Friday, December 28, 2007

Wish List for Clemson

Enjoy the ride, Thompson: you've earned it.

All right, first off, here's to hoping all 11 of you in JCCW readership-land had a very Merry Christmas, full of honey-roasted cashews and Best Buy gift cards and maybe one of those "Beers of the World" samplers, if you were an especially good guy or gal this year. (If you were one of those Auburn fans who booed Brandon Cox in the Mississippi St. game, I hope you enjoyed your lump of coal.)

The clever thing to follow up with would be "I'd wish you a Happy New Year, too, but I guess we'll find out how happy Auburn fans will really be Monday night in Atlanta" ... except that, honestly, I'm not sure how much I really care about the outcome. Oh, I know that as soon as Auburn kicks off I'll be in my usual UNSPEAKABLE DEATH TO THE NON-AUBURN INFIDELS mode, but right now, nothing that happens Monday is going to change 2007 as one season-long yo-yo between smashing success and blankest defeat ultimately redeemed in whole by the Iron Bowl. Unlike last year, when the win over Nebraska finally sealed the "Holy crap, I can't believe that team just went 11-2!" celebrations and "best Tubby coaching job yet" hyperbole, a 40-7 win Monday won't add much to this year nor will a 40-7 loss detract much from it. The story--from the USF loss through the Florida upset and the LSU heartbreak and the see-saw on Amen Corner all the way to Cox and Borges riding into two differently-colored sunsets--is already written, already done and dusted*. Monday isn't this team's final chapter; that happened at the Iron Bowl and in the coaching aftermath. Monday is merely epilogue.

But doesn't mean I don't care at all. I want to see the seniors offer us one last reminder of why they never lost to Alabama. I want to see the cavalcade of returning studs show us why there's bigger and even better things in store for next year. Like everyone else, I want to see the Spread Eagle take its first few tentative flaps outside the practice field's nest. If Auburn adds another W to Tubby's and Cox's totals, all the better. If they don't, I don't think I'll be any less stoked for 2008.

So, the wishes:

When Auburn has the ball

1. That Auburn throws caution six yards downfield to the wind and lines up in Franklin's five-wide. Saying "it remains to be seen" if Tubby is actually going to let Franklin operate the Mumme-fied offense he did at Troy is a colossal understatement, and I'm honestly a little hesitant at the moment about a system that might put James Swinton on the field in exchange for Mario Fannin, but in this game? Screw it, let's see what Franklin's been able to hustle together in two weeks. And besides, let's be honest, hitting timing routes of 10-yards-or-less is what Cox is most physically capable of doing anyway, right? Next year I'd like to see balance. In the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, I want to see what this offense might look like if, well, Franklin had these same players at Troy.

2. That Carl Stewart scores a touchdown. The problem with that approach is that it might squeeze Stewart off the field, and if anyone graduating from the Auburn offense deserves one last burst of glory, it's Stewart. He's become such a complete, all-around professional at fullback it's been easy to forget that he came to Auburn as a tailback prospect before the switch and, hell, could have had a gripe that when Lester sat at the start of the year, it should have been him toting the rock over Tate or Fannin. Instead Stewart just got better and better at what he did at fullback, a blessing for which Auburn fans really shouldn't take for granted. I'd like to think most of us won't take his usual flattening blocks and steady pass catching for granted in his final game for Auburn, but just for those that would, here's to hoping Stewart reminds them by finding the end zone. (Also, and I'm not sure if any TV announcers ever mentioned this, he plays the violin.)

3. That Cox keeps it together. Again, I'm not sweating the final score. Cox can fire off a couple of his patented "Lord, as a show of faith, I'm just going to heave the ball that way and trust you to deliver it into the arms of an Auburn receiver" passes if he wants, can take a couple of his trademarked wait-half-a-nanosecond-before-tucking-and-ducking sacks if he feels so moved. He's beaten Alabama three times; his legacy is far too secure to be that damaged by what he does against Clemson. But another meltdown a la his final two performances against Georgia or the South Florida debacle and, well, it's going to be a nasty, tugging reminder that, well, he had those last two performances against Georgia and the South Florida debacle. In the end, the impact of Good Brandon has far outweighed the impact of Evil Brandon; it would just be nice if Cox's final game reflected that.

When Clemson has the ball

4. That Tuberville casts some sort of bizarre magic spell that makes it appear to potential employers of Will Muschamp that the Tiger defense is giving out points like a drunken pinball machine while actually giving up very few. By which I mean to say, I'm hoping Muschamp somehow looks less appealing as a hire even as his defense succeeds. I'm not sure if that's actually possible, but as long as we're wishing ... and actually ,what I'm wishing for isn't about the Clemson game: I just selfishly want Muschamp back for at least another season on Auburn's sideline.

5. That Quentin Groves finishes his career with one his patented sack-and-strips. It just hasn't been the bed-wetting-terror-inducing year we all imagined for Groves, has it? From the "Oops, I wasn't playing the run" admission to the dislocation injury to being denied more than a few memorable sacks by random last-second throwaways (Tebow still owes him one) to the record hanging around all season like the last guy to leave the party, it's seemed like if it hasn't been one thing for Groves, it's been another. It's too bad, what with Groves being a likable guy who could have gone pro after--even more importantly--serving as Auburn's runaway MVP in the 2006 Iron Bowl. A flashback to those heady days (or even to the kickoff of this season) would be nice even if it wasn't so richly deserved at the end of yet another killer Auburn career.

6. That Walt McFadden gets some time--and looks good. Tubby's mysterious neverending supply of defensive linemen and linebackers (Groves underperforming? Why, here's Antonio Coleman! Blackmon dinged up? Come on down, Chris Evans!) mean I'm not sweating any losses in those two units, and the safety spots should be good to go with Etheridge, McNeil, et al. But at corner we're saying goodbye to Lee, Wilhite, and Zach Gilbert. Not a deathblow, but from this ridiculously early viewpoint, it looks like corner is going to be Auburn's thinnest position on what should be an otherwise impregnable 2008 defense. McFadden looks like the heir apparent opposite Jerraud Powers, and if he can hold his own in his limited action against some good Clemson receivers, things will look all the brighter.

*Yes, I've got more thoughts on that final chapter, on Borges 'departure, Franklin's hiring, Tubby's candidate dance ... all of that stuff I missed while working my fool head off. It's coming.


Richard said...

Hope Santa left something nice under the tree for you and yours. As one of those '11 of you in JCCW readership-land' ;), I want to thank you for a terrific blogging year. Seriously, one day (in the not-too-distant future) Auburn people are going to wake up and really find this place. I know this is a big drain on you personally, but some blogs simmer for a while before anybody notices. College football is not politics (well, sometimes it's more important that politics, but just in Alabama), so it's a lot harder to break through here, no matter how good you are. This is one of the smartest, entertaining Auburn Football blogs I've read (along with TWER, who I had to mention because they read your blog too).
Anyway, I agree with you on just about everything you posted in this wish list except about how important this game is. Truth is, I think we are the underdog here. We have no idea what CTF (I guess we have to start abbreviating like that now that he is officially on the staff) is going to do with the offense in this short interval. If we manage to somehow kill Clemson, then I guess everybody will breath a big sigh of relief that we finally have 'the one'. On the other hand, if we manage to somehow tank on this one, then the sentiment will probably be 'he didn't have enough time, so cut him some slack, he'll show what he's made of next season'. Whatever, it won't show us anything about next season, no matter which way it breaks, if you know where I'm going?
Anyway, I'll watch this one because I think we are back to square one with this team for this game. It's like a self-contained season, since there are so many variables, we can't even guess where it's going to go. Hope it goes our way, but I won't be getting in touch with any bookies in Vegas on this one.

Best Wishes and

War Eagle!


Acid Reign said...

    We 11 readers DO enjoy your work! I'm kind of in agreement about the near-total lack of importance of this game and its outcome, but! There is this: should this new spread package shred the Clemson D, guys like Swinton, Slaughter, Hawthorne and the like run wild... It will be 8 LONG months of absolute Auburn hysteria till next season's kickoff!

    We can talk bubble-screens and read-options all day, but I think our best bet in this game is pounding Lester and Tate, and keeping Cullen Harper off the field. Our green OL MUST win at the point of attack, or we'll take a pretty bad beating.

    I'll be screaming and yelling "War Eagle!" ad nauseum during the game, but win or lose, I've got triple digit$ worth of fireworks for after the game. War Eagle folks!

AU3rdGeneration said...

Excellent work, Jerry. Always enjoy reading your thoughts.


Beef said...

Typically good post, JCCW. Look forward to your offseason thoughts.


Anonymous said...

happy new year Jerry!

Count me as one of the eleven..
Your blog is squeaky clean as my
friend Iggy on WAB says...
I appreciate the effort, talent and passion you put into this blog... I have to say my Favorite
was the pre Florida game one...
I would love to see Brandon Cox
go up one more time to get the frisbee... Here's to next and
and Joe Crib's Carwash!...

War Damn Eagle and Happy New Year!..