Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dare to dream

Let's be up front about this: LSU should be the No. 1 team in the country. Their defense remains filled with terrors and beasts not above the basest savagery. They will be playing at home, at night, in a cajun-spiced death-hole our Tigers haven't emerged from with a W since 1999. Whatever slim hope Auburn had of finding them overconfident and dozing in the backseat until Miles pulled them into the SEC Championship parking lot evaporated last week.

And yet, I do not make the declaration I made to Brandon Cox before the Florida game, that he and his team should travel to into hostile enemy territory completely unburdened by the weight of expectation. At that time, Auburn fans did not know what team we had. An Auburn that was headed for a 2-10 Dubosian disaster? An Auburn unable to compete with the conference's alleged elite but able to scrape to 6-6 on the backs of Vandyish wins and and a visit to the Next Great City of the South? (Please, children, refrain from snickering.) Or something much more grand? There can be no expectations placed on nothing, and after the NMSU game and the glimmer of Good Brandon's return, Auburn fans knew nothing.

Now? We know Auburn is, in fact, that something grand. The Tigers are a mad roiling stew of precocious youth in nearly every position you look, a quarterback simultaneously terrifying and perfectly composed, Tommy still-the-same Tuberville, a kicker who arrives on campus and a handful of weeks later boots game-winners as effortlessly as if he was simply mashing "X" in NCAA '07, an injury-shredded defense that may be the guttiest I have ever had the privilege to watch ... and, oh yeah, this guy:

Warning: some language for grown-ups involved.

...who is rapidly on his way to becoming Auburn's Han Solo. Is he a scoundrel? Scoundrel? On the video, yes. But we like the sound of that, don't we, Auburn fans?

This is a good team, we know that now--when a team outgains and defeats both Florida and Arkansas on the road, there is no doubt any longer--and good teams have things expected of them.

I expect Auburn to remain competitive Saturday, at the least. I expect the defense to limit the success of Matt Flynn, whose very best this season has been just north of mediocre. I expect that some pressure will be applied and some rushing plays stuffed against an offensive line that has struggled against both Tulane and Kentucky. I expect our offensive coaching staff and our senior quarterback to engineer and execute enough of a gameplan to put some points--however few--on Auburn's side of the scoreboard. I expect our punters to not hurt our field position as they did (or tried to, anyway, before hops so kind I hope Shoemaker and Tatum bought them something from Hallmark) last week. More than anything, I expect Auburn to play as hard as they can from kickoff to final whistle. On that count, I have no doubt they will.

Do I expect a win?

No, I cannot say that I do. Part of that? Again: 0-3 since 1999. Often with good teams, against worse teams, with a head coach that has by now almost quantifiably proven himself the best road coach in the nation. And there is, of course, the matter of Tyson Jackson and Craig Steltz and Trindon Holliday and Glenn Dorsey and all the other LSU super-studs that have fueled my nightmares this week. More on them tomorrow.

But also, because it seems like asking too much. Win Saturday, and all standing between the same Auburn team that fell at home to Miss. St's backup quarterbacks and Atlanta will be home wins against Ole Miss and Alabama. Win Saturday, and a team that can sometimes barely get out of its own way on offense will have gone 4-0 in two seasons against the two other strongest programs in the SEC. Win Saturday, and we can begin seriously discussing the possibility of an SEC title.

For this team, this season, this would be a dream. It sounds like the King of Cliches, and it is, but it's the best way to describe Auburn winning at the should-be No. 1 team in the country, against our second-biggest rival, to seize control our the SEC West race. It's storybook. It's fairy tale. It's something to think about and wish "Golly, wouldn't that be something" to pass the time waiting in line at the bank or cruising the Interstate. It's not something to expect.

But this entire college football season has been seemingly designed to tell fans and pundits that what they expect means precisely nothing. And Auburn has been at the forefront of that design as much as anyone: Few expected the USF loss, none the Crooming, only the absolute most starry-eyed of us the Florida win. Maybe the majority of Auburn fans expected a win in Fayetteville, but holding McFadden and
Jones to 67 yards is an occurrence as unlikely as anything.

So, as I learned in the IMAXish theater at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center so many years ago, the dream is alive. Auburn can beat LSU Saturday. Auburn can still win an SEC championship. "Keep dreaming" is often used an an insult, but that's what at stake this week--there are expectations, there are hopes, and there are dreams.

C'mon, Auburn: keep us dreaming.

Actual alleged analysis tomorrow. Also, the image at the top of this post can be bought at Seriously, if I ever become an Auburn fan running an online memorabilia shop, I hope I have the dignity of not carrying any Daniel Moore prints. Standards, man.


Pat said...

No. It's not a dream, nor a fantasy. Epic would be the word I would use, in the best Shakespearean model. Henry V comes to mind, not only for the St. Crispian's Day (which ironically falls only 5 days after the game) speech, but for the following later in the same scene.

"...Let me speak proudly: tell the constable
We are but warriors for the working-day;
Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirch'd
With rainy marching in the painful field;
There's not a piece of feather in our host--
Good argument, I hope, for we will not fly--
And time hath worn us into slovenry:
But, by the mass, our hearts are in the trim..."

And so they are.

Put who you want into the role of Harry; Muschamp, Cox, Tuberville, but if Les Miles doesn't match the Dauphin in temperment, I don't who does.

If only we could get Kenneth Branaugh to do the play by play.


J.M. said...

Will Muschamp is Han Solo. You nailed it.

I also had no idea that he was a graduate assistant at Auburn under Terry Bowden until today.

Jeremy said...

though it is not subtitled for us, i'm 100% positive his last 'mofo' follows a thick 'war eagle'...
as in...
'war eagle, motherf*cker.'
and did you see casey dick's 'what the h...' look as he heads to the sidelines?
if i were the head coach, i would have a thousand dollars waiting from my own personal stash every time i heard that from han solo on the sidelines, every single time. i just pray to God this attention doesn't clam him up.
"his MOTHER was a mudder..."
war eagle, will. we love it. we love you. fly down the field, mofo...

Jerry Hinnen said...

Pat: Absolutely bloody fantastic comment. I've always felt the Bard would have loved college football if he'd been around for it; I think you just proved it. Our hearts are indeed in the trim.

I've put a call into Branagh's people. We'll see if it goes anywhere.

J.M.: Neither did I. Glad to know he survived with minimal damage.

Jeremy: I don't think he could clam up if he wanted to, do you? I could see him thinking "Better not say mfer so loud this week," getting through the first quarter, maybe, and then of course just losing it the way he always does. He's too intense by a factor of 100 to actually change, God bless him.

Richard said...

Whoah! That was amazing. Henry V...a true Tiger. I love it. Darn, if we shouldn't dedicate the game to Henry the Fifth. Have Branagh's speach up during the usual Auburn commercial.
Jerry, right you are about expectations. If I were a logical outsider, I'd put the money on LSU. But damned it, I'm an Auburn man, and even if I could retire on that bet, I wouldn't take it. These guys mean too much. They'll do their best and I know the coaching staff has a few surprises for Miles that aren't on any of his videos. WAR EAGLE!


Richard said...

Hah! Ok, this is the stuff:


Richard said...

OK, that's it. I'm going on record. We're winning this one because this is just the kind of game we live to win! Everything imaginable is against us on this one, so we are totally going to win this (of course, a one point spread is right up my ally...only saying we are going to win). Call it 'George Costanza' logic if you must, but his instinct would be to bet on LSU, so he would, 'naturally' bet on Auburn. And he'd win big. Anybody wanna bet against me? Post a replay and an email address 24 hours before kickoff, and I'll take you up.


Boethius said...

Slight not as a lesser rival those Hounds from the East...

(War Damn Eagle!)

Pat said...

Another time, another play:


"When I have laid proud Athens on a