which is why …

LSU (-4 ½) over TENNESSEE: Check out the flag-planting bad blood that’s sprung up between these two. (HT: ATVS.) Nice. Toss in that Ainge is iffy and that LSU is more than due for a good performance against a good team, and you’ve got to take the Tigers here.

BYU (-15 ½) over COLORADO ST.: CSU is coming off a loss to New Mexico. BYU has quietly established itself as the best non-Boise mid-major team out there, season-opening losses to Arizona notwithstanding.

Oklahoma St. (+18) over TEXAS: Hmm…Texas beat Nebraska by two after a unbelievably lucky fumble. Ok. St. beat Nebraska by, well, a hell of a lot more than that. I know, home field was different, the Huskers had a letdown, whatever. Methinks this spread is still far too high.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Creative hijinks! The usual

I haven’t done much in the way of previewing Auburn’s upcoming opponents recently—somehow, the idea of breaking down, say, the Tulane defense’s strengths and weaknesses when lining up in their nickel package didn’t appeal to me—so I thought I’d get creative for today’s post. I’d write “10 Little Known Facts About Arkansas St.” to help get myself and the JCCW’s loyal readers fired up for the Indians. All seven of them could use the firing up, most likely.

So here’s the first two:

1. In 2004, in an effort to avoid the NCAA’s politically-correct wrath but retain their “Indians” moniker, the Arkansas St. administration decided to switch the athletics department’s “brand” from Native American Indian to Asian Sub-continent Indian. The current helmet logo was to be replaced by a simple, elegant red dot, while current mascot "Red" (!) was to be replaced by “Big G,” a jersey-clad version of the Hindu elephant deity Ganesh. The idea was abandoned after ASU brass saw this clip from the Simpsons and NCAA President Myles Brand informed the school that their new take on “Indians” was, if possible, even more offensive than the old one. However, the decision came after the school had already finished printing the first 500 t-shirts bearing their new logo of Mahatma Gandhi snapping a football, a la the old New England Patriot. The shirts are now prized collector’s items.

2. Little known fact: Tommy Tuberville started his coaching career at Arkansas St.! Bet you didn’t know that! Hard to believe! But ... it’s true!

Then I realized that when your team’s goals for said game are

1. Stay healthy
2. Stay healthy
3. Stay healthy
4. Win by any margin wide enough to not be labeled “laughable”
5. Stay healthy

you really shouldn’t be fired up anyway. Plus, I’m pretty sure the list of “Little Known Facts About Arkansas St.” worth reading would have topped out at about three-and-a-half.

So here’s the usual assortment of half-baked opinion and whatnot:

--Because it’s worth noting and re-noting even if you’ve already seen it noted: the Auburn o-line has allowed zero sacks since the “Honk If You Sacked Brandon” first half against Florida. Whatever you want to say about Hugh Nall, Auburn fans (and I know some of you have said some fairly nasty things, especially since 2003), there’s no question that year-in and year-out his lines get better as the season progresses. Always. I have serious, serious doubts AU could find better if they tried.

--So here I was, all ready to play Charitable Rational SEC Fan and talk about how the WVU-Louisville winner deserved to play for the national title if they went undefeated. And then I got a good look at their defenses. Ye gods. When it was over, even fans of the mid-1980s WAC transported through time to watch the game were left shaking their heads, muttering “You call that football? A thousand friggin’ yards of offense?” and making ping-pong comparisons. Charitable and rational an SEC fan as the JCCW would like to be, no team that believes the fastest way to get its offense back onto the field is to let the other team score should play for a national championship. It’s blog policy not to bring up the issue of Auburn vs. Other Teams re: the BCS in mid-season, but in the (still quite, quite unlikely) event an undefeated U of L is chosen ahead of a one-loss SEC champion—a potential navy-and-orange one in particular—come January, yes, the JCCW will be squawking with the best of them.

--Come to Jesus, Kirk Herbstreit. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot be both the “We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!” face of Ohio St. celebrity fandom in Columbus and a fair and objective analyst on Gameday. Blame the paper all you want, Kirk, but the money quote from the JCCW’s perspective isn’t the “worthless” line, it’s this: “If those two teams were to play right now, just the way they're playing, I don't even think it would be close. Ohio State not only wins that game the way they're playing right now, maybe by a few scores.” Unless the News failed to mention that what followed “scores” was a comma, and then “though, by golly, you have to think Michigan’s going to pick it up, bring their A-game to the ‘Shoe, and give the fans a hell of a time … anything could happen,” well, Kirk is obviously a biased ass. I’m sure we could find any number of message board posts by guys with handles like “BucksNo1FoEva” saying something along the lines of “Uh, have you seen Michigan’s defense? If this game isn’t close I’m wearing maize-and-blue to my wedding.” Only a guy wearing the very thickest in scarlet-and-gray eyewear would think anything different. So when he picks the Buckeyes to win that game, how on earth are viewers supposed to believe his pick is based on anything besides his rooting interests? It’s journalistically indefensible to allow Herbstreit to continue commenting on Ohio St. and Michigan, but I doubt ESPN will do anything, seeing as how they’re totally down with journalistically indefensible these days.

--Phil, take it from Auburn fans, you don’t want to rush Erik Ainge back. No need to risk him in a meaningless game with LSU. You want to make sure he’s good and ready for that pivotal clash you’ve got coming up in Fayetteville. That’s the one that’ll decide your season. We Auburn fans just want what’s best for your team, Phil. Rest Ainge this week. Please. (Please? We’ve got some Chick-Fil-A coupon booklets … we know you’re interested … all yours … )

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Thanks to College Football Resource for recently adding the JCCW to its Blogroll. Substantially less thanks, however, for its continuing anti-SEC blather. Let’s look at the highlights of this week’s episode, shall we?

”ESPN's Bruce Feldman ($) documents first hand the stodgy, fearful nature that takes over many an SEC game.”

Like, say, that yawner Georgia and Tennessee sleepwalked their way through earlier this season. Or the snoozer Auburn and South Carolina played, where the teams only managed 54 yards on average per possession and never generated an ounce of excitement outside of the mid-third-quarter onsides kick, dropped game-tying TD pass, and last-second fourth-down stop. How did I even stay awake through that one?

”Auburn didn't attack, even though Brandon Cox was having a great game and Ole Miss clearly didn't have the numbers on defense to hold up against Auburn if the Tigers just kept pushing with their offense.”

I’m trying to imagine how Brandon Cox can have a great game without the Auburn offense attacking. Maybe if he jotted some notes on a wipe-off clipboard that afterwards were later discovered to be a new proof to Fermat’s Last Theorem. Perhaps if he performed the Heimlich maneuver to save a six-year-old in the front row, or rewired his sideline headset to receive playcalls from the Ole Miss coaches’ box … Point is, if your offense gains 428 yards without attacking in the Year of the Fast Clock, man, I’d hate to see what they’d do if they did attack.

Feldman also blamed the Tigers for not attacking, though he suggested Auburn should have bulldozed Ole Miss into submission with a power running game. But as CFR helpfully points out, Cox was having a blinder--why pound away at a front seven that has Patrick Willis in it when you don't have to? Neither Feldman nor CFR seem to realize that the reason Auburn failed to separate from Ole Miss had nothing to do with the offense’s attitude, philosophy, play-calling, etc.: the only problem was poor execution close to the Ole Miss end zone. Two turnovers, three field goals in seven possessions inside the Ole Miss 35 isn’t not trying, it’s trying and failing. Feldman should be able to see the difference, though I can’t blame CFR, what with him having to shield his eyes from the sparks thrown up by the axe he’s grinding.

”Great teams find ways to win close games when they're having bad days, sure. But great teams also cleanly put away undermanned foes, especially when their offense is having some success.”

Who the hell has called Auburn a “great” team since the Arkansas game, exactly? Well, aside from Straw Man McStrawerson, of course. CFR is right: Auburn isn’t a great team this year. I hope he has some other newsflashes for us--I’m dying to know if Miami and Florida St. are still the real deal or if this is the year they finally start showing some cracks!

Any rational, even-handed analysis of Auburn follows up “They’re not great” with “Then again, 8-1 with two victories over top-15 teams ain’t exactly shabby, either,” (this is the route Feldman takes) but this is irrational, underhanded analysis, so instead we get …

“Auburn dicked around, and pollsters should rightly ding them for it if that's their imperative. Killer instinct, either you got it or you don't and right now the Tigers just don't have it (other than the second half performance at home against Florida).”

Oh no, not a slight drop in the polls! Anything but that! Even if we do defeat our two oldest rivals and win our second SEC title in three years, how will I get any satisfaction out of it if we finish fifth instead of fourth? Oh, woe and bedragglement!

As for “killer instinct,” if it means blowing the Rebels out, I covered the fat wad of good it would have done the Tigers last time. If it means coming through in the clutch (as CFR’s “Well, except for that time they put their boot on the throat of the best team on their schedule, which we can all agree is meaningless” aside would suggest), let’s let Kevin Scarbinsky explain: “It's true that this team could've lost to LSU and South Carolina and Florida and Ole Miss. It's also true that, four times this season, this team entered the final five minutes with the ending in doubt. All four times, this team won.”

Whatever “instinct” you want to call that, I’ll take it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

23-17, not that there's anything wrong with that

So, pardon me while pass on the freak-out over Auburn’s “closer-than-expected,” “less-than-impressive,” “crappy” 23-17 win over Ole Miss. I tried to care about anything besides the fact that Auburn won, and I can’t.

Why not? Well, which of the following things would have occurred if Auburn had beaten Ole Miss by a score of, say, 56-3?

A) Arkansas, overwhelmingly impressed by a team that could rout Ole Miss, agrees that Auburn is the One True and Deserving SEC West champion and agrees to forfeit their remaining SEC games in order to give Auburn safe passage to Atlanta.

B) The pollsters awaken from their multiple-year coma and agree that badly beating an SEC also-ran is worthy cause of jumping Auburn ahead of a Texas team they’ve already asked their children to name their first grandkid after.

C) The rout sets in motion chaos theory’s “butterfly effect,” resulting in a hopelessly complicated and convoluted chain-of-events that leads to Louisville and West Virginia both losing games before the season is out. All losses come in the middle of butterfly-caused storms, natch.

D) Georgia and Alabama, hopelessly intimidated by Auburn’s Ole Miss whipping, secretly agree to let Auburn win by 20 against them and give them their lunch money if the Tigers will “just take it easy” on them and keep their books out of the toilets in the senior wing bathroom.

E) None of the above.

The answer—I’m sure you’ve figured it out, you’re smart people—is E. Beating Ole Miss 56-3 would have accomplished precisely nothing more for Auburn than beating them 23-17 did, except for possibly getting Tim Brando to award us some of his precious “style points.” Huge loss there, I tell you.

Besides, Auburn played a little better than people are giving it credit for. Obviously, they’ve got to do a better job in the red zone—23 points after six trips inside the 20 isn’t going to work against the Dawgs or ‘Bama. And giving up even 17 points to an offense as two-left-footed as the Rebels’ isn’t a cause for celebration, either.

But Auburn did outgain Ole Miss 428 to 256. Seven of Auburn’s nine drives penetrated the Ole Miss 35. Cox looked as good as he has against an SEC opponent all season. Auburn ran 30 more plays than the Rebels. Vaughn continued to not choke. And the defense, God bless ‘em, did at least force the punt they absolutely had to in the fourth quarter.

In short, it was the prototypical performance of a team—and a defense, specifically—that knows it has bigger games left this season and is doing just enough to win, and remains more than capable of turning up the intensity two weeks from now.

We can also face facts here, can’t we? This team isn’t the 2004 juggernaut. It’s not going to beat teams by 20 points on the road just by rolling out of bed. The sooner we accept that the sooner we can appreciate wins like the one over Ole Miss for what they are--another W in the lefthand column for a fairly gutty team that isn’t perfect but is still on track for a season only the top 1% of irrationally demanding Auburn fans won’t be happy with.

Well, those guys and Tim Brando.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Linkage / picks

Tried to post this this a.m. and Blogger would have none of it. Sigh.

--The most remarkable thing about SMQ's remarkable Fowler post? Following the rabbit hole to his exposure as a budding groomzilla (maybe he was a groomRodan?) here.

--If you buy only one movie soundtrack this year, make it the one to "Adventures of Tecmo Bo."

--I have to say, it's more than a little frustrating to have been a Braves fan my entire life, move to Ann Arbor, start semi-halfway-kind-of following the Tigers as a non-playoff-year substitute ... and see them lose in the most Braves-esque way possible.


My Ripken-esque run of non-consecutive winning or losing weeks continues as I went 2-4 last week. Back under .500 at 19-20.

This week:

OHIO STATE (-28) over Minnesota: After the Indiana demolition, OSU looks like they're tired of fiddling around with the likes of Cincinnati and Bowling Green ... and Minnestoa, who's barely better than those teams.

BAYLOR (+4 1/2) over Texas A&M: Baylor has beaten Fran when Baylor sucked completely. Now they're frisky and at home ... I'll take 'em.

RUTGERS (-20) over UConn (on Sunday): Has UConn covered a spread vs. a favorite yet?

WASHINGTON (+1 1/2) over Arizona St.: After last Saturday, it looks like Washington has righted the ship. Arizona St. punched a hole in theirs to start the season.

Florida (-13 1/2) over Georgia: I got burned predicting an easy win in a classic SEC rivalry last week, but this is different. Somehow.

NEVADA (-17 1/2) over New Mexico St.: The Wolf Pack covered this spread against Colorado St. and bludgeoned a perfectly decent San Jose St. team last week. And let's face it: when you're 19-20, does it really matter which games you pick?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Questions, answers

Because I have BlogPoll envy, a Q&A, but with questions asked by the JCCW of the JCCW:

What do we make of the fact that Tulane racked up 389 yards on the same Auburn D that made Florida look toothless for a half?

Well, that Lester Ricard’s not bad. But more importantly, that somewhere on the horizon is a redux of the 2005 Georgia game, where the defense collapses and Cox and the offense have to come riding to the rescue in a 30-something-to-30-something-else type of game. The D is clearly great when it’s completely focused and motivated. But it’s only been completely focused and motivated for about, oh, seven quarters this season.

So which of AU’s remaining contests could become a raging scorefest? Unless Mark Richt unearths some magic quarterbacking pixie dust between now and then, Matthew Stafford’s just not going to be able to pull it off for UGa. But J.P. Wilson + Hall and Brown + the same kind of secondary performance that led to Syvelle Newton and Ricard going off could very well = “Bet the over.”

By the way, I’m not the only one worried.

OK, so let’s say Auburn does have a pinball machine game down the line. We’ll still have Cox to make insane fourth-and-10 throws to save the game, right?

It sure looks that way after last week. What idiot was that that said he should be held out, again?

Then again, JaMarcus Russell puts those kinds of numbers up against the Tulanes of the world week-in and week-out and it didn’t help him much against the likes of the Gators. The most encouraging thing from the Tulane performance is that Cox is apparently healthy and confident again, not necessarily that he went 16-of-19 for three TDs. From a pure performance standpoint, that he moved the offense up and down the field against Florida was more impressive.

Not that I was unhappy to see him go 16-of-19 with three TDs, mind you.

Before we move on, anything else worth noting from Tulane?

Think we can get enough “Tate for Heisman” stickers printed by 2008? Gee, looks like having two running backs drafted in the top five in the same year might have been good for running back recruiting. Who’d have guessed?

Any reason to worry about Ole Miss this weekend?


If Auburn is able to run the table and USC loses to…

Let me just cut you off right there. I’m not answering any questions about that.

Fair enough. Any other thoughts from last weekend, then?

Just that there is absolutely nothing in the world more frustrating to the JCCW than a blown upset of an overrated team undeservedly ranked ahead of your own team (except maybe a blown NCAA upset you called … I’ve got forgiveness for Winthrop scheduled for sometime around 2047). Maybe it’s just the residual aspects of seeing so many hapless Big 12 teams gag against Oklahoma in 2004, but no play by any team (even Auburn’s endless sack parade vs. Arkansas) has led to more gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in the JCCW household this season than Nebraska’s … dare I say it … Stoerner-esque fumble last Saturday.

Toss in the fact that there were no genuinely must-see match-ups last week, that UCLA looked over at the next table and had what Nebraska was having, that my picks stunk like month-old tuna salad, and that ‘Bama looked good enough to drive me back to the Pepto-Bismol? Yeah, last Saturday was without question the JCCW’s least-favorite Saturday of the 2006 season so far.

You realize this Saturday isn’t going to be any better at all, right?

Unfortunately, yes, yes I do. I guess this is the price we’re paying for Pinnacle of Human Evolution Saturday.

Seriously, what are Auburn’s chances at slipping into the BCS championship game if …

No, I’m not talking about that. I’m just focused on this week’s game. I’m not concerned with what the pollsters or other teams are doing. That’s out of our hands. We’re just worried about ourselves and the things we can control.

All right, har har har, we get the joke, Tubby should be saying the same thing, duh. Now shut up and give me your take.

Fine. I’ve had Louisville pegged to knock off West Virginia all season, but they’re just not running the ball well enough right now. Seems like after that initial burst of motivation to prove that losing Bush wouldn’t hurt them wore off, well, losing Bush has hurt them. We’ll see, but my current guess is that the Mountaineers run the table and face off with Michigan in the national title game. They’d deserve to. No one would bat an eyelash if, say, Clemson had gone undefeated and made the BCS title game, and the Big East is a ton better than the ACC this season.

So it doesn’t really matter what Auburn does. It’s not worth talking about. Nothing's worth talking about but the regular season schedule. Agreed? I said agreed, Tubby? Good.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

10 thoughts

So the JCCW’s motto, like that of other great artists like Terence Malick or Fountains of Wayne, has always been “Quality over Quantity.” (No, it’s not “Ridding the World of Laughter One Joke At a Time.” Come on.) But obviously that kind of quality control doesn’t work when your midweek blogging time is limited to 30 minutes before bedtime after a 12-hour day. (The Man? Still sucks.) So we’ll go for shorter but more frequent posts in the future.

For today? 10 quick thoughts and picks:

1. Tubby, please tell me this is the last time we’ll be talking about this. Please. We’re begging you. Talk about your dogs, the price of bread, whether a tree does< make a sound when it falls in the forest with no one around, or even (gasp!) the following week’s opponent, but pretty please, no more BCS talk. The best way to not be quoted "all over the country" is to not say things that would be of interest to fans all over the country.

2. I’m serious. If you absolutely have to reference the BCS in some way—which I can sort of understand, since I’ve been fighting the pathological urge to work Simpsons quotes into every conversation I’ve had for the last 10 years—do it with sarcasm. Look at the press, give a big wink, and say, “Fellas, I’m not here to talk about coming in fourth in the BCS and being in prime position to make the national title game. I’m here to talk about … *wink, wink wink* … Tulane! *stifled snicker*. This way, you can satisfy your must-talk-about-2004-as-often-as-possible jones and still give the kind of quotes that don’t prompt throwaway jokes at your expense in pieces that have nothing to do with you.

3. I don’t want to see Brandon Cox on the field against Tulane. I don’t want to see Kenny Irons or, if his groin is bugging him, Brad Lester on the field. This is Auburn’s chance to actually become a halfway healthy team again. Let’s not blow it because we’re worried about what the pollsters—who clearly have their collective head so far up their collective ass that [insert favorite conclusion to joke here … mine involves nostrils]—might think if we beat Tulane by only 14 points.

4. Speaking of pollsters, I can’t take issue with what order they put the one-loss SEC schools in, I honestly can’t. (Take AU-Florida. Yes, AU won head-to-head. But Florida lost their one game by a very close margin on the road against another top-10 team. Auburn got its doors blown off at home by a team that beat Vanderbilt by virtue of the whims of Aeolus.) But what’s up with the love for Texas? They don’t give Ohio St. any more of a game than Iowa, they beat an Oklahoma team intent on beating itself first, and beat up on a Whitman’s Sampler of patsies, and now they’re the best one-loss team in the country? Over teams that have beaten multiple other teams in the top 10? Just more evidence that nothing’s changed with the pollsters—when you lose is more important than who you lose to or even who you beat.

5. “Bama Alert” has been reduced back to “Yellow” status after the Duke and Ole Miss games. They’re still problematic. But it’s tougher to fear a team that went to overtime at home with a team that Wake Forest crushed than the one that went to OT with the Hogs on the road.

6. The best take on the Miami-FIU cage match (seriously, where were the folding chairs?) and subsequent reaction? Jason Whitlock’s.

7. The hand-wringing over the Auburn offense’s performance against Florida has been entirely exaggerated. Auburn gained 315 yards against Florida’s D, which if you’ve forgotten, also held the SEC’s alleged best passing offense since Spurrier left Florida to 220 in their own house. Sure, it would have been nice to use all those yards to score more than 12 points (I blame the all-too-easily-blameable Tommy Trott), but the way the Auburn defense played in the first half, consider how many points Florida would have scored without Cox and the backs chewing up five minutes on every possession. On the balance of the season, the Auburn defense is still much more of a work-in-progress than the O.

8. Bobby Johnson is the SEC’s Coach of the Year at this point. To have Vandy be this competitive in what should have been a down year? Unfathomable.

9. My take on the whole Evil Lying Columnist thing? This guy isn’t even worth it. I don’t think there were too many Gator fans (well, too many with the brainpower of say, the cockatiel) who took to heart what a guy that clearly sells used cars on the side had to say. If he’d posted what he wrote on an Internet messageboard, someone would have followed up with “Don’t feed the trolls” a few seconds later.

10. Go see The Departed this weekend. Now. At your soonest opportunity. It’s unlikely you have any idea how good it is.


4-1 with a push last week gets me back over .500 (barely barely barely) at 17-16. This week:

Wisconsin (-7) over PURDUE: So, is Vegas ever going to realize that Wisconsin’s actually good? As in much, much better than all these other random Big 10 teams?

Miami (-18 ½) over DUKE: I know they’re missing everyone, but how badly are the remaining players—who are still miles better than Duke’s—going to want to prove that it doesn’t matter who’s on the field?

Tulsa (-14) over MEMPHIS: Memphis lost to Arkansas St. last week.

Ole Miss (+20 ½) over ARKANSAS: The Hogs aren’t going to be in the business of blowing anyone out just yet. Well, except for Auburn, of course.

TENNESSEE (-11) over ‘Bama: Just don’t think ‘Bama’s going to keep the game that close on the road.

N.C. State (+1 ½) over MARYLAND: State is GETTING points against the team that beat UVa by two?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Auburn 27, Florida 17: the recap

As it turns out, no, this is not 2003. War Eagle!

But enough with the preliminaries, the audience cries! (OK, so it’s just my Mom wondering what I thought of Leak’s fumble/non-fumble. Whatever.) Here’s the JCCW’s patented quarter-by-quarter recap of Auburn-Florida:


MIKE PATRICK: Welcome to the Plains! This is Mike Patrick coming to you from Jordan-Hare Stadium, where tonight the Auburn Tigers will look to bounce back from a 27-10 loss here a week ago against the No. 2 team in the nation, the Florida Gators, who have their sights set on a national title. This match-up is so colossal that tonight, ESPN is going to bring you their unique brand of laughably bad bobble-headery, pointless sideline reporting, sub-a.m.-radio play-by-play, and general contempt for the viewer across the ntire ESPN inbred family of networks as part of ESPN’s “Full Ninth Circle of Hell!” On ESPN2, you’ll be able to …[a loud knocking sound comes over the microphone] … um, they’ve got multiple … [the loud knocking sound continues] … camera angles …
MUFFLED VOICE OF RON FRANKLIN: Hello? Mike? Todd? Will you guys let me in? Please?
MIKE: … along with, uh, Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio…
MUFFLED VOICE OF RON: Please? I’ve got cookies. I’ve got a Sub Club card with, like, six stamps on it. It’s yours. I can’t take any more East Carolina games … Fellas, please?
MIKE: … [visibly rattled] ..and Jim Donnan, and on ESPNU there’s, there’s Jim Rome’s new show “Rome is Burning” and … and …[enters seizure-like state] … HOLY COW! HO-ly Cow! Holy COW!
TODD BLACKLEDGE: [on his cell phone] Charlie, hey, how's my favorite agent? ... Yeah, I'm calling from the booth. How long before I can I go back to CBS, again?

--Nice to see that someone made sure that for the Florida game Auburn not only had the Fog of Intimidation going as the Tigers came out of the tunnel, but the Fireworks of Our Team Entrance Is Better Than Yours as well.

First quarter

--Tristan Davis is tackled at the 9 on the opening kickoff. As omens go, well, at least it’s better than seeing a flock of vultures circling the Auburn sideline. But not that much better.
--Fortunately, the Auburn offense doesn’t care much for omens. The first three plays net two first downs. On third-and-four at their own 40, Auburn runs a toss sweep with Irons for the first. Yet another example of why, even after the worst play-calling performance of his Auburn tenure last week, most Auburn fans would give various minor appendages to keep Gorgeous Al around.
--MIKE: A major part of Auburn’s struggles last week was that Irons was unable to play. First-and-10 for the Tigers … [a cell phone starts ringing] … Whoa, guess that’s me … Hello?
THE JCCW: Hey, Mike. It’s the Joe Cribbs Car Wash calling.
MIKE: The who?
THE JCCW: Nevermind. Just wanted to give you two quick heads-up’s. First, Irons played last week. Averaged five yards a carry, in fact. Second, look, I’m not going to be merciful in my recap of this game. Your undeserved promotion over Ron Franklin is the very essence of everything that is wrong and soulless and corporate at ESPN and I happen to think you’re a buffoon with no sense of how to call an intelligent game. And I’m going to point that out at every opportunity. Cool?
MIKE: HO-ly cow! Back to the game, Auburn makes another first down. They’re [actual quote here] clicking on all cylinders.
TODD: Mike, cylinders fire. They don’t click. The offense can be clicking, but … nevermind.
MIKE: HO-ly cow!
--Pass to Stewart keeps the drive rolling to the Florida four. But Cox then pulls the same “I’m going to pull the ball down rather than pass it to the wide open receiver out of the backfield at the very slightest hint of pressure” maneuver he mastered last week. Fumble, incomplete on third down, FG attempt.
--Even from the same Left Hash of Doom from which he honked his kick vs. LSU, J**n V****n is good from 22. I’ll take it.
--The “Click-Clack” Under Armour commercial airs, but once again it’s the Tubby-less version, which hasn’t been seen (that the JCCW is aware of) since the opener. What’s happened here? Did they lose the footage? Is it in an airport locker somewhere with the missing Watergate tapes?
--Patrick says that Vaughn “crushes one” on the kickoff, then let us know he’s a walk-on, and gives us his touchback statistics, all apparently oblivious that Clark, not Vaughn, is the kickoff specialist. If I was this bad at my job, I wouldn’t just be fired, I’d have been sued by now.
--In the time it takes to give the person next to you a high-five for the field-goal, Florida has second-and-2 on the Auburn 3. Nice to see those defensive problems from the last two weeks have been solved allowed to fester.
--Fortunately, the Infallible Pope Urban (I.P.U. for short for the remainder of this blog’s existence) decides to switch out of the spread that took the Gators 77 yards in the blink of an eye and into a stacked I that in no way suits the Florida personnel. Auburn gladly accepts the hand-out by stuffing two runs. Field goal, 3-3.
--Third-and-six for Auburn, and the Gators collapse the pocket with the kind of ease associated with wadding up pieces of paper for a shot at the office trash can. Sack. Such an easy sack, in fact, that after last week I’m starting a SackMeter, now at 1.
--Florida starts their drive with an end-around, after which Patrick says Meyer is “digging deep into his bag of tricks already.” Uh, Mike? Did you see last week’s game? I don’t think an end-around to Caldwell is so much “deep into the bag of tricks” as “sitting near the lip of the bag of plays to use all the time.”

Second quarter

--For the second straight week, a tall veteran receiver (in this case, UF’s Dallas Baker) makes AU corner Jonathan Wilhite look like the middle-school geek jumping up and down and trying to get his Green Lantern comic back from the bully holding it over his head. 10-3, Gators.
--Davis breaks loose for a 58-yard return. This comes a week after Lester returned kickoff for big yardage vs. Arkansas. The hell? We’re Auburn. We don’t have dangerous kickoff return units. I’m sort of uncomfortable with it, truth be told.
--MIKE: [actual quote as the Auburn offense takes the field] “Neither team has really stopped the other.”
TODD: You mean, aside from when Florida forced a punt on Auburn’s last possession?
MIKE: Um … … … … … HO-ly cow!
--First down pass bumps the SackMeter to 2. But back-to-back strong plays from Lester and a Florida offsides give Auburn a first-and-5 at the Gator 23. It’s another first-down pass and … new center Jason Bosley yells “Ole!” as Marcus Thomas flies by. SackMeter to 3.
--Cox again bails the O out by connecting with Smith for a first down. Then a perfectly executed middle screen to Tommy “Not a Blocking Tight End” Trott yields a first-and-goal … or at least it would have if Trott hadn’t decided to run down the field carrying the ball with two hands, away from his body, like an actual steaming-hot potato. UF’s Tony Joiner merrily separates Trott from the ball, turnover.
--YES! Florida guard Jim Tartt tackles Groves in the end zone for the rare “holding in the end zone” safety. This play nearly caused the JCCW the leap out of his skin, because he could see the referee motionlessly staring right at the play, but not hear the following exchange:

UMPIRE: Hey, buddy, you saw the take-down there, right?
REF: Yep, saw it the whole way.
UMPIRE: But you didn’t throw the flag.
REF: Nope. That’s the rule, right?
UMPIRE: The rule?
REF: Yes, that you’re allowed to hold in the end zone. You know, that when in you’re in your own end zone, that you can hold “in safety,” right?”
UMPIRE: Um … not exactly. *throws flag.*

--So Auburn gets the ball again, and despite his assorted injuries Irons is doing his Irons thing: Rush for 15. Rush for 6. Screen for 8. Then Lester pops off for 1 to the Gator 18. But then it’s third-and-six, and we all know what’s coming. SackMeter to … well, first-down pass to Taylor. Who knew? Maybe this time we can punch it…
--Nope, there it is, on second-and-goal. SackMeter to 4. But at least V****n is good for a second time from the Left Hash of Doom, this time from 31. He’ll earn his name back at this rate. 10-8, Gators.
--The last three games of defense summed up in one play: UF’s Percy Harvin is smothered on the end-around, and tries to reverse field. Alleged superbeing Tray Blackmon screws up his killshot, though. Harvin keeps running. Then alleged solid corner David Irons misses his tackle. Harvin makes the corner and gains 35 yards. Sigh.
--In comes Tebow, and I’m struggling a bit for a metaphor to convey how pathetically easy his 16-yard touchdown run is. It’s like … You know how in Monopoly, sometimes you’ll go past Reading Railroad and land on Chance, and the card will tell you to go to Reading Railroad? And you’ll circle the board and get $200 dollars for passing Go and haven’t even moved more than a few squares back? That was how easy that run was. Not to be Mr. Unhappy Fan and all, but the Auburn D needs to check their lockers at halftime for the testicles they must have left in there.
--Actual quote from Patrick: “I’m just awful.” We agree, Mike! (OK, so the full quote included “…at these,” meaning the AFLAC trivia questions, but still … he said it.)
--At least the Auburn offense is continuing to make Florida’s defense look like the most overrated defense outside of Auburn’s defense. A huge third-down completion to Taylor and a 33-yard draw by Lester helps take AU to third-and-3 at the Florida 13. Too bad we all know what’s coming. Bosley takes another metaphorical punch to the groin. SackMeter to 5. This makes three first downs inside the 10 and another inside the 20 with no touchdowns. Even the Tide—the undisputed 2006 masters of the stalled drive at the opponent’s 7--is having a giggle at Auburn’s red zone offense.
--V****n is good from 34. I’m going to wait until the end of the game to make a decision, but he’ll probably lose the asterisks. 17-11 at the half.
--Having Holly Rowe on the sideline means at least we’ve got a shot at an interesting quote from Tubby going into halftime, and they don’t disappoint. (Actual quotes.)

HOLLY: What did you think of your team’s tackling?
TUBBY: What do you think? It’s awful … We’re going to get that straightened out in just a few minutes.

Strangely enough, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Third quarter

--As the third quarter opens, we’re treated to a shot of Patrick and Blackledge inside ESPN’s ‘80s-style announcer booth space-pod, currently hovering outside picturesque Samford Hall.
--David Irons starts the defense’s second-half by making a decent but hardly SportsCenter-worthy hit on Baker to force an incompletion. Irons responds, however, by leaping about in the kind of celebration usually reserved for WWE performers who have just completed a match-winning slam off the top ropes. I’d be more irritated if I didn’t feel like maybe the D needs to be a little psychotic, if that’s what it takes to not suck.
--Sure enough, Groves sacks Leak on the next play, and now the crowd’s finally appropriately nuts. I’m also guessing that an Auburn defender, let’s just assume it was Irons, has this conversation with Florida punter Eric Wilbur on his way off the field:

IRONS: So, you heard about that whole E. Coli thing? Nasty stuff.
WILBUR: Yeah, so?
IRONS: You see the news this afternoon? Turns out it wasn’t spinach after all. It was the leather they use to make college footballs.
WILBUR. Ugh. No way.
IRONS: True story, man.

--You know what’s coming. A shaken Wilbur drops the perfect snap, Davis crushes him, Jerraud Powers gets the world’s easiest punt block, Smith somehow avoids falling over in the scrum and somersaults into the end zone with the game-changing play. 18-17! SWEET!
--Let’s take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of Matt Clark, who booms yet another kickoff into a touchback, and is having just about as good a season as a kickoff specialist can have. Good on ‘im.
--With the crowd approaching Spinal Tap-concert decibel levels, I.P.U. goes surprisingly conservative, moving Leak under center and calling two straight straight-ahead Wynn runs. This sets up third-and-long, and it’s another SACK! by Groves. “Where has this defense been?” Patrick asks. Hell if I know, but it’s pretty gosh-darned nice to have it back.
--It’s third-and-five on AU’s next possession, and you know what’s coming … wait, actually, it’s perfect possession. A confused Cox tosses a pass at Taylor’s ankles, ruining what should have been an easy first down.
--With a punt inside the 20 well within reach, Bliss sends the kick on the express route to the end zone. He apparently missed the memo that the team wasn’t supposed to suck this week.
--Chris Leak is officially capital-R Rattled. His third-down pass looks more rushed than a New York cabbie and is more than a couple of yards behind Baker. It’s still a one-point game, but Auburn’s D is clearly in control of the game at this point. Who knew?
--AU’s Prechae Rodriguez lines up along the Florida sideline before going out on a deep pattern on first down, leading to the following exchange:

ERIC WILBUR: Hey, you heard about that whole E. Coli thing?

Suffice it to say Rodriguez drops Cox’s best pass of the night.

Fourth quarter

--Flags giveth—Jarvis Moss flattens Cox for no reason, giving AU a third-down conversion—and flags taketh away, as an illegal motion undoes a third-down conversion. At least Bliss, now aware of the “Don’t suck this week” memo, gets a fair catch at the 10.
--Leak completes his first pass of the drive for 32 yards to Baker, prompting Patrick to call Leak “the last guy to lose his composure.” Leak’s next pass, of course, is right into the hands of David Irons. Irons, perhaps distracted by planning his celebratory post-interception dance, lets the ball bounce off his fingertips.
--Florida drives to the Auburn 7, bringing in Tebow on second-and-4. Auburn stops him for a gain of 1. That’s better, but surely he’ll come at them again on third … wait, they’re bringing Leak in again? On third-and-3 inside the 10? As piss-poor as Leak has been on third down and given that his re-entry is a clear signal the play will be pass? Methinks I.P.U. looks quite fallible on this one.
--Sure enough, Leak triple-pumps, loses the ball, and Tray Blackmon scoops up the alleged fumble, taking it back to the Auburn 38. Two thoughts on this one:

1. Since college has no “Tuck Rule,” once Leak quits passing and tries to bring the ball back under control, if he loses it, it’s a fumble. That’s what the JCCW feels happened: it’s quite clear that Blackmon never touched the ball, but it’s also my opinion that Leak was trying to tuck the ball again when he lost control, making it a fumble, and a good call. Or at the very least, the kind of call you can hardly blame the replay official for not finding “indisputable evidence” upon which to reverse the call on the field.
2. That said? Auburn was still hella fortunate. The Tigers have had two giant either-way calls in their two giant games both go their way. Neither one guaranteed Auburn’s opponents a damn thing, and neither one gives the Auburn-haters a reason to start whining. But we can be honest here: Yes, Auburn has been fortunate. We can also say: It happens. Get over it.

--Credit to the Auburn O: they stall again, this time at the Florida 28. But only after a massive third-and-4 conversion, Cox to Dunn for 14 yards, and an equally massive fourth-and-1 conversion from Lester. Still no touchdowns as of 3:16 left in the game, but this hasn’t been the 2002 Georgia game (when the Auburn O went three-and-out for what seemed like 223 consecutive second-half possessions, allowing the Dawgs shot after shot at a tiring D) all over again, by a long shot.
--V****n lines up for a 46-yard FG that will remove the stigma of his LSU performance … well, not once and for all, but at least diminish it to the point where Auburn fans can feel like they can trust him again. It’s up, and it has all the leg in the world.

It’s wide.

J**n m***********g V****n, I f******g swear.

--You know, I’ve said multiple times over the last few years that Leak was the best pure QB in the SEC. That he’s been undone by poor coaching, program upheaval, inadequate line play, etc. But there is no excuse for the dreadful pick he throws on first down here, a complete duck off the heel of his back foot directly into the less-generous arms of Eric Brock. Too bad for Leak. Now, if you’ll excuse a moment of less-analytical fandom …


--Borges predictably sends three runs into the line to whittle the clock away, and now V****n steps up to force the Gators to score a miracle touchdown to win. It’s from a full 39 yards out … he got it! That’s 13 of Auburn’s 21 points, on 4-of-5 field goals, with the only miss coming from 46 … for, OK, John Vaughn.

(For the time being.)

--Florida takes over and dithers about. Tubby takes off his glasses with three plays left, though … seems a bit premature. NO, CRAP! A shot of Tubby with 5 seconds to play shows they’ve already Gatoraded him! Didn’t they see what happened to Kentucky a few years back when they gave Guy Morris a premature shower? Auburn is begging for a Florida Hail Mary, just begging for it.
--Whew! I was right that there would be a touchdown on the last play … but it’s Auburn’s, as Leak caps his horror-show second half by fumbling a lateral and allowing Patrick Lee to stroll in for a touchdown and the most flattering score in the history of flattering scores, 27-17. That breaking sound you heard, by the way, was all the gamblers who bet the “Under” collectively tossing things through their collective windows.

YES! 27-17 … how did that even happen? Give Tubby the blame last week, but give him the credit this week … another top 10 opponent, and yet another massive win. It’s the roller coaster I think very few Auburn fans mind not getting off of. In the meantime … Go Ole Miss!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Is this 2003 again?

As I wrote earlier (much earlier, rerettably) in the week, this is the question all Auburn fans are dealing with this week. The specter of 2003’s Michigan-esque collapse into 7-5 will haunt the program as long as Tubby remains Auburn’s coach (i.e. for a while), since that was the season that confirmed earlier suspicions that Tubby not only couldn’t handle hype, he blissfully fueled it himself to his teams’ detriment. The 2001/2002 losses to Arkansas were Tubby’s University of Phoenix Online course in self-destruction. In 2003, he got his Certificate.

But are we about to see the second coming of 2003? Are we headed towards 7-5? It’ll be tough with Auburn’s schedule and early-season success—if nothing else, starting 5-0 means you’d have to go a hideous 2-5 down the stretch to match 2003—but 8-4 won’t be much better and there’s definitely the potential for that. There’s evidence to suggest that’s where Auburn’s going … but there’s also plenty of counter-evidence that an SEC title might still be in the offing. Let’s look at it in the pretend, fake hope we might be able to figure out what the hell we’ll see tonight when AU faces Florida on 37 different ESPN networks.

EVIDENCE FOR: In 2003, Auburn had so much preseason smoke blown up its ass classes involving football players had to be held outside to keep detectors from going off. (Think Dontarrious Thomas and Karlos Dansby on the front of an ESPN the Magazine declaring Auburn the eventual national champion.) Fortunately, there wasn’t quite so much smoke this year … but being a consensus top-five team and SEC favorite isn’t exactly going to keep head sizes inside their helmets, either, and after the LSU win it certainly looks like the Tigers expected the rest of their season to come as easily as the 2003 team thought theirs would.

EVIDENCE AGAINST: The 2003 team beat Tennessee, one of Nutt’s more talented Arkansas teams, and of course ‘Bama (heh heh heh), but none of 2003’s vanquished will finish with as good a record as 2006 LSU. Plus there’s the Washington St. performance, am ore dominant one over a team of Wazzu’a caliber than the 2003 team ever managed. You could make an argument, looking at the Wazzu and LSU performances, that unlike 2003—when Auburn never did the preseason work necessary to have a successful season and Nallsminger’s offense was never going to get on track—the 2006 problem is simply motivation and focus, and is correctable.

EVIDENCE FOR: Auburn’s defense got torched by the South Carolina’s pass, then got ground into hamburger by Arkansas’s running game. Muschamp’s sideline antics have quickly gone from being charmingly energetic to a lot of sound and fury signifiying nothing much going on upstairs. This is a defense that can be saved?

EVIDENCE AGAINST: Herring. Groves. Gunn. D. Irons. Brock. Dede. And now a healthy Wilhite and an unsuspended Trey Blackmon. Can a defense with that much talent really continue to get bulldozed and beaten? Surely they—and Muschamp, who wouldn’t be where he is without a certain amount of brightness—have more pride than that?

EVIDENCE FOR: The offense in the LSU and Arkansas games looked like … well, the way the offense looked in 2003. Unimaginative play-calling, treacherously poor line play, super-talented backs struggling to find running room against stacked fronts, a completely pedestrian passing game giving up far more sacks than generating big plays. Blecccch.

EVIDENCE AGAINST: The final three-and-out excepted, the offense looked just fine only two games ago, against South Carolina. As on the defense, if Cox and Irons are healthy there really should be too much talent to waste … especially since it’s not Nallsminger at the controls. One or two games shouldn’t be enough for Auburn fans to lose their faith in the same Gorgeous man who constructed the 2004 team and got us 35 points in Sanford last fall.

EVIDENCE FOR: Tubby. The same coach who let the loss to USC in 2003 puncture the balloon (the Georgia Tech game the following week was the cartoon equivalent of the balloon doing that pfffffttt back-and-forth thing across the screen) may see the same thing happen in Jordan-Hare this evening.

EVIDENCE AGAINST: Tubby. Night game, No. 2 team in the country, wounded pride, SEC West on the line … safe to say it’s a Big Game. And Tubby, as you may have head does very well in capital-B, capital-G Big Games. Plus, it’s Florida—the team whose undefeated, highly-ranked pedestals Auburn has been gleefully shaking ever since Dye left.

EVIDENCE FOR: Simply put, the last three games, Auburn has looked like a 7-5 team.
EVIDENCE AGAINST: The last three games they’ve been worried—from the head coach down—about things besides the next game. Not a problem this week. Should not be a problem the rest of this season.

Add up all the evidence, and I still don’t really have any idea. A 45-7 win wouldn’t surprise me. A 56-3 loss wouldn’t surprise me.

But the guess? Borges works a little harder this week. Nall—who has somewhat unaccountably come under fire this week, given how much improvement Auburn’s lines traditionally show throughout the season on his watch—lights a fire under his linemen. Blackmon gives the defense a boost.

Plus, Florida’s kicker is even worse than J**n V****n. 2006 isn’t 2003. Auburn 20, Gators 17.


This is why I have never gambled in my life: Miss. St. is getting 21 ½ at home vs. West Virginia last week. I’ve got MSU. They’re down 28-14 with five minutes to play. WVU scores with three minutes to play. No sweat. Miss St. goes three-and-out. No sweat—surely WVU will grind out the clock with less than two minutes to play. Of course WVU returns the punt for the touchdown and the cover.

That helped me follow up my best week of the season with my worst week of the season has me under .500 again at 13-15. Forging on…

WISCONSIN (-9) over Minnesota: Minnesota has sucked on the road and Wisky’s not bad.

Iowa (-20) over INDIANA: Uh, Iowa beat Purdue like a drum and Purdue is much, much better than Indiana.

Tulsa (-2 ½) over EAST CAROLINA: Both teams were impressive last week, but I think ECU is a touch overrated. This is basically a pick ‘em.

Michigan (-5 ½) over PENN ST: Michigan is more than a touchdown better than PSU, with or without

OREGON (-10) over UCLA: UCLA has their backup QB starting and Oregon will be pissed after last week’s beatdown.

Vandy (+15) over Georgia: Vandy has covered as an underdog in every game this season, and I expect that to continue.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Linkity Links updated

The JCCW has updated ye olde BlogRoll. Check to the right for your daily helping of 100% JCCW-approved Auburn and college football Internet protein.

Full post sometime tomorrow. "Sometime" probably meaning late-night, as usual.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Saturday in assorted nutshells

This is the third and last post of the JCCW's All Blogging, All Dancing Sunday, which, to be honest, may not quite have lived up to its title. Anyway, here's Part 1 and here's Part 2.

Auburn debacle leftovers

--Let’s be clear about this: The running backs (and V****n, I suppose) are the only Tigers who deserved to walk out of Jordan-Hare with their chins up after Saturday. Whatever excuses you come up with for anyone else—Cox is hobbled, the o-line misses Cope, Muschamp’s alleged shakiness—don’t cut it. The players played like Ole Miss players, pure and simple. All of them.
--The epicenter of the meltdown, as has been noted elsewhere, was up front on both sides of the ball. From the JCCW’s point-of-view, Auburn’s offensive line was slightly better than the defensive line—bearing in mind this is like saying I’d rather drink formaldehyde than battery acid—since the running game did actually accomplish things (Irons, Lester and Stewart combined for 107 yards on 20 carries, not terribly shabby) and not all five sacks were the line’s fault (it’s called an outlet pass, Brandon.) But they were both terrible, and the mystifying part of it is how badly the d-line has declined from the LSU game. SMQ correctly points out that some hiccups on the defensive front were expected, but where were they vs. LSU? Thompson, Gunn, Groves, Browder, etc. were terrors in that game. You’re going to tell me that the Arkansas o-line is 300 yards better than LSU’s? No. The AU d-line has gotten demonstrably worse, and not just for one game, either … it’s been a decline, and that falls directly on the coaches’ shoulders.
--I have to disagree with Football Saturday when he takes Borges to task for being conservative. If by “conservative” you mean a run-first, play-it-safe mentality, I don’t think that’s what Borges has become; remember, arguably the worst call of the game was the wild Smith throwback that ruined the first drive and put Auburn in a hole they never got out of. Not conservative there. If anything, I think he should perhaps gte more consevrative, and simply run the ball more often. Borges called 39 passes and 21 rushes, with the rushes averaging exactly five yards a play and the passes … wait for it … a whopping 2.8 yards a play. (Remember to factor in sacks and short scrmables as pass plays.) Including screens, Irons, Lester, and Stewart averaged six yards a touch. Clearly the ball needs to be in the hands of the running backs a little more often, even allowing for the fact that Auburn was down two scores for so much of the second half. So becoming less “conservative” isn’t necessarily the answer, but I do think Borges can dig deeper into the playbook. As I noted in the recap, he seemed to get into a bit of a play-calling rut. An aggressive—not conservative—rut, but a rut nonetheless.
--The question heading into the Florida game: what kind of loss is this? Is this the 23-0 loss to USC in 2003 whose hangover wrecked the Ga. Tech game the next week, too? Or the 2001 Arkansas beatdown, after which Auburn was supposed to roll over on the road for Richt’s first Georgia team and instead walked out of Athens 24-17 winners? Tubby’s record in big games suggests the latter, but the three-game malaise and severity of the fiasco Saturday makes me think we might be in 2003 territory here. We’ll see.

Other games I saw Saturday:


--Florida has gone from underrated to overrated in what seems like a matter of seconds. They’re a very good team, second or third (behind Michigan) is an appropriate ranking, and yes, Tebow is (unfortunately for all of us) the genuine article. But Leak’s unhappiness (he is rooting for Tebow to fail and don’t doubt it for a second) is going to hurt the team at some point, they still haven’t kicked a field goal, and the jury remains out on how well they can stop a committed running game. Bottom line is that they’re not quite good enough to get out of the SEC unscathed. Sorry, Gators.
--Miles is the anti-Tubby. Ruthlessly crushes inferior foes, oversees choke after choke after choke in the biggies. I’ll take our guy, thanks.
--That said, he’s in a complete no-win situation with Russell. There’s no way you can bench a guy who plays as well he does in, well, any game that’s not a match-up of top-10 teams. The problem? Against top-10 teams, he’s the second coming of Josh Booty. Like Peyton Manning in the postseason in Indy. There’s no way out, Les. Good luck.
--Yeah, the jump pass was cool, but Verne, buddy … calm down. We’re fearing for your health out here.


--Ah, an 84-point scoring extravaganza, just as I expected. Or, rather, thought would happen when pigs not only flew, but started delivering messages to airline passengers.
--For the record, Richt’s play-calling emphasis on the pass makes Borges look like Fisher DeBerry. You would think with a QB with a busted ankle and no playing time in three weeks (and eventually, sitting on a lead) he might have had other ideas.
--What’s seven letters long and is glad Tennessee’s not on the schedule? The JCCW! (See, it’s like the “What has two thumbs…” bit, but … nevermind.) Erik Ainge apparently went to the Jason Campbell School of Career Resurrection a year early.
--OK, I can admit it: it turns out CBS put the best two teams in the prime-time slot after all on Sept. 16.


--Whenever you get the urge to complain about SEC officials, SEC fans, remember that it could be much, much worse. The end of the USC-Washington game was an absolute butchery, at least as bad as the Oregon-OU fiasco and maybe worse. Consider, at least the Oregon thing was a subjective call on some level; the official in the Coliseum Saturday had only to realize that the gain was a first down and stop the clock. He didn’t. And it cost Washington their shot at the end zone. Again, this is why SEC fans look down their nose at West Coast fans: if this had happened in an Auburn-Alabama game, the state legislature would be appointing members of a Special Investigative Committee as we speak … and forget about taking the year off, said official would be wearing a fake mustache in Paris by now.
--Michigan is the No. 2 team in the country IMHO. They’ve absolutely cruised past three teams that could have given them problems and as long as Henne keeps it together, do they even have a weakness?
--Only Vandy could outgain a team 400-179, force the opposing quarterbacks to go 3-9 with two picks, and lose by seven. (Why? Five turnovers, including four lost fumbles.)
--Ahead of Duke by two going into the fourth quarter? That’s … that’s not very good.
--I could rip the polls again, but it’s not even worth the effort. We should just all agree they're horrible, and collectively move on. At least until the last few weeks of the season.

The JCCW will most likely return Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tubby's press conference

Tubby walks into last week’s press conference.

REPORTER 1: Hi, Coach.
REPORTER 1: So you’ve got Arkansas this week, Coach. With a freshman quarterback under center, what is your defense going to …
TUBBY: I’ve about had it with this playoff deal.
REPORTERS: *look questioningly at each other*
REPORTER 1: Uh, Coach, we didn’t mention the playoffs.
TUBBY: You didn’t? Because I’ve had it with the current system. Based on the results the polls this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s completely impossible for an SEC team like ours to win a national championship.
REPORTERS: *wait several long moments*
REPORTER 2: Why is that, Coach?
TUBBY: Because our conference is just too damn tough. There’s no way anyone can go undefeated in it. Have you seen our schedule? Florida beat Kentucky by 19 points at home and their fans have such high standards they’re willing to create a deep division between their two quarterbacks just to up the challenge factor! We can’t hang with that.
REPORTER 1: You can’t?
TUBBY: Nope, and how about Georgia? They beat Colorado, and if you follow college football, you remember what they did to Nebraska in 2002. Alabama handled a Hawaii team that’s always dangerous on the road, and their quarterback is so good just two names aren’t enough to represent all his talent. Going undefeated is a complete pipe dream, like say horrible-tasting ice cream that’s been flash-frozen into tiny spheres and stays frozen longer.
REPORTER 2: Um, yeah. But Coach, your team went undefeated just two years ago. You’re telling us, here on the record, that your current team isn’t good enough to do what they did?
TUBBY: Oh goodness, no. Compared to 2004, our team is the Pop Warner team that has all the parents saying afterward “Oh, they played so hard! A for effort!” We almost lost to a team playing a wide receiver at quarterback. They may deserve to be ranked second, but they don’t have any hope of going undefeated.
REPORTER 1: OK, well, speaking of the polls, Coach, remember in 2003 when LSU got won the national title game with one loss? Why couldn’t that happen to your team?
TUBBY: Because the polls will never, ever vote us into the top two. It’s going to be USC all the way. Their schedule is a joke—Oregon? So they rolled up 500 yards on a defense that’s better than USC’s. Big deal. Cal? You saw what Tennessee did to them. There’s no way back from that. And the Trojans are rolling through their competition, you guys have seen that. They’re not going anywhere in the polls.
REPORTER 2: Um … right. So what you’re telling us, Coach, is that the system that produced Tennesee in ’98 and LSU in ’03 will never work for SEC teams?
REPORTER 2: And that the message for your team is that not only are they not good enough to go undefeated in this conference, but that even if they did, it wouldn’t matter?
TUBBY: You’ve got it.
REPORTER 1: Wow, Coach. Just … wow. Very motivational for your guys, I’m sure. OK, putting that aside, Coach, what do you think of Arkansas?

I should have gotten this up earlier in the week—this is how Tubby’s rant read to me the minute I read it—but on the other hand I’m even more steamed about it now. It’s not that difficult an idea to grasp: getting worked up over the polls ISN’T worth it. The way USC has been playing and given the amount of sympathy an undefeated Auburn would have generated, there’s absolutely no question Auburn would have been in the BCS top two if they’d kept winning … hell, they’d have been in it this week. But nonetheless, Tubby was so bitter about his team getting slighted this week (and still, obviously, in 2004) that he took the podium days after the standings were released and told everyone who’d listen he was less concerned with the week’s opponent than what might happen at the end of the year.

This sort of attitude is, in a euphemism, cow excrement. How hard is it to actually take things one game at a time? How difficult is it to keep your lip buttoned and tell your kids to only worry about the things thy can control and that everything else will take care of itself? How tough, really, is it to assume things will work out for the best instead of throwing a hissy fit the same week your team is taking on your own personal bogey team?

I don’t blame Tubby for being frustrated. We all still feel the sting of 2004 and we all have been irritated at seeing poll after poll come out with an inferior USC team ahead of us. But the way to channel that frustration is to make sure your team is so prepared for this week’s game that they’ll leave the pollsters no choice, not to go to the press and whine that if you don’t get the truck with a siren! Look Mommy! I want it! playoff system you want, then you’re pretty much taking your ball and going home. And at the VERY least, please don’t imply that your team is going to lose at some point this season, and they just don’t know it yet.

Now, as I posted Saturday, this is part of Life with Tubby. Prosperity and expectations are not going to be handled well. Lesser opponents are not always going to be focused on properly. These are things that, with our current (and future for as long as I can see) coach, we’ll have to accept. But forgive me for being much, much less than happy about it.

Auburn-Arkansas recap. Only for the strong of heart.

Because those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, All Blogging, All Dancing Sunday kicks off with recap of the Auburn-Arkansas game. I would say “Enjoy,” but I’m afraid for AU fans this is going to be more like Puritan self-flagellation than anything else. Treat yourself to a bag of chips afterward, guys.


CRAIG BOLERJACK: Welcome to SEC football on CBS! Today, the Arkansas Razorbacks are going to take on the No. 2, second-ranked, behind-only-Ohio-St.-and-no-one-else Auburn Tigers!
STEVE BEUERLEIN: That’s right, Craig! No. 2 in the only poll that matters kind-of, the Associated Press! And we’ve got a fired-up capacity crowd on hand to support their Tigers!
BOLERJACK: Folks, if you want to know why the SEC is the best conference in the nation, you need to just take one look at these fans. Understand that they were out until 2 a.m. last night drinking, then got up and got back on that horse at 6 a.m. for today’s 11 a.m. kickoff. It’s called Commitment, and that’s why this the best league in the country.

--Tubby, as usual, leads the Tigers out of the tunnel through the Fog of Intimidation.

TUBBY: Click! Cla … *hacking cough* …Click … *wheeze, sputter* … Clack … *rasping, lung-sucking coughs and heaves* … Damn chemical fog!

--Weird, the broadcast isn’t coming through in HD. Hope that’s not a bad omen or anything!


--First snap from scrimmage: Irons for 11. Second snap: easy completion from Cox to Smith for 11. Man, this is gonna be simple! Think we’ll cover the spread by 63, or 64 points?
--Third snap: Uh, oops. Tommy “Not a Blocking Tight End” Trott gets annihilated by Hogs DE Jamaal Anderson, sack of Tre Smith before he can get off the wide-open throwback pass to Cox. Punt.
--Bliss uncorks his worst punt of the season, a line-drive 30-yarder that results in a net of 22. But hey, at least we know a player of Bliss’s caliber won’t ever make such a mistake twice in the same game!
--Beuerlein helpfully tells Razorback fans that if the name “Gus Malzahn” is familiar to them, it’s because he was Mitch Mustain’s coach at state-championship team Springfield High. That noise you heard was the entire state of Arkansas collectively going “NOOOOOOO, really?” at the same time.
--Speaking of Beuerlein, his keys to the game are listed in a graphics package called “Above the Lein,” which apparently tested better than their second choice, “Feel the Beuern.”
--Jones rips off gains of 11 and 28 and comes within one Mitch Mustain pass (that’s an adjective meaning “bad” there, not just who threw it … watch, I’ll show you what I mean later) of scoring on a screen. 12 plays, 66 yards, 3-0. Nice to know those defensive kinks from last week got worked out.
--Time for a drive of our own in response, right? Or, time for new center Jason Bosley to get shoved backwards onto his ass and have Irons tackled for a loss of three on first down. Three-and-out. Punt.
--CBS puts up a graphic detailing the statistical wonderfulness of Auburn’s D. Guys? They got torched like Anakin Skywalker’s funeral pyre last week and were only saved from giving up a TD on their first possession by the Hogs’ QB Mustaining from throwing a decent pass (har har har). Take the graphic down, please. For our karma’s sake.
--Too late. Third-and-six from the 50, a Tiger blitz forces the freshman into throwing a Mitch Mustain pass, an awful wobbler (see?), but 17th-year senior Marcus Monk does his Marcus Monk thing and steals the ball away from a rusty-looking Wilhite. He scores. I swear Monk scored the same way against us back when his quarterback was Clint Stoerner.
--In an attempt to get the offense going, Bosley and Cox botch the exchange. Bosley’s debut at starting center is going “swimmingly,” if what he’s swimming across is a pool filled with starving polar bears.
--At least Brad Lester came to play. He hits some poor Hog so hard his helmet flies off, causing the Auburn sideline to go appropriately nuts. This is the running back equivalent of shattering the backboard on a dunk, no?
--First down on the Hog 21, and I never thought I’d say this: Gorgeous Al Borges appears to be in something of a play-calling rut. Run on first down, the same play-action boot left on second down we saw several times last week and have seen twice already this game. Not surprisingly, it’s now third-and-13.

Second quarter

--Well, all’s well that ends well. Cox hits Smith for the huge TD. Man, [joke involving automobiles on how incredibly “clutch” Cox is on third-and-long redacted due to final outcome]. 10-7.
--Clark sends the kickoff out-of-bounds. I think this is probably a worse omen than the TV difficulties.
--Tee hee! Arkansas undoes a first-down run by McFadden with a five-yard procedure penalty, punts two plays later. Worried for a second there, but now everything’s fine. Watch, we’re going to score.
--OK, after Dunn has Auburn fans everywhere scheduling a visit to their cardiologist by making no attempt whatsoever to recover what appears to be his own muff on the punt (it had hit the back of a Hog player). I should probably say something about Arkansas punter Jacob Skinner and his pre-punt pseudo-Maori Haka routine, but I just don’t think I can add anything to make this more funny than it already is.
--Irons, in case you’ve forgotten since the LSU game, is a Man. He singlehandedly takes Auburn from their own 17 to the Arkansas 39.
--Again, hard to question Borges, but is an end-around with Tommy “I SAID, Not A Blocking Tight End” Trott really the best playcall at his disposal? Loss of three.
--On second down, Cox declines to avail himself of the easy check-down in order to take a five-yard sack. One would assume he did that just to challenge himself to make his usual miracle third-down or fourth-down conversion, but his fourth-down scramble comes up three yards short. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s a 14-play, 50-yard drive that took 6:56 off the clock and resulted in no points. Yay.
--And now McFadden breaks free for a 63-yard touchdown. Four Hog possessions, none of them starting in Auburn territory, 17 points. Hey, remember way back, when Auburn’s defense was really good? When we’d have guys like Will Herring, David Irons, and Quentin Groves flying all over the field, and we could do things like holding LSU to three friggin’ points? Man, those were the days.
--Brad Lester makes a terrible decision, choosing to return the kickoff from seven yards deep in his own end zone. He then makes an excellent decision, choosing to return it 68 yards to the Hog 32.
--J***n V****n hits the 36-yard field goal, and I temporarily consider giving him his name back, since I think I promised to when he hit a 30-plus yarder in a game Auburn could lose—and this sure as hell qualifies. But I’m not going to, since I think I’m retroactively changing the rules to state that he gets his name back when he step onto the field and I’m not filled with the overwhelming sense of mortal dread and paralyzing apprehension he’s given me since that game. And after the LSU 2006 honk, he’s still got a ways to go.
--17-10 at the half. That’s all right, now Auburn can regroup, give Borges and Tubby and Muschamp time to make adjustments, and come out for the second half fired-up and ready to take the game over.



Third quarter

--Hmm, McFadden for eight yards on second down. Hmm, Jones for seven yards on first down. Can we get a second halftime? I think Spencer Tillman had more to gibber incomprehensibly say.
--The D does rise up and force a punt, which is nice. The Sun-God-Worshipper boots it pointlessly into the end zone, which is nice. Then Auburn goes three-and-out after an totally unblocked Hog nails Irons for a loss on first down and Cox takes yet another sack on third down. Not nice. Not nice at all.
--Bliss is ordered to do the “maybe the fake will be there, if not, rugby punt it” roll-out routine, looks three separate times like he’s about to pull the trigger on the fake, and then spazzes himself into a 19-yard punt. I think you just killed your average, Kody.
--Nutt out-Tubbies Tubby, calling up a weirdo pseudo-Fumble Rooskie that takes the ball to the Auburn six. We’re probably not going to cover that spread, are we guys?
--Herring totally whiffs on a goal-line tackle of Jones, who walks in. 24-10. You have to think that’s going to hurt Herring’s Heisman chances.
--Irons and Lester are on a two-man mission. Call it Operation Don’t Play Like Utter and Complete Crap. It’s second-and-17, and Irons picks up the first down on the draw. He deserves better than to be down 14 points and probably phased out of the game if Auburn does anything but score a touchdown on this drive.
--WHAT IS COURTNEY TAYLOR DOING? Cox lofts up the longball for him, and in the middle of his route, Taylor does a quick stutter-step worthy of “Breakin’” for no apparent reason. Then the sure touchdown bounces off his fingertips. Man, who replaced the Gatorade in the coolers with Suck Juice?
--Auburn does not, in fact, score a touchdown on this drive. The four-play sequence from first-and-10 at the Arkansas 36: 1. Pass to Tommy “I May Not Be Much of a Pass-Catching Tight End, Either” Trott, loss of two; rush by Irons, gain of eight (of course); horrendous-looking botched snap courtesy of Bosley and Cox, loss of five (Irons recovers); and a sack in which Cox decides to roll right, out of the nicely-forming pocket, into the waiting arms of an Arkansas lineman. Loss of 10. I’m so glad CBS decided to show this game to a national audience. So, so glad.
--Consider this about that possession: it covered 39 yards. Kenny Irons gained 31 of those in three plays. The passing game gained 8 of them in seven plays. You do the math.

Fourth quarter

--The defense holds. Does Auburn actually have a glimmer of life in this game?
--First down: Cox throws a Mitch Mustain pass. Second: Lester for four. Third: Screen to Lester undone by an excellent play by Olajabutu. Fourth: punt. So no, no they don’t. I guess they have life in the “Yes, it’s still technically within the realm of possibly discussing the mathematical probability of a miraculous comeback” sense, so let’s say they have life in the way prions have life.
--Not even that anymore. Matt Jones breaks free on an option for 56 yards and…wait, sorry, the flashbacks to 2001/2002 overwhelmed me a bit there. I mean, Davis kicks a short field goal to make it 27-10 after McFadden and Jones continue to use the Auburn defense as a treadmill. That’s it.
--Because he hates us all, Kody Bliss punts the ball 58 yards after Auburn’s last possession. Up yours, Kody.

Let the drowning of the sorrows and gnashing of teeth commence!