The Dirty Dozen – Week 1

By Posted on: September 2nd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 1 Comment »

Adjusting our expectations of our future lineup

Major Reisman: “One”

Team: “Down to the roadblock, we’ve just begun”

The Dirty Dozen looks at the games that Auburn’s opponents play throughout the season, highlighting points of interest, tendencies and potential issues for their remaining season and their future game against Auburn.

ad·just·ment - n, plural: adjustments - A small alteration or movement made to achieve a desired fit, appearance, or result.

The difference between the SEC and other conferences is environmental. An organism must adapt to changing conditions, often rapidly in order to survive. Five separate conference teams showed that this week as they took either close or tied games into the locker room and emerged with entirely different game plans to play in the second half. Two of those teams even waited until the fourth quarter, but the results were the same. The teams that played late bore little resemblance to what they looked like in the first half, usually on one but sometimes even on both sides of the ball.

John Chavis, Ellis Johnson, Jeremy Pruitt, Kirby Smart and to a lesser extent Dave Wommack (due to the fact the Ole Miss looked worse for longer than any other) all taught a class on defensive adjustments that should be required knowledge for all defensive coaching staffs in the country. Rhett Lashlee and Jake Spavital taught entire graduate level programs in a single evening, but Dan Werner, Cam Cameron and Mike Bobo also displayed why the SEC is the best in the nation. It’s not just the talent level of the athletes. It is also the wealth of coaching talent at all levels that make this conference the epitome of excellence.

It’s the difference between relaxing on a green sward on a pleasant breezy day by a babbling brook with wildlife no more dangerous than a gopher or a garter snake to deal with, and surviving in a steamy southern swamp with assorted tigers, gators, bears and various junkyard dogs all chasing you. It takes an entirely different set of skills to succeed in such a place.

Just ask Bret Beliema.

If you’ve been following this series, you know how this works. But if you’re seeing this for the first time I give a rating for each game based on the table below. I’ll also conduct an analysis of that team’s Efficiency Rating as the season progresses and present to you my comments about last week’s games:

!!! – Best game of the week
!! – Surprisingly good
! – Average to good
? – Why did I watch this?
?? – Who would watch this?
??? – What the hell is this?

ER = Efficiency Rating (see my Cafe Malzahn updated numbers) continue reading

Daniel Carlson Named SEC Freshman of the Week

By Posted on: September 1st, 2014 in Football 3 Comments »
photo: John Reed, USA TODAY

photo: John Reed, USA TODAY

When Auburn senior kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark moved on to the NFL, the kicking game for 2014 became a big question. Not any more as Daniel Carson was named today as the SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance in Auburn’s 45-21 win over Arkansas.

The Redshirt Freshman did triple duty handling kick offs, field goals, and punting. He was recognized by the SEC Office for being perfect in all six extra point attempts, kicking a 45 yard field goal, averaging 53.3 yards per punt (including hitting a 62-yarder), and having seven of his eight kickoffs downed for touchbacks.

Daniel is the first punter or kicker at Auburn to ever be named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week. After one game it’s apparent the Tigers’ kicking and punting are in good hands with Carlson.

Ramblings of a College Football Junkie!

By Posted on: September 1st, 2014 in Football 23 Comments »
W Carolina Auburn Football

                                                                                                                        (photo:Auburn media)

What did we learn after the opening weekend of college football?

After watching many, many games this weekend, like a junkie trying to get back on top of an illicit drug, I came to a couple of significant conclusions:

1)   The SEC Network:

Is it just me, or did watching this channel seem like the “I love bama” channel? And these commentator’s, is this the best this multi-million $ network can do?  “Booger”.  Really? Come on ESPN!  With the best college football being in the SEC… “Booger” is all we get? Wow.  I say “flick it!” In my humble opinion this isn’t going to cut it. I don’t know if I can watch Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow, and Paul Finebaum meander around all season. Tim sounded like an adolescent boy right before his voice dropped and McElroy looks like a teenage Ope. They are about as entertaining as watching Jell-o jell. McElroy can’t say a word that I don’t question. Every time the camera pans to him I keep hearing that he never lost. And then see T-Bell knocking him senseless. Who came up with this roster in terms of commentary? And since I am on a tear on ESPN, OMG, do we not get replays anymore? Can’t we afford them? To me, this network is only a little bit better than Jefferson Pilot. I give it a “C-“.

2)   The pre-season polls:  

They may be right… but I can’t stress this enough, I think we have some over-rated teams in the top ten. I know it’s early, and there is plenty of football to be played… but seriously. Some teams will be able to make corrections and grow into being and earning their position in the poll. But some won’t. It’s a cheap observation I know, but it’s true. Give them a really tough opponent and some of these teams will drop like a rock. Other’s teams are clearly under-rated. There is no doubt in my mind that with any luck some of them will be in the final four. One thing is for sure… there are some interesting stories here in the making this season.

3)   Was Oklahoma State and West Virginia that good?
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Tigers Rain on the Razorbacks! (with unit grades.)

By Posted on: August 31st, 2014 in Football 32 Comments »
Trovon yankdown

Trovon Reed yanks down a Razorback!
(A. P. photo by Butch Dill.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 45-21 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in rain-soaked Jordan-Hare Stadium. Arkansas hung around for a half, with a dominating offensive performance and a 21-all halftime tie. Auburn slammed the door in the second half, allowing just 2 rushing yards in the final 2 quarters, and 3 first downs. Quarterback Nick Marshall returned from a half-game suspension, and the Auburn offense immediately resembled last season’s ground-chewing monster attack.

     The story of this game in the first half was the huge Arkansas offensive line and athletic plays by speedy tight ends. Arkansas was letting Auburn defensive linemen through gaps, then hammering them from behind with tight ends, as shifty running backs blazed through the vacated hole. And since the offensive linemen weren’t blocking Auburn linemen, they were able to get to the second level and take on linebackers and safeties. Arkansas broke off a number of big runs. Quarterback Brandon Allen was also able to run effective play-action passes off this look. In the first half, Auburn was unable to handle tight end option routes.

     Much like last season’s defenses, Ellis Johnson turned up the heat in the second half with man coverage, and linebacker and secondary blitzes. While Arkansas continued to trap linemen, there were just too many defenders swarming to the ball in the final quarters. And with Robensen Therezie frequently in the game, those tight ends stopped getting open. Therezie was only credited with 2 tackles, but his presence totally altered what Brandon Allen could do through the air. In the second half, Allen had just 54 passing yards.

     Jeremy Johnson got his first SEC start in this one, and he was razor-sharp early on, hitting his first 8 passes. However, Auburn’s rushing attack wasn’t what it was late last season, and Auburn was stoned on 3rd and short a couple of times, which allowed Arkansas to recover from a 21-7 deficit. Arkansas was able to ignore the quarterback run threat, clog the middle and take away the jet sweep. The Razorbacks did this by committing all 3 linebackers to the run, and bring secondary help up on the play side. This allowed Auburn to throw slant passes all day with lots of green empty space in the middle of the field. The Tigers threw only 22 times, but had 16 completions that ate up 293 yards. In the second half, Auburn threw just 6 balls, as the running game took off. Even committing 8 defenders against the run, it wasn’t enough with Nick Marshall in the game. The Tigers finished with 302 rushing yards, and 595 total.

     Before the season, I was concerned about Auburn’s special teams, with new faces kicking and punting. I needn’t have worried. Daniel Carlson showed a powerful leg in this one, hammering every kick for a touchback, and uncorking monster punts as good as any Jordan-Hare Stadium has seen over the past few decades. Quan Bray looked dangerous returning punts, and the punt coverage was solid, even having to handle long punts.

Unit Grades after the jump!
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Smoke the Hogs!

By Posted on: August 30th, 2014 in Football 441 Comments »
Razorback thread

Razorbacks try to circle the wagons before the slaughter.
Auburn vs. Arkansas, Open Thread.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Today marks the 2014 season opener for the Auburn Tigers! Today, the Tigers take on the Arkansas Razorbacks, at 3:00 PM Central Time on the brand-spanking-new SEC Network. (channel 811 on my Charter dial, check your local listings.) For Auburn, expected to contend for the SEC Title once again, this is a must-win game. Arkansas comes in riding a 12-game SEC losing streak, and desperately hopes to turn around its fortunes.

     We’ve been waiting for another slack-jawed, arrogant outburst from Razorback coach Bret Bielema this week, but he’s been a bit more circumspect than in the past. Bielema seems confident, and expects to beat the Tigers. Meanwhile, Auburn coach Gus Malzhan has been steady as they come, and likely has a plan for everything that might happen.

     There was one late-breaking bit of news yesterday evening that is a boon to the team. Last year’s defensive MVP Robensen Therezie has been cleared to play, and will give the Tigers some badly needed depth at the Star position. While Therezie hasn’t had many reps in practice, he started all 14 regular season games last season, and played nearly every meaningful defensive snap. He may not play a lot today, but his availability is a great thing for the team to have.

     A couple of weeks ago, we were bemoaning the likely heat-stroke August afternoon weather. The forecast now is for mostly cloudy skies, and a 50/50 chance of thunderstorms. It won’t rain all game long, but a downpour is possible at any time. The sun could also break through, so bring both your poncho and the sunblock.

     As always, feel free to participate in this thread. We’ll be in during the day at times, and at the keyboard for a live play by play. This is it, folks! The SEC season-opener! If Auburn is to contend for titles this season, Arkansas must be beaten. Go, Tigers! Smash those Razorbacks!

College Football TV Viewing Guide for Labor Day Weekend

By Posted on: August 29th, 2014 in Football, News 1 Comment »

                    Which Auburn quarterback will get the most snaps Saturday against Arkansas?

Week one of the 2014 college football season began Thursday night and continues through Labor Day on Monday. Saturday the Auburn Tigers face SEC West opponent the Arkansas Razorbacks at 3 CT in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The big question on everyone’s mind is how much will Jeremy Johnson and Nick  Marshall split time at quarterback. Coach Malzahn said this week that both he and the team have full confidence in Johnson but both he and Marshall will play. Malzahn said he has a plan and that everyone will just have to see how  it plays out.

We have listed below the broadcast schedule for all games for Saturday through Monday for your College Football viewing guide. Game times are Central Standard and all SEC games as well as those involving top 25 teams are underlined.

Games on ESPN/ABC can be viewed by clicking here and games on ESPN3 can be viewed by clicking on this link.

Acid Reign will be back with his play by play during our Open Thread of the game. So be sure to check back here and join him in discussion of the game as it unfolds.

War Eagle and Beat the Hogs!

Saturday August 30
7:30 a.m.
Penn State vs. UCF – ESPN
11 a.m.
No. 5 Ohio State at Navy – CBS Sports Network
No. 7 UCLA at Virginia – ESPN
Delaware at Pittsburgh – ESPN 3
Appalachian State at Michigan – ESPN 2
North Dakota State at Iowa State – Fox Sports1
Indiana State at Indiana – Espn NEWS
Northern Iowa at Iowa – Big 10 Network
Western Michigan at Purdue EspnU
Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky – SEC Network

See the rest of the schedule after the jump
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More than a game…

By Posted on: August 29th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 7 Comments »

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 3.39.43 AMBorn into a household with a recent high school graduate for a mother, I was lacking a father for the first four years of my life. Luckily for me though, my grandfather, “Big Daddy” (as pegged by my cousin), was the missing piece to the puzzle. Acting as the primary father figure in my tyke days, the bond we shared was immediately sparked. The key to the flame? Auburn football.

Ever since my first trip to the Plains at a mere age of three months, I was drawn in for life. The soaring of the eagle, the dense amounts of burnt orange spanning across Jordan-Hare, and the roarous cheers from the student section all shaped the early stages of my Auburn obsession… but I’m leaving out the most important part. Sitting way up in section 62, I had the closest thing to a father sitting by my side, each and every week. Shaking and shouting for our defense to wrap up and tackle, I could tell that this so called “game” was a way of life down here in the south — a religion.

A new season was lingering upon us – 2006. I was nine years old at the time when the nuke was dropped directly upon my heart. “Big Daddy’s not going to be well for a while. He has cancer.” My mother’s words from that cool spring day still ring clearly through my ears. Confusion, ignorance, and slight bitterness jumbled to form the question, “So, what about the Auburn games?” My mother was floored by how “selfish” I was acting, and she immediately reprimanded me by my response. But what she didn’t realize was that it was a complete misunderstanding.

My intentions were nowhere near selfish, as I knew in my heart and mind that the weekends my grandfather and I shared were the best parts of each other’s weeks, and now my mom was telling me that they may never happen again. No more Auburn games, no more moments together in Jordan-Hare, no more Big Daddy. I remember having a pretty tough cry after the ride home, as I finally processed and made sense of the news. Even at the age of nine, I understood that the days with my college football buddy could very well be numbered.

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Random Thoughts on Opening Day, 2014!

By Posted on: August 28th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 12 Comments »
Razorbacks in town

It’s nearly time to BBQ some Hog!
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! College football begins tonight, and I think everyone is READY! It has been a long haul since A-Day way back in April, and I can’t wait till 3:00 Saturday afternoon, when Auburn kicks off against Arkansas in Jordan Hare Stadium. I know that I owe readers one final opponent preview: the Iron Bowl. I’m playing the “real-life busy” card here, and also I’m hedging against a lot of uncertainty about changes at Alabama this year. I’ll try to get an Iron Bowl preview done in the near future. Without further adieu, here are a few random college football thoughts.

     Speaking of the Iron Bowl, one common thread I’ve heard this summer is that Bama’s chances of playing for a title are diminished by having a first-year starter at quarterback. Evidently, those folks haven’t been paying attention the past five seasons. In 2009, Bama won the BCS title with a first-year starter, Greg McElroy. In 2011, the same thing happened with A. J. McCarron. Bama may not win a title this season, but Saban history says that it won’t be a quarterback issue. If Bama’s going to have problems, it’s going to be with a green secondary and new starters on the O-line.

     I’m amazed at the confidence level in the Auburn Tigers this fall, both within the community, and nationwide. This team lost its best pass rusher, has three new starters in the secondary, replaces both kicking legs, lost a left tackle to the NFL, lost a Heisman finalist running back, and the starting quarterback and top corner won’t start due to pot busts. And yet, Auburn opens as a 21-point favorite against an SEC squad in the season opener! Has Auburn reached an elite level? Or is this 1985 all over again? (In 1985, highly-touted Auburn went up to Knoxville, took a 38-20 loss, and limped to an 8-4 finish. Bo won the Heisman, but two coordinators got the axe at the end of that season…)

     There are some folks in this world that all you have to do is give them an audience, and they’ll hang themselves. Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema falls into that category. He’s embarrassed his employers at Arkansas repeatedly in the press these past few months, but he couldn’t resist one more barb this week:

     “We know who is lining up, we don’t have any suspensions, we don’t have anything hanging over us in a cloud of doubt,” remarked Bielema. “We’ve just got our guys lined up playing good football, which we like.”

     I just shake my head at a 3-9 coach talking smack. My guess is that he’ll whine about something he’s unhappy about regarding Auburn, after he takes his thrashing Saturday. What a sad, sad man. On my vacation a couple of weeks ago at Ft. Walton beach, there was a big tailgate ten full of Arkansas folk there. I tend to just do my thing with the sandcastles, but several of them saw my Auburn mug full of coffee, and walked up to chat. To a person, they were apologetic about what their coach had said the past few months. My guess is that Bielema is on a short leash, this season.

More Auburn-centric observations, after the jump!

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