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.

1 comment:

d761 said...

This is not 2003 ;)

War Eagle!!!

Great game.