Thursday, January 17, 2019

THANK YOU CLEMSON

Clemson 44  Bama 16.  I cannot say it any better than my man Charles Barkley here...  The video is below but here is the transcript:  "ROOOLLL TIDE, ROOOOOOLLLLLL TIDE!!!  Clemson thank you, thank you Clemson.  WAR DAMN EAGLE.  Thaaank you Clemson!!!"


This "market correction" was sorely needed.  Bama fans have gotten so spoiled and so arrogant that it was just getting intolerable.  I mean even if you try to go on a media blackout you cannot get away from it in this state.  I honestly did not see this coming.  I did not think there was any way a freshman quarterback was going to lead a win over Nick $aban much less a rout.  It was incredible to watch.  Clemson is absolutely loaded.  I mean if you want to be reminded what a championship team looks like then look at Clemson.  I knew they were good but I did not know they were that good.

The Bama reaction has been predictable.  They always have some angle to make themselves feel better.  The "angle" on this game that I have seen the most is that since Dabo is an Alabama alum and a possible replacement for Nick $aban they do not feel as bad (???).  Uh OK, whatever...  My question is, going by rationale from previous seasons, does this loss mean that this Bama team, Tua and their monstrous offensive season are completely irrelevent?  Are they now just going to remembered as a bunch of losers?  Is there anything to remember here at all?

Any other team would immediately respond that hey we beat our rivals and won our conference, of course this team is relevant and hey they are champions to be remembered.  That is how Auburn fans remember the 2013 team that had some incredible wins and won the SEC only to lose in the last seconds in the national championship game.  However Bama has made it clear in 2011 and 2017 when they did not beat their main rival or even win their division that only the national championship means anything.  So again does that mean this Bama team is just a bunch of losers?  Just asking...

To me it just goes to once again show the college postseason system is still ridiculous and broken.  It is completely subjective.  It is still like the bowl games.  Everything is manipulated to create interesting matchups.  It did come down to the best two teams but Notre Dame was completely unqualified.  They are just not close to the Power 5 conference champions anymore.  In my opinion, you have to win your conference to qualify to play for a national championship.  The whole thing is just a complete joke without objective standards that teams have to meet.

I mean just look at every other major team sport.  The postseason systems are almost all objective, not subjective.  Nobody picks their final four teams based on a subjective "eye test".  For football, the NFL does it exactly right filling out their postseason by purely objective measures while college football remains a complete joke filling out their postseason by purely subjective measures.  This is why I continue to like and appreciate the SEC Championship game.  It is completely objective.  Nobody can sneak in the back door taking an easier path like the supposed national championship.

However, I have drifted off, let me get back on course...  Thank you Clemson, thank you.  War Damn Eagle.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

2018 Music City Bowl Review: Nice but nothing has changed

Auburn 63  Purdue 14.  A season of almost complete frustration ended on a good note as the Auburn football Tigers put an historic beatdown on the Purdue Boilermakers.  The passing numbers were ridiculous.  Quarterback Jarrett Stidham passed for a ridiculous 373 yards and FIVE touchdowns on only 15 completions (!!!).  Wide receiver Darius Slayton had three catches for three touchdowns covering 160 yards.  JaTarvious Whitlow took a pass for 60 yards and a touchdown.  Auburn's two super freshman wide receivers Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz both had 50 yards receiving as well while outgoing senior and Auburn's career leader in catches, Ryan Davis, added five more and a touchdown to finish his career on the plains.  It was a great day to be an Auburn Tiger.

I know that you can hear the "but..." coming a mile away.  I will not disappoint you.  It was great day... but as the title of this post states nothing has changed.  I have read a lot of the feedback on various Auburn sites and have been amazed at the number of people getting back on the "Gus bus" after this exhibition game against a 6-6 Big Ten team???  People are acting like Gus going back to calling the plays is some miracle cure and his giving up those duties is what all went wrong???  I mean what are these people taking about???  The team got a nice win but it does not make up for the LSU game or the State game or especially the Tennessee game.  Also, does anyone remember why he stopped calling the plays?  I think many people are getting a little carried away over this game.

I will say it again, does anyone remember why he supposedly stopped calling the plays?  Does anyone realize it does not matter either way?  I am at a loss why people feel the need to deceive themselves.  We have all watched Gus Malzahn coach and have watched his offensive system for six years now.  There are not going to be any surprises.  Also I am an Auburn graduate and a huge fan.  I want to win and that is what clears things up for me. I look at the team and compare it to what a championship team looks like.  I know what that looks like after watching football for over thirty years.  With that said, I hate to break it to people but Gus is going to run the same offensive system he has run the past six years and our talent level has dropped and is not on a championship level.

Let us go back to the bowl game though and look at the evidence to see if this was just a good day against a very average team or evidence of a massive turnaround that will go into next season.  I present the cover boy for this post and Auburn's leading receiver, Darius Slayton, as my evidence.  Slayton did not have over 50 yards receiving in any meaningful game this past season except for 58 against State and one catch against Bama that helped him get to 63 yards.  He has struggled the past two seasons with physical defenses and this past season was no exception.  I cannot believe he is leaving early to try and go pro.  Anyway in the bowl game Darius Slayton was simply running right past the Purdue secondary wide open.  I mean come on, it was sad.

I mean any team is going to have a great passing day when their receivers are running right past the other team's secondary.  Go back and watch, it was unbelievable.  Slayton did not get jammed at the line and simply ran right past the Purdue defenders.  The stats show NO SEC TEAM allowed that so pardon me if I do not think this game indicates anything about next season.  It was a great day and hey I loved watching Auburn set the record for most points in the first half in a bowl game.  I am happy for the players and coaches.  However again it does not change the fact that Gus Malzahn is declining at Auburn.  He is fully committed to an offense that has become very predictable and his recruiting has fallen off. 

There also seems to be a misunderstanding about when people talk about Auburn's recruiting dropping off.  I know when I talk about it I am not talking about it in a binary sense, i.e. the recruiting is either good or bad.  I am talking about the overall work toward building a championship team.  I have written over and over about how it starts up front after a quarterback.  You have to have a great offensive line to have a great offense and you need a good to solid defensive front to compliment that offense.  Gus Malzahn's recruiting up front has dropped off over the last three years on both sides.  In 2019 I do not believe Auburn has any All-SEC talent up front on either side if Derrick Brown goes pro.  Prince Wanogho and Marlon Davidson are good players if they come back but not outstanding.

It really drops off from there.  Outside wide receiver, the least impactful position on the team, I just do not see any All-SEC players.  The same offensive line that struggled all season is coming back.  I just do not think they can improve that much plus the team will be starting over at the crucial H-back blocking position.  The loss of Chandler Cox will overshadow any improvement by the offensive line in my opinion.  The same good but not great running backs will return behind the line and a completely inexperienced quarterback.  It sure looks like there will be a huge dropoff at defensive tackle and Auburn will start over at linebacker.  There will be a lot of experience in the secondary but man they struggled this season. 

Bo Nix and Owen Pappoe are great recruits.  Auburn still gets great recruits every season.  It is big-time traditional football school.  However again this staff is simply not getting near enough talent in the trenches to win championships.  After all the problems with the offensive line this season Auburn has only signed two guards so far and does not appear to be in the running for any of the top tackles.  You contrast that with Bama who have five offensive line commitments so far and three of those are tackles.  The coaching staff is also not developing all the talent it gets near good enough either which has led to a lot of attrition over the last two seasons.  This all adds up to a mostly young and inexperienced team in 2019 which will be one of Malzahn's weakest teams in my opinion.

An experienced Oregon team will await Auburn in the 2019 opener bolstered by the return of quarterback Justin Hebert as he decided not to go pro.  I do not see Auburn winning that one and again I do not see this team winning on the road at LSU, Texas A&M or Florida.  I also do not think Auburn has the talent to beat Georgia and Bama at home next season either.  That again adds up to a 6-6 season and the likely firing of Gus Malzahn shortly following the Iron Bowl.  I still think a large number of influential Auburn supporters do not like Malzahn and he is not going to survive two more beatdowns to Georgia and Bama.  I really do not see any way next season does not turn out this way.  Even if the Tigers win one of those I do not think it will be against Georgia and Bama.

I think winning one of those earlier games and beating Georgia could save Malzahn but I just do not think Auburn has the horses to get it done.  I could be wrong but an unbiased evaluation of the past and this current team just does not seem to point to that happening.  However if you go to any of the other Auburn sites they vehemently disagree.  We will see what happens as the team will start spring practices before you know it preparing for the 2019 college football season.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Game 12 Review: Great Tournament and a Salute

It was a tough loss this week.  Auburn was playing the #1 team in the country.  The Tigers were playing a team with maybe the most tradition in the sport.  They were playing a team that just seems to keep winning national championships.  They were playing a team with maybe the greatest coach around.  Yes the Duke Blue Devils seem to have it all...  However the Auburn basketball team did an outstanding job hanging with them and showing they belong.  They were not just going against a good Duke team they might have been going against one of their greatest teams.  Zion Williamson will be the first pick in the NBA draft if R.J. Barrett is not.  Those guys are awesome.  This Duke team had already destroyed Kentucky by forty points.

Auburn ended up losing 78-72 to the Blue Devils but played the best anybody had against them up to that point.  The Tigers started slow and Duke who is more used to big time games took advantage.  They jumped out to a 22-8 lead then 31-14.  This was where just about every other Auburn basketball team would have folded and looked like they should not have been there but not this day.  The Tigers fought back to get within six points before the half ended with Duke up 41-33.  Duke would start quick in the second half pushing the lead to 49-33.  Again Auburn fought back to get to within five points at 61-56 with eight minutes left in the game.  Auburn could get no closer than that and ended up losing by six points.  It was a phenomenal effort by the Auburn basketball team.

I am still looking around expecting something bad as it always seems to with Auburn basketball but so far so good.  This might be Auburn's best basketball team ever.  The job Bruce Pearl has done and continues to do is simply amazing.  He took over an Auburn basketball program that was dead on the table and that is no exaggeration.  He has worked and worked recruiting and improving the schedule.  He led the team to an SEC Championship last season in one of the most unbelievable jobs of coaching I have ever seen.  He did this in the shadow of an FBI investigation into his top assistant for crimes on the side.  He now has taken Auburn to one of the big-time college basketball preseason tournaments in the Maui Invitational and finished third. 

Most Auburn teams would never be considered for this tournament.  This is a tournament for traditionally strong basketball schools.  Auburn basketball simply does not play in tournaments that Duke plays in.  Auburn did not just play in the tournament but beat two of those traditional basketball powers in Xavier and Arizona and played Duke to the wire.  You just have to know the history of Auburn basketball to be absolutely blown away by that.  Every Auburn basketball coach has done it the "Cliff Ellis way" as in scheduling a powder puff schedule to get some wins in the preseason.  They all have avoided really good teams but not Pearl.  He has continually improved Auburn's schedule and now has Auburn basketball ranked in the top ten in the country!!!

 As for yesterday's Iron Bowl, I have already made my thoughts clear on Gus Malzahn.  He will be fired after the Iron Bowl next season after going 7-5 or 6-6 again.  I hope our athletic director is working feverishly on his plan to replace him.  Let me be real clear though, Gus Malzahn will not be fired for his performances against Bama.  My problem with Gus is the LSU, State and especially the Tennessee games this season.  Nobody is going to beat Bama.  I think everyone sees the problems.  The recruiting has slipped which everyone has seen this season and will see even more next season plus the Malzahn offensive system grows more and more predictable.  Go back and watch Bama defenders reading some of the plays.  We all just have to watch one more season of this, sigh...

I want to end this season on a positive note football-wise as well as basketball-wise though.  Lost in all the angst and frustration with our current football team was the fact that this season marks the 25th anniversary of the 1993 Auburn football season.  I graduated from Auburn in 1992 and saw every single Auburn game home and away from 1991 to 1993 except at Texas '91, at Florida and Bama '92 and at Arkansas '93.  The 1991 and 1992 seasons were played under the dark cloud of the Eric Ramsey allegations.  They were the fall of Auburn coach Pat Dye.  He had to step down and Auburn hired young Terry Bowden. 

Let me say first that I do not think much of Terry Bowden now. I think time told the story on Bowden and it was not a good one. He has tried to destroy his legacy at Auburn (and pretty much succeeded) but nothing will take away how awesome and magical the 1993 season was.  He did an incredible job in that one shining season.  I mean it is a story without equal.  A program that had lost its way losing their greatest coach.  A program put under harsh NCAA sanctions of no postseason and NO TV.  It is unthinkable these days but this Auburn team was never seen live on television this season.  You add to that Bama had just won a national championship and it makes it more incredible.

Since I went to every game that season but one I decided to create a giant poster with all the ticket stubs and pictures from all the games. When I finished I kind of wanted to write something to put on it and this is what I wrote...

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WHY I LOVE SPORTS
The 1993 Auburn team started about as low as a team could start. They were shackled with: NCAA probation that prevented them from having anything to play for and being seen by anybody except the spectators, a new coach with no big-time experience, the loss of the greatest coach in Auburn history, a team that had not been ranked in 2 years, a team with supposedly no "talent" like a quarterback who was a "loser", a middle linebacker that was barely 210 pounds, a reciever that was supposed to be all mouth, a secondary that had lost their best player for the season, two senior fullbacks who were washed up, and with defensive and offensive lines that were "below average".

Basically, the same team that had endured two straight seasons of losing, two straight seasons of controversy, and two straight seasons of complete frustration. A team that was picked by almost everyone to have a losing record. And finally a team who's cross-state rival had just won a national championship. But with a new "Attitude" brought in by the new coach and put into action by the players, this team achieved perfection. This team went 11-0, the first Auburn team to ever do it. This "Attitude" was simply about believing in yourself, setting goals, working hard and persevering to achieve those goals, and not worrying about things you can't control.

To accomplish what they did this team prayed before and after every game; they started the season by beating a team that had crushed them the year before; they beat a team in a place where they had not won in over 50 years; they, in maybe their closest game, stopped a team on 4 plays at the goal line; they beat the 4th ranked team in the nation by coming back from 10-0 and 27-14 deficits and finally winning on a last second field goal in one of the greatest games I have ever seen; they won in below freezing weather; and finally pulled out one more mracle to beat their cross-state rival in maybe the biggest game ever played in Alabama.

There were so many reasons this season was special but one of the best was seeing little known and rarely used players step up and make their contribution: a tiny senior defensive end that makes 2 huge sacks against Florida; a little used senior defensive back makes a goal line interception to stop Georgia; a senior cornerback who's career had fallen short of all expectations gets to start due to injuries in the last game of his career against Alabama and makes 8 tackles; and finally a back-up quarterback who comes in (due to an injury) on 4th and 15 down 14-5 against Alabama and throws a 35 yard touchdown pass to bring Auburn back.

But it was also great watching: the quarterback, who had persevered through so much criticism, step up and help lead the team to victory, a bunch of linebackers who were supposed to be a weakness become a strength, a reciever become an all-SEC big time player; a secondary become one of the best in the nation, 2 fullbacks finish their career by contributing so much, the offensive and defensive lines become dominant, and finally an MVP tailback who just would not be stopped. Of course, these were just college kids, just regular people, and they had some luck but what they achieved and how they they did it showed why I love Auburn and I love sports.

Jeff Sallas
Class of 1992
Auburn University

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Game 11 Review: Give Me Liberty...

Auburn 53  Liberty 0.  The famous quote from Patrick Henry rings true for the current Auburn football team as well except with one change: "Give me Liberty AND give me death!".  Auburn got Liberty this week but gets death this coming Saturday in the form of a road trip to Tuscaloosa for a likely beatdown from the Crimson Tide.  The bandwagon masses will then rejoice.  My gosh it is literally the easiest thing in the world to be a Bama fan.  Their are so many pathetic hangers-on that they could fill a million band wagons.  I mean I am not sure how many cars and trucks I have seen with four flags waving and the back of the car plastered in Bama bumper stickers.  I mean come on, is all that really necessary?  Do we really need FOUR flags?  Do we really need SIX bumper stickers?

They will all be in their full glory this week.  They will get Auburn and they will probably win the rest but oh my gosh it will be pretty funny if they do not.  Bama teams have to win everything or they are forgotten as complete losers and if for whatever reason they get upset then Tua-mania will be forgotten and filed away in the trash.  It is sad that Bama was able to sneak in the back door of the college football playoffs again last year after not winning ANYTHING in the regular season and getting beat down by Auburn.  It minimized the fact that Auburn beat Bama bad last season.  All I can say is I would not be as happy with a supposed national championship if I could not even win my own division or beat my biggest rival.

Back to Auburn and Senior Day on the plains...  I am always happy to see these guys have a good day in their final home game.  Kudos to these Auburn seniors who have sacrificed so much for this program through the good and the bad.  On offense, senior Ryan Davis is now the new record holder for most receptions in a career at Auburn.  He was one of the biggest reasons Auburn was able to beat Georgia and Bama last season.  The Tigers will certainly miss Chandler Cox next season.  He had a tough time filling Jay Prosch's shoes early on but really came into his own and has been a big factor in Auburn success running the ball the last four years. 

On defense, I will miss DeShaun Davis.  I know the defense stumbled at times this season but he has been a really good player and I know he has given it his all.  The same goes for linebackers Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson.  Auburn went so many years without good linebackers till these guys came along.  The Tiger defense will also miss Dontavius Russell and Andrew Williams.  These guys have helped hold the line for awhile now at Auburn.  Kudos as well to all the lesser known seniors who have toiled in obscurity and made the team better.  That group of guys in each class make a bigger impact than anybody thinks. 

Auburn will as always have a few leaving early led by defensive tackle Derrick Brown and probably defensive end Marlon Davidson as well.  These guys are beasts and I think they will play on Sundays for awhile.  I am still mystified as to how our defense faltered so badly at times this season.  You look at these guys again and I just do not understand it.  I guess the only other underclassmen that will probably leave early is Jarrett Stidham.  I still believe he is one of the most talented players at quarterback Auburn has ever had but alas he was rendered ineffective this season by a monstrous drop in talent and the predictable Malzahn offense.  I cannot see him going very high in the NFL draft but I cannot see him coming back for another year of this at Auburn.

Any way best of luck to the graduating Auburn seniors and any juniors that leave.  They did have some great times and big wins during their career.  I think the mood next season will be a bit more somber during this game as I believe Auburn will be fighting for a bowl berth in this spot next season against Samford.  I do not know what to say about next week.  It will be horrible, I am really not looking forward to it.  I guess I could do what Bama fans do when they lose and talk about how Georgia (they say Tennessee) is our real rival and the Iron Bowl is not even that important.  However I will not do that.  I will keep it real.  It will hurt and I will admit it unlike Bama fans when Auburn beat them soundly last season.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Game 10 Review: COUNTDOWN

(Author's note: I apologize for the lateness of this post.  I had to coach two teams in a soccer tournament this past weekend, seven games in all.  I then had soccer tryouts this week, busy busy)
 
Georgia 27  Auburn 10.  The countdown has officially begun in my mind.  I predict right here and now that Gus Malzahn will be fired in a little over a year shortly after the 2019 Iron Bowl.  There is unfortunately nothing to do but wait for the inevitable.  It is too late to bring in new coaches, it is too late to start being nice to the fans, it is too late to try and change the offense, etc... IT IS TOO LATE.  It was sad watching this game.  Auburn had enough talent to play a better game but due to poor coaching and preparation for this season the team has gotten worse.  On the flip side, Auburn's talent is noticeably down.  The attrition and poor scouting of the last few classes is evident.
 
I have gone over the problems with Gus Malzahn time and time again.  The problem has been his coaching the past few years but now his recruiting is starting to catch up with him.  Next season I do not see an All-SEC player on the field on offense or defense outside maybe wide receiver which is the position that has the least impact under Malzahn.  I have heard people saying the schedule next season is "more favorable"???  I mean what???  Unless Bama and Georgia are losing a lot more players than I know about I do not think that is true.  Auburn also has to go on the road to places they are not going to win without any All-SEC caliber players.
 
Right off the bat I predict Auburn will lose to Oregon, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia and Bama next season going 6-6 at best in 2019.  Gus Malzahn will then be fired after the Bama game.  I really do not see any way to avoid it unless I am wrong about a lot of players.  I hope I am but I do not think so.  Gus can hire Hugh Freeze and completely revamp the staff but again it is too late.  Malik Willis nor a true freshman star behind this offensive line with these running backs are going to win on the road in those places or at home against Bama or Georgia.  I am sorry people, it is not going to happen and there is not a damn thing we can do about it.
 
Unfortunately I believe we are all just going to have to just grit our teeth and get through it.  It is terrible Auburn is going to have to waste another season especially an odd one where we play Georgia and Bama at home but the writing is on the wall.  A team, even a spunky underdog one, has to have a certain level of talent to win in the Southeastern Conference.  Auburn is not going to reach that level next season on either side of the ball in my opinion.  I guess it is to Malzahn's credit that he did not just go off the cliff like Bowden and Chizik or Tuberville to a certain extent but it also drags things out when he reaches the end.  That is where I believe Auburn football is at.
 
As for this game, it was excruciating to watch.  I always get excited and get those chills when Auburn and Georgia tee it up.  It was my first game as an Auburn fan in 1978 and I think it is the most underrated rivalry in sports at least until the last decade.  The stats prove it.  Unfortunately since Vince Dooley left the sidelines it has slowly sunk into just another hate fest like the Iron Bowl.  Mark Richt accelerated the process and Kirby Smart has put an exclamation point on it.  Georgia's conduct in the last two games has been reprehensible and is an insult to the past integrity and family feel this rivalry had.  It has been played basically back-to-back with Bama for the entire history of the Iron Bowl and it was just as big but completely different but not any more.
 
First Gus kind of mouthed off after we whipped Georgia at home last season but come on that was nothing close to the "Soulja Boy" dance-a-thon in 2007.  However none of that was horrible, it gets bad when it happens on the field like it did in Atlanta last December.  The Georgia defense took numerous cheap shots and intentionally piled on Kerryon Johnson.  There were numerous other personal fouls committed by the Bulldogs as well.  It was ridiculous and completely uncalled for.  I was mad enough at that and then Kirby Smart in a completely classless loser move calls for a fake field goal with three minutes left up 27-10???!!!???  That is just bush league garbage.
 
I cannot believe I saw this garbage in the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry".  That kind of tears it though.  I do not think Auburn should fight for this rivalry if that is what this sacred game has turned into.  The SEC needs to GET RID OF permanent series between the SEC East and West.  NOBODY wants them except for Auburn, Bama, Georgia and Tennessee.  We have this garbage going on between Auburn and Georgia and Tennessee may not beat Bama again in this century.  Lets just END IT and make things fair.  These two rivalries are the reason for the unfair schedules in the SEC.  The conference needs to go to two rotating games with the other division.  That way everyone also gets to play everyone else a lot more.  It is sad but I think it is time.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Game 9 Review: Jumbo Win

Auburn 28  Texas A&M 24.  It does not change my mind or I am guessing many others about Gus Malzahn but a win is a win.  I am happy for the players who have worked their butts off and did not give up.  Something good usually happens if you do not give up and hang in there.  I am happy for the fans who made the trek to watch Auburn's third 11am home game in a row. You could hear the roar of the crowd even down 24-14 trying to fire up the defense.  Also it was not just a win but one of the bigger comebacks in Auburn history.  I think every one had given up the ship with Texas A&M driving into Auburn territory with a ten point lead and eight minutes left in the game.  The bruised Auburn defense and struggling Auburn offense then rose up and made great plays late.

It was just one of those special days for me.  It started for me early this morning at an 8am tennis match.  I got beaten badly 6-1 in the first set but was able to come back and win in a third set tiebreaker.  I then come home and watch the game and again had certainly counted Auburn out but they came back and won too.  The sky is a little bluer, the food tastes a little better and we could all enjoy an Auburn win over a decent team for the first time since Labor Day.  Of course we better enjoy it because it will probably be the last one for this season.  This win saved Malzahn for another year but only a win next week can "change the narrative" which is evidently what Jimbo Fisher was telling his team a win in this game could do according to the announcers on TV.

THE GOOD
Auburn only had 19 RUSHING YARDS FOR THE GAME ON 21 ATTEMPTS.  Read that again.  In a million years I would never think Gus Malzahn or frankly any Auburn coach could win a game with that stat.  Texas A&M had over 200 yards rushing and over 400 yards total.  The A&M offense spent a good deal of the game destroying Auburn's supposed great defense and #5 Trayveon Williams was the best offensive player on the field.  That guy is Darren Sproles reincarnated.  Every time I looked up he was tearing through the Auburn defense again.  He ended with almost 200 total yards and three touchdowns.

Texas A&M was much better than Auburn in nearly every facet of the game except one... turnovers.  You hear a lot about how deadly turnovers can be and you sometimes start to tone it out but today was a good example.  Auburn scored two touchdowns off Aggie turnovers and that was the difference in the game.  Texas A&M had the momentum both times as well but the turnovers changed everything.  Auburn got its first touchdown on a trick play pass from Ryan Davis to Sal Cannella after the Aggies fumbled and Auburn's fourth quarter comeback started after an interception by Noah Igbinoghene.  Freshman Christian Tutt also had a huge punt return on Auburn's last drive.

Jarrett Stidham finally caught fire and receivers Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton were thankfully ready when he did.  The season has obviously been a well-documented disaster for Stidham but today at the end of the game he finally started putting them on the money.  Being a part of a comeback like this is something these guys will always remember as well the rest of us.  Another good thing about this win is getting a little payback for the national championship loss to Florida State.  It certainly does not make things even but helps a little.  This was going to be Jimbo Fisher's first signature win at Texas A&M over one of the top programs in the conference but instead it is a stinging loss.

THE BAD
I could pretty much use the same stat lines from the last section.  It is good that Auburn was able to overcome such horrendous performances but it is really bad that they had to.  Gus Malzahn's offense is still and I guess will always be extremely predictable.  Texas A&M like Tennessee seemed to know every play.  The predictability just makes everything worse and the Auburn offense is pretty bad.  The offensive line is just awful.  Again I know these guys are working hard but man they were bad most of today.  I mean 19 TOTAL YARDS RUSHING???!!!???  Texas A&M had a good defense but not that good.  I mean that is just ridiculous.

They also were not very good in pass protection.  Texas A&M defensive linemen seemed to just run right through the line at times.  The Aggies had 3 sacks and 7 tackles-for-losses.  On top of that, the few times that Stidham had decent protection early there was nobody open.  Auburn only had seven first downs through three quarters.  Again that is just ridiculous after a BYE WEEK, the Texas A&M defense is not that good.  This is also why that while I am happy for team I will give no kudos to Malzahn.  He did not have this team ready to play even with an extra week to prepare and if Texas A&M had not turned the ball over twice this would be a very different post. 

Finally let me put in my weekly complaint about the HORRENDOUS officiating that we see EVERY WEEK in the SEC.  This game was definitely not the worst I have seen but the phantom pass interference call on third down and goal that gave Texas A&M their last touchdown was really bad.  First I did not see any interference and second the ball was clearly uncatchable.  That call could have decided the game.  I will give kudos for the two actual holding calls made on Texas A&M.  Teams have been tackling our defensive line all year.  However the bottom line is SEC football is a MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY.  HIRE FULL-TIME REFS.

THE UGLY
The ugly truth that most people are now seeing and I am now reading on various Auburn sites is that Gus and the boys have not recruited the offensive line very well the last few years.  It has sure been obvious this season and after the joy of the comeback win starts to subside you are left with a team that does not have a good offensive line or any great running backs.  The even worst news is that there do not appear to be any coming next season looking at Auburn's current list of commitments.  Gus may have saved himself this season but next season is looking like a much bigger disaster with this same offense and Auburn's current defensive front seven gone.

This is also compounded by having to listen to another week of this "game of the century" BS about Bama and LSU.  Every year it is the same garbage when LSU has not beaten Bama since 2011 and really have not had many good teams.  I mean yes Bama has an awesome team and has been very good but stop with all the ridiculous hype about this stupid game every stinking year.  The only thing worse is listening to the garbage about the "Third Saturday in October".  Bama has to take everything to a nauseating extreme.  The LSU game cannot be just a big game, their quarterback cannot just be a great quarterback and so on.  Of course after they beat this overrated LSU team it will be worse...

THE LAST WORD.
We now finally come to Amen Corner.  Auburn will first travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs.  Georgia sure looked good today destroying Kentucky and winning the SEC East.  It does not look great for Auburn considering how they played today but the Tigers are in their favorite spot.  Auburn will be a huge underdog that nobody gives a chance and that is where they excel if they have any talent.  This team has some talent but not a lot of coaching.  Auburn usually does not have a chance if it cannot run the ball.  It sure does not look like they will be able to run the ball after today plus Georgia is better than Texas A&M.  It just adds up to a long day in Athens next week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Game 8 Review: Thank goodness for the Mrs...

Auburn 31  Ole Miss 16.  Yes thank goodness for Ole Miss.  They usually are the cure, for at least a week, for what ails Auburn.  That was the case this week as the Tigers were able to get the win in Oxford after the horrendous loss to Tennessee.  I want to be real clear though, nothing has changed.  Gus is still the same coach he was last week, and against Mississippi State and for the last six years.  The simple fact is Auburn just has better football players than Ole Miss.  Now Auburn has better football players than Tennessee and State too but they were a bit closer and I think have better coaches.

This was a typical Malzahn run-based win over a lesser team.  Auburn ran the ball 46 times with Boobie Whitlow gaining 170 yards.  Stidham completed a little over 50% of his passes but the receivers and Whitlow made several good runs after the catch.  ESPN showed a stat during the game that 30% of Auburn's overall passes are screen passes so actually Auburn throws even less downfield than we think.  There was a lot of hubbub during the week about getting freshman speedster Anthony Schwartz the ball more and that added up to three touches.  However Auburn got a much needed win.

It is always better to win than to lose but again nothing has changed.  Gus Malzahn made that real clear after the game with this gem...  "“We were able to run the football, that’s getting back to Auburn football.”  That in a sentence is his problem and Auburn's problem.  I am so sick and tired of hearing this ridiculous notion that you are any less of a team winning championships passing the ball.  It has worked out pretty good for the Patriots and it seems to be working out pretty good across the state.  Again I am not talking about moving to the "Air Raid" offense but I am talking about being balanced.

I have heard it being pointed out that we have passed more in previous weeks, well yeah we have been behind and our run game has been completely stuffed so we have passed more.  However it has actually proven the point as much as games like this against Ole Miss. When Auburn passes a lot it does not look very good.  That is because within this system it is obvious the finer points of the passing game are simply not repped or taught.  People know a well coached passing game when they see it.  Look at Phillip Fulmer's teams at Tennessee with David Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator and the ones with out.  It is a stark difference.  

Look at the current best football team in the world, the Los Angeles Rams.  Their passing game was awful under run-based head coach Jeff Fisher but now they are balanced and have one of the best passing games in football with coach Sean McVay.  Contrary to popular opinion, Auburn has been at it's best being balanced with a good passing game.  The best years under Shug Jordan in the modern era of football were with Pat Sullivan WHO WON THE HEISMAN TROPHY FOR HIS ABILITY TO PASS THE BALL.  We have retired his jersey along with the guy he THREW THE BALL to the most, Terry Beasley.  Terry Beasley was an All-American due to his ABILITY TO CATCH THE FOOTBALL, not block.

Coach Pat Dye won the SEC and the national championship in 1983 with the very run-based Wishbone formation but quarterback Randy Campbell's clutch passing won more than one game against maybe the hardest schedule ever played.  Auburn faltered in 1984 and 1985 even with THE BEST RUNNING BACK EVER without Campbell but recovered to put up the best four years of football in Auburn history from 1986 through 1989 by becoming MORE BALANCED and PASSING THE BALL better.  Again the greatest four years of Auburn football only came about when a run-based coached made the decision to pass more.

The 1993 and 1994 teams had great running backs in James Bostic and Stephen Davis but just as important was quarterback Pat Nix throwing to Thomas Bailey and Frank Sanders.  These were truly balanced teams and Auburn went 20-1-1.  Fast forward to maybe the most talented Auburn team ever in 2003 which went 8-5 because of bad offensive coaching mainly in the passing game.  The same guys came back the next year with a competent offensive coordinator, not a great one but a competent one, who knew how to coach the passing game and you get maybe Auburn's greatest team in 2004.

You can even look to 2010 when Malzahn was offensive coordinator and look at the progression of Cam Newton.  Auburn was able to win a championship because of his growth as a passer.  It has become obvious that Malzahn did not teach him that,  It was some else on that staff, I think Chizik or Trooper Taylor, and they did not allow Malzahn to run the offense totally his way.  Auburn passed way more with Cam than Malzahn would have if he would have been totally in charge.  I said then and I still say now that 2013 was the exception to the rule.  That was a ground-based team that was not balanced but I do not think you will see an exception like that again in our lifetime. 

Also as great as that 2013 team was they lost the national championship game with a 21-3 lead because of the coaching staff's refusal to pass on first down. I think you are understanding my point though and that is you have the be balanced to be your best.  You have to be balanced to win championships throwing out rare exceptions.  This has been proven in Auburn's history and I think you will see the same thing if you study the history of any football team.  You need a good running game and you can be "ground-based" but you need a good competent well-coached passing game too.  

Again look across the state, all I have heard is that this is $aban's best team and maybe the best team ever at Bama.  WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?  The defense is nowhere near as good as other defenses under $aban.  The running backs are not as good the ones from Bama playing in the pros right now.  I certainly do not think this is their best offensive line ever.  All these units are very good but nowhere near Bama's best ever.  THE DIFFERENCE IS A GREAT QUARTERBACK AND A GREAT PASSING GAME.  I mean all you have to do is watch or look at the stats.  The huge difference in this team and any other great team at Bama is the awesome passing game.

Everyone cannot have a Tua or a Peyton Manning or a Jason Campbell every season but a good coach at Auburn should be able to almost always put a competent passing game on the field.  To conclude there is nothing wrong with being balanced and relying on the pass a little more than the run sometimes based on your personnel.  Again see Bama, they are more of a passing team with Tua but were more of a running team with Derrick Henry.  Of course even with Henry they had a competent passing game and that is what Coach Gus Malzahn can not do consistently running his offensive system and that is why I do not enjoy watching it.