Monday, June 15, 2009

The Works, Forza Barca!-style

Michael has a new favorite Auburn player. Lee Ziemba, as photographed at AuburnUndercover:

Yes, that's some kind of day-glo Barcelona alternate jersey he's rocking, making Ziemba the first Auburn football player I can recall to get photographed in sweet-ass soccer gear. (Yeah, Barca's got better jerseys out there, but if you're going to hop on a major European club's bandwagon, there's none better than the Blaugrana's.) Here's yet another example where I wish like hell I could go back in time and find a bookie willing to give me odds on something like "first Auburn football player to have a snapshot taken in a soccer jersey." Not to be too stereotypical here, but I'm thinking I could have turned quite a tidy profit betting on the 300-pound behemoth offensive lineman from Rogers, Arkansas. (While I'm wondering, who'd have gotten the shortest odds? Has to be Clinton Durst, right?)

NSFMF. The Brandon Jacobs-to-the-Red Sox gun appears to have been jumped. Jacobs his own self e-mails (uh, not tome):
As of now, I am still committed to Auburn University until there is an agreement made with the Boston Red Sox. As you know, all players must give a final number value before anything is done and then the organization needs to negotiate the numbers before signing. We are in the middle of negotiating with the Boston Red Sox at this time.
The rumors have persisted over the last few days that Jacobs' grades aren't in order. No idea if there's any veracity to that or not, but that Jacobs' default position still seems to be "I'm hoping the Red Sox offer me enough to justify signing," the guess here remains that he's baseball-bound.

The Good Doctor. One of the annual highlights of the offseason arrived Friday, when Dr. Saturday went public with his Premature Assessment of Auburn. As to the giant flashing red light that is the Spread Eagle 2.0 question, he is both optimistic and pessimistic simultaneously:
The question isn't whether Malzahn's relentlessly fast-paced spread will "work in the SEC," as the old canard goes, but whether it suits the specific talents of personnel that so thoroughly rejected the last spread transplant. Much of the problems were laid at the feet of longtime Tuberville assistants who have shuffled along with their old boss, but the Tigers are still built to be the kind of between-the-tackles, power-running team that defined the Tuberville era (and almost every era before it on the Plains), with big, straight-ahead backs Ben Tate and Mario Fannin and a motley crew of receivers who haven't inspired any confidence even if they were suddenly bequeathed a competent passer. It's not like Malzahn isn't flexible -- Tulsa finished fifth nationally in rushing last year en route to leading the nation in both yards per game (for the second straight season) and yards per play. It's just that the Hurricane had tremendous balance, and the pegs in Auburn's passing game haven't given any indication they can fit into that hole.
I think Fannin's a little more versatile than he's given credit for here, to pick the very finest of nits, but otherwise ... anyone really want to take issue with this? Malzahn and Taylor are going to have earned every single penny of their paychecks if they can resuscitate the corpse that was Auburn's passing game last season. (Of course, as DocSat himself notes, DeAngelo Benton and Tyrik Rollison may have something to say about this.)

The lack of offensive punch is ultimately what holds back the Good Doctor's projection for Auburn's chances, which line up at 7-5 in the best case and 4-8, 1-7 in the worst. It doesn't get much more straightforward than "I don't think the Tigers have the firepower to win more than three SEC games," does it? (For the record, in this year's SEC West, I'm really not sure I disagree. Without question, the easiest way for Auburn to get up over .500 in the regular season again is to sweep the nonconference slate and go 3-5 SEC. Though we've got plenty more time to talk about that.)

Mr. Dead Horse? Hi, it's the college football media calling. Our records show that you're due for your annual beating.
I won't argue it's a subject that deserves plenty of airing (and it's one I've touched on myself, of course), but the yearly summertime macro-level "Look these statistics! No one plays anybody anymore!" research into the cupcake-ification of major college football is getting a little tiresome. Except for USC, no one plays anyone; we don't condone it, but we get it. What's particularly tiresome is that there's so little effort to explain the current state of affairs. Take this snippet from Jon Solomon's recent examination of this phenomenon:
No one travels less than the SEC, which played 19 percent of its nonconference games away from home.

The national rate for BCS conferences was 29 percent. On average, SEC teams traveled 1,209 miles one-way to an away or neutral game, 1,000 miles fewer per team than the next closest conference, the ACC.
Certainly, hands down, no question, SEC teams should travel more often. It's disappointing that after some progress was made in that area last year, we're almost back to square one this fall. (Last year, Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Miss. St. all played true road games at other BCS-level teams; this year, none of them do.) But Solomon should note that there's a reason the SEC plays fewer home games, and it's not all cowardice: the SEC's home games are better attended and make more money than the home games of other conferences. It costs an average SEC team more to go on the road than the average team of any other league. Look at the schedules of most other power teams from across the country that pull in an SEC-like attendance--Ohio St., Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska, even this year's edition of Notre Dame--and you're not going to find much more (if any) traveling than you'd find in the SEC. I wish we had more Virginia Tech, Florida St., or USC-style exceptions in the SEC, but it's not really an SEC issue--it's a nationwide "we're not willing to give up the sweet, sweet ca$h of our home game" issue.

Q's, A's. Two prominent Auburn coaches sat down with Evan Woodbery over the last few days for an interview, one of which was Gus Malzahn. The key question from my perspective was the eternal "are you REALLY going to run the full balls-out no-huddle or is Chizik going to put on the brakes?" query, which Malzahn (sort of) handled like so:
Q: How did your two years at Tulsa lead you to where you are today?

A: That was a great time. Coach Todd Graham is an old high school coach, and we actually had a relationship when he was at Allen (Texas) High School and I was at Springdale. We were on the same page philosophically. He kind of turned us loose, and we were able to do the things we wanted to do. He was 100 percent behind us. We had some good players. We recruited extremely well, and they bought into what we were doing. It was just fun to be a part of.

Q: Is it easier to take more chances or risks at a program like that versus a BCS-type program?

A: I don't know. I don't care what league or level you're in, you've got to do whatever gives your guys the best chance to be successful. (This emphasis is added--ed.) I don't think it's any more of a risk at that level. I think you see the game changing each year. Even look at what Oklahoma did last year. They ran a no-huddle pace like we did at Tulsa. I really see the game going that way.
So on the one hand, part of why things went so well at Tulsa was that the head coach was "100 percent behind" him and that he was "able to do the things we wanted to do." On the other, "you've got to do whatever gives your guys the best chance to be successful." Final translation: Ask me again when I find out if the players I've got this fall can hack it. That Malzahn is point-blank unhappy about the depth is an indication he's not particularly happy about his personnel set just yet ... and honestly, having seen what we've all seen the past two seasons, why would he be?

Also at the mic was Jeff Lebo, who didn't say too much of interest aside from the fact that he's still not entirely pleased with his team's NCAA snub. He's got a point when he says that the Committee seems to offer a "moving target" and that the non-league schedule he thought he had lined up a few years back should have been good enough. Honestly, with the 10-6 SEC record and SEC tourney win, the schedule they had was good enough: beat Mercer, Dayton, and Northern Iowa, and they're golden. It wasn't the nonconference schedule so much as not performing well enough against it.

I love him, I love him, and where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow. Mike Leach, ladies and gentlemen:
Last season, ESPN’s College Gameday was on hand in Lubbock for the first time as Tech defeated the then No.1-ranked Texas Longhorns 39-33.

Graham Harrell’s pass to Michael Crabtree with eight seconds remaining has become one of the greatest plays in college football history.

“It was definitely a good win,” Leach said. “But, I coached a 13-year-old all star team and we beat Cheyenne one time and I thought that was a bigger win.”
When I grow up, I want to be Mike Leach. (HT: Blutarsky.)

'Bama leftovers. I'm plenty ready to leave Textbookgate behind, but there's a few links out there you should have a gander at before we collectively move on, as K-Scar justly eviscerates "University of Arrogance" president Robert Witt for his school's failure to take responsibility for the actions that have landed them in NCAA hot water ... Dr. Saturday shoots one of the various fish swimming in the barrel of the comment threads ... and OTS isn't confident the Tide would win an appeal of the sanctions, though the NCAA has been awfully lenient in the appeals process the past few years.

Also, it's--ahem--come to my attention that Thursday's item regarding the Tide soiling Mike Slive's vision of a probation-free SEC, as per this Blutarsky post (since amended), was a bit off: the Arkansas track team had apparently already soiled it for the time being, and the Tide sanctions won't be solely responsible for the soiling for a year or two. Consider this a correction. (Whether this little misunderstanding was worth claiming that "the Internet sucks & always will" when a simple comment at this site would have produced the same redaction, I leave to the rational reader to decide.)

Etc. Auburn's Joanna Atkins wins an NCAA national championship in the 400 meters, running the second-fastest time in the world this year, 'cause she's awesome like that ... PPL wraps up the MLB draft and discusses the Jacobs situation.


Anonymous said...

How could you leave out this delicious quote from the Dr. Saturday piece:

"The Birmingham News' Tide blog details the 21 'Bama wins that are now losses (at least until the inevitable appeal). That same post also provides the quote of the day, in which commenter "Alabama 88" sums up the real headline as far as most Tiders are concerned:

Big deal. No scollies lost..... Bad news for the Barnies. No vacating ANY wins vs. AUA.

Indeed, because Alabama didn't have ANY wins vs. Auburn during the years in question, on the field or in the books. Leave it to Iron Bowl hatreds to respond to news of victory turned to defeat by turning completely unrelated defeats into victory. What a country!"

That second to last line is beautiful.

WDEwg said...

Jerry, forgive the thickheadedness, but what does "NSFMF" mean? Admittedly I've only been reading for a few weeks, but I couldn't dicipher. Thanks.

Sullivan013 said...

NSFMF = Not so"Favorite-phrase-of-Samuel-L-Jackson-as-Jules-the-hit-man-in-"Pulp Fiction-that-follows-"Say 'what' again, I dare you, I double dare you,..."

Said in the same manner, I might add.


Jerry Hinnen said...

Anon., I wanted to, and maybe I should have ... but since I'd already quoted liberally from DocSat's Auburn piece, I decided just to guide the reader there as best I could and leave the discovery there.

As for "NSFMF," Sully's interpretation is perfectly valid, but I had Lee Corso in mind when I typed it.