Ah, Josh. How do I find thee sensationalist, prone to baseless exaggeration, and wantonly ignorant ? Let me count the ways:
I don't get what Auburn's doing with its football schedules. Have you taken a look at these things? While other big-name programs are lining up games against traditional powerhouses, the Tigers have inked not-so-earth-shattering deals with Kansas State and Clemson. Oh, wait, I left out New Mexico State and South
Wow, it’s not often a columnist blows his credibility to such tiny pieces just four sentences in. First, maybe Clemson isn’t a “traditional powerhouse,” but it’s (by admission) better than what Bama’s doing and it’s enough that UGA fans are giving the thumbs up … but apparently, AU should be getting a “traditional powerhouse” like Miami instead. The same Miami, of course, who finished 3-5 in 2006 in the same conference in which Clemson went 5-3. Second, New Mexico St. isn’t exactly what even the JCCW would call “good,” but a) it’s not like AU has a grand history facing pass-happy WAC schools and b) NMSU is easily the second-worst team on AU’s schedule, but quantifiably better than the second-worst team on the schedules of teams like Oklahoma (Utah St.), Michigan (Eastern Michigan), and, yes, the Tide (UL-Monroe). Third and most importantly, South Florida is a team no less an authority than Phil Steele has called “a dark horse national title contender” that (as already pointed out on this site) defeated on the road the same West Virginia team that ripped apart the SEC champ just 11 months earlier. To try and lump a legitimate BCS bowl candidate like the Bulls in with the likes on New Mexico St. is disingenuous at best and a case of rank and unprofessional ignorance at worst. (I’m leaning towards the latter.) I’m sure a few tunnel-visioned Auburn fans might see no difference between NMSU and USF, but anybody being paid actual American dollars to write about Southeastern college football should be a good deal more aware—or he should probably get his next paycheck in seashells.
I don't get it. The reason I don't get it, I think, is because I'm not very good at understanding moronic decisions. And make no mistake, it doesn't get much more moronic than this. After all, this is the same school that was held out of the national title game a few years ago when voters claimed its non-conference schedule was too pathetic. And here it is with another pathetic schedule that comes on the heels of two other pathetic schedules.
Boy, I’m not sure someone who just linked the WAC’s 7th-place team in 2006 with the team that ran Louisville clean out of their house two seasons ago should be throwing around the word “moronic” so freely there.
And about that “pathetic” schedule … putting aside the fact that the SEC has handed us a slate that some have termed the fifth-toughest in the country, Georgia is the only other SEC team besides Auburn with two non-conference games against BCS-conference opponents. Those two games are as many as Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas combined, as many as Big 10 powers Ohio St. and Wisconsin combined. If Auburn’s 2007 sked is “pathetic,” at least it has an awful lot of very prestigious company in Patheticville.
And lastly, for all the hemming and hawing by media types about AU’s non-conference sked in 2004, the only thing that made a difference in that vote was the pre-season rankings. The only thing. Any other viewpoint is revisionist history.
You can draw two conclusions from this: Either the people in charge of making these schedules are imbeciles or the AU administration has decided it doesn't like the national spotlight. How else can you explain your best out-of-conference game being Kansas State or Washington State? (I do have to say, however, that while it's stupid to schedule K-State, it is somehow strangely appropriate, since that's the program that perfected the play-nobody approach to I-A success.)
Somehow I doubt either Ohio St.’s schedule (strongest non-conference opponent: Washington) or West Virginia’s (Maryland) is going to keep them out of the national spotlight if they run the table, or even win their conference. Texas played Ohio St. in last year’s early-season Game of the Century, but by the time they’d lost to (guess who) Kansas St. at the end of the season, the spotlight had long since moved somewhere else.
And again, the only people who think K-St. is the toughest game on Auburn’s 2007 non-conference slate are the ones who aren’t paying attention.
It is astounding to me to watch the AU administration pull these shoddy schedules out year after year -- with the Tigers, other than the two years in which they played USC, playing a bunch of patsies -- and then listen to fans whine and moan about the level of respect AU receives. Even weirder, though, is that AU fans are still defending the people responsible for these schedules. That's right, the guys and gals paying out the nose for tickets are perfectly happy wasting four hours a few Saturdays each fall watching the Tigers' third string kick the snot out of some glorified I-AA program.
Apparently Josh has forgotten that in 2005, after USC moved off the schedule, one of the alleged “patsies” (Ga. Tech) stuffed Auburn in Jordan-Hare 23-14. But hey, I guess they should have been playing someone even tougher, huh Josh?
Josh also completely misreads the mindset of the typical Auburn fan here. AU fans, in fact, aren’t happy about I-AA scrimmages—this is the biggest reason Jacobs gives for adding the Clemson game. As for the whining and moaning … name one fan base in America that doesn’t whine and moan about respect at every opportunity. And given the ever-fresh 2004 snub and that Auburn owns the third-best record in the country (33-5 ... only USC and Texas are better) over the past three seasons, yet a certain school with a five-game losing streak to the Tigers is involved in three of the purported biggest games of the year and Auburn is in none, I think Auburn fans might have the first inklings of a point.
Following a riveting AU-Buffalo matchup last season, I wrote a column about how much time I had wasted while trapped at that game. [Snip.] The responses from Auburn fans were what I'm sure I'll get from this column -- they defended athletic director Jay Jacobs, talked about how hard he was trying and how difficult it is to set up these schedules so many years in advance. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's not that difficult and he's not trying that hard. How do I know? Look around. While the Auburn brass was setting up games against powerhouses like Clemson and West Virginia over the next few years …
West Virginia IS a powerhouse, you hack! Virtually the same team they have now beat the SEC champ in the Sugar Bowl just 14 games ago! They have two Heisman candidates! Alabama nearly hired their coach away! They went 11-2 last year! They were last year’s trendy pick to play for the national title and they will be again! AAAAAAAARGGGGGGHHH--*head explodes*
(And oh yeah, how big of a jerk do you have to be to simply pronounce the job of Auburn athletic director “not that difficult” and that its current holder isn’t “trying that hard”? I’m guessing terms like “colossal” and “mammoth” and even “Mangino-esque” still don’t cut it.)
… here's what the legitimate big-time programs were doing: USC, which already plays Notre Dame, will begin a home-and-home series with Ohio State in 2008. The Buckeyes are already set to play Cal and Virginia Tech in upcoming seasons. Oklahoma will play Miami. Texas will pick up Arkansas in '08. Defending champ Florida will, of course, play out-of-conference rival Florida State this year and then also pick up Miami next season.
I mean, Josh thinks that adding Miami (three-year record: 23-11) and Arkansas (19-16) to the schedule is a bolder move than adding West Virginia (28-6). I’m not sure I can really help him, though I can point out that OSU-Cal series is probably dead.
You know what's weird about all of that? None of those programs need the exposure. They're all nationally respected programs that would be locks for a national title game if they managed to go undefeated, even if they had an Auburn-like out-of-conference schedule. Those programs don't need to prove anything to anybody. Yet they do. Auburn does need to prove something. Yet it refuses to do so.
If any of those programs has been ranked where Auburn had been ranked to start the season in 2004 and had gone undefeated, they all would have finished third in the BCS. All of them.
Auburn doesn’t need to prove anything its SEC record since Borges arrived hasn’t already proven. If there are still any Midwestern/West Coast fans and pundits ready to rank a hypothetically perfect Auburn behind, say, Texas on the basis of Texas’s win over Ohio St. two years ago, particularly after what happened in Glendale last January … then like the teenage boys who don't see Ally Sheedy's inner beauty, it's those guys who are the ones with the problem.
I just don't get it. It's not that hard to schedule these games. Yeah, you might have to give up a little something here or there. You might have to give away two trips to get one return trip. You might have to play at a neutral site. But no matter what you give up, you've got to get these big-time, national TV, all-hype games. The AU program needs the exposure. It's been too good over the past few years to still be stuck in college football's second tier.
Again, the schedule has nothing to do with being “second-tier.” Florida entered last season still shaking off the rust from the Zook years. Their biggest non-conference win was a 21-14 gumming of hapless Florida St. And yet, somehow, I don’t think anyone’s much regarding them as “second-tier” these days. If Auburn wins like that, they’ll get all the exposure they want. Heck, they might even get so much they’d go 7-5 the following year.
If West Virginia isn’t good enough for Josh, what he must want is a game against the country’s absolute glamour upper-crust: Ohio St., Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, and the overrated Florida boys. That’s a grand total of eight different teams to work with, all of whom have their own agendas and scheduling kinks, AU’s actually already played a series against one of them this decade, and of course the rumor mill spat out that AU offered Michigan a while back and they refused. Remember: Georgia hasn’t scheduled any of those teams. LSU hasn’t scheduled any of those teams. But if Auburn doesn’t have one of them on our schedule immediately, it’s because Jay “I just pushed through a $92.5 million hoops arena” Jacobs isn’t trying hard enough.
The football team, through its play, has made it pretty easy for the program to finally achieve a level of national respect. All that's standing in the way is a few quality wins over a couple of big-name teams. The problem is the football team can't seem to get anyone to put the big-name teams on the schedule.
Yeah, big wins would be nice. If only we could beat, say, an eventual national champion, or a team that went on to crush Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Then things would be different.