The Dirty Dozen – Week 4

By Posted on: September 24th, 2013 in Football 6 Comments »

 

Major Reisman: “Four!”

Team: “Major and Wladislaw go through the door”

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 upcoming game with Auburn. For the teams we’ve already played, I’ll look at how they performed with their remaining opponents in relation to their game against the Tigers.

There were lots of strange games and more troubling tendencies by the teams on Auburn’s schedule. Some did well, but many bad habits continued as the last crumbs of cupcakes were cleaned off the schedule, leaving only the main course for the month of October. SEC conference play begins with a vengeance this week.

Keep in mind the comments are for the OPPOSING team, and only serve as a vehicle for commenting on them, not necessarily our team.

Grading for the games remains as always

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

Surprise Blowout Edition

 Auburn at LSU (18 point favorite) LSU 35 – Auburn 21

RATING: ? – For the first quarter, at least. Only later was it !!!

OFFENSE: LSU did what good teams do – took full advantage of their opponent’s miscues and scored. They were efficient and tough early, but started to show some sluggishness late in the game. One the Auburn defense adjusted, their run game slowed to a halt and Mettenberger’s efficiency began to suffer as LSU found it much more difficult to convert 3rd downs.

DEFENSE: Run stop and LSU’s pass rush were very good and very fast early in the game, but as Auburn started to find run lanes, their defensive line had a much tougher time stopping Auburn’s offense late in the game. Pass defense very speedy and very good. I believe this is the best defense in the SEC.

KEY STAT: +1 turnover margin. Along with the long snapper miscue on the punt, it gave Auburn a two score deficit we were never able to overcome.

COMMENTS: A hard fought game that LSU won due to all phases of their team playing very well. What mistakes they did make weren’t very costly. This is the team to beat in the SEC West. That Auburn came within a couple of breaks of doing precisely that means the ghosts of last season are fast fading and Auburn can enter every other game on the schedule with confidence.

Idaho at Washington State (31 point favorite) WSU 42 – Idaho 0

RATING: ?? – A sad last “Battle of the Palouse”

OFFENSE: Even in the greatest game of his career, Connor Halliday STILL managed to throw two interceptions. Other than that he was exceptional, throwing for 346 yards and four touchdowns. He had such a field day, WSU never bothered to run more than 15 times, eight of which were on fourth quarter drives when the game was well in hand.

DEFENSE: Stout run defense kept the Vandals from doing anything on the ground, and while Idaho kept moving the ball to midfield by short passes, it never amounted to anything and they were shut out cold.

KEY STAT: WSU punted twice in the first eight minutes, then never again in the game.

COMMENTS: Possibly the last of an old rivalry game. These two schools are actually only eight miles from each other across the Washington-Idaho border in a region known as ‘The Palouse.’ This was the only game since the rivalry was suspended in 2007 and no future game are scheduled.

Kind of a sad ending for a rivalry that was started in 1894. The tradition was the losing student body had to walk the eight miles to the winner’s campus the next day in homage to the victory. Just reading about that made me miss the Wreck Tech parades even more.

Arkansas State at Memphis (4 point favorite) Memphis 31 – ASU 7

RATING: ?? – Not even close

OFFENSE: A complete collapse of the Red Wolves offense. After the first quarter nearly ever run was stopped cold at the line of scrimmage by gap-shooting linemen and Kennedy was on the run most of the afternoon, suffering seven sacks and throwing his first interception of the year.

DEFENSE: ASU had no answer for the two tiny Blue Raider running backs (both 5′ 8″ tall and speedy) on inside delays and draw plays. They EACH had 100+ yard games against the defense that previously only Auburn seemed able to run on. Pass defense was inadequate and very little pressure exerted on the Memphis quarterback meant a very long day for the Red Wolves.

KEY STAT: 505 total yards given up to a 1-2 team.

COMMENTS: Absolutely no excuse for this game. Arkansas State linemen seemed to be in full Matador mode, whiffing blocks and showing no spark whatsoever. A very poorly played game.

Troy at Mississippi State (14 point favorite) MSU 62 – Troy 7

RATING: ?? - A start to finish points explosion

OFFENSE: Prescott was impressive – 233 yards passing, 53 yards rushing and even caught a 36-yard touchdown pass. Troy was completely overwhelmed by the MSU offense, and spent the entire game backpedaling.

DEFENSE: Troy’s high-powered spread attack was intercepted for a 70-yard pick-6 and star quarterback Corey Robinson was harried and hurried, passing for just 105 yards. While this doesn’t seem significant, his normal output was nearly three times that in the first three games.

KEY STAT: 17 completions to 12 Trojan receivers. I think Robinson was throwing at water boys by the end.

COMMENTS: Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins earned his pay this week. MSU dominated in every phase of the game and stopped everything Troy could think to do. With a bye this week and LSU at home the week after, October is stacking up to be a very interesting month for the Cowbells.

Ole Miss – BYE

RATING: N/A

OFFENSE: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

KEY STAT: N/A

COMMENTS: Ole Miss had a week off getting ready for Alabama on the 28th. Should be a good show in Tuscaloosa. I fully expect Ole Miss to come loaded for,… for,… well, you know.

Mars Hill at Western Carolina (no line) WCU 32 – Mars Hill 23

RATING: ? – Yeah, I had to look up what Mars Hill was too.

OFFENSE: Despite gaining 500+ yards on Mars Hill, the Catamounts still struggled on third down – going 4 for 14 tries.

DEFENSE: Gave up 165 yards rushing, 158 to a (yet another) 5′ 9″ running back.

KEY STAT: 5000 – That’s the average stadium capacity of the conference Mars Hill normally plays in, with many stadiums in their conference even smaller than that.

COMMENTS: Where does a cupcake find an out-of-conference cupcake to play? Evidently in the South Atlantic Conference.

SMU at Texas A&M (28 point favorite) TAMU 42 – SMU 13

RATING: ? – Another blowout win

OFFENSE: Johnny Manziel and Co. barely even broke a sweat while rolling up 581 yards. Favorite targets were Malcome Kennedy and big Mike Evans, but TAMU had no less than FIVE receivers with gains of 20+ yards.

DEFENSE: Surrendered 434 yards in the game. This means the TAMU defense was only 27 yards better than Montana State against the same team just a week ago. This is NOT a good defense by any stretch of the imagination.

KEY STAT: 1 for 1 for 32 yards. Those were Manziel’s passing stats for the entire second half. After the first drive of the third quarter, he relaxed on the bench for the rest of the game.

COMMENTS: Any team that can contain Manziel or take away TAMU’s deep strike capability will have their way with this team. Until that occurs, Johnny Manziel’s dazzling numbers will continue to distract the media (and BCS voters) from a deeply flawed defense on the other side of the ball.

Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic (5 point favorite) MTU 42 – FAU 35

RATING: !! – An overtime thriller

OFFENSE: FAU would have dominated the game offensively if they hadn’t kept giving the ball away at critical times. 503 total yards and 13-20 on third downs. But every now and then the MTU pass rush would penetrate to cause havoc.

DEFENSE: FAU had difficulty stopping the MTU running backs, but it wasn’t helped at all by some of the short field positions gifted to MTU on turnovers by the offense.

KEY STAT: Five turnovers by FAU; two interceptions and three fumbles (two by quarterback Jaquez Johnson as a result of sacks).

COMMENTS: A very sloppy but exciting game. After getting the tie in the last ten seconds FAU allowed the MTU kick return to get to their own 31 yardline before tackling him. Then Johnson was intercepted again in OT.

Arkansas at Rutgers (no line) Rutgers 28, Arkansas 24

RATING: ! – A very strange game.

OFFENSE: Despite the score, the Hogs never strung more than three first downs together all game. Very spotty performance throughout. One big play per drive, then nothing and a punt. When challenged late, they folded.

DEFENSE: Due to Rutger’s mistakes the cracks in the Arkansas defense took a while to uncover, but once they dropped to a deep zone to support a shaky ten point lead in the fourth quarter, Rutger’s Gary Nova started to find seams and took full advantage, accurately burning Arkansas in twenty yard chunks for two scores.

KEY STAT: Gave up 134 yards passing and 2 TDs in just twelve plays on the two Rutgers fourth quarter drives.

COMMENTS: Despite not really conducting a decent drive until the 3rd quarter, Arkansas found itself ahead 24-7 by virtue of turnovers and miscues. Then the wheels fell off what little offense they did have as Rutgers stopped making mistakes and started converting.

Tennessee at Florida (18 point underdog) Florida 31, UT 17

RATING: ? – A fumble fest

OFFENSE: Despite being gifted three turnovers, Tennessee struggled mightily behind freshman Nathan Peterman, turning the ball over three times themselves. Then they switched back to Justin Worley who turned it over three more times. Add in a meager rushing attack and you have the 2013 Volunteer offense in a nutshell.

DEFENSE: Gave up 10-18 third down conversions to a team using their backup quarterback for the first time. Better run stop but the UT pass defense drills must consist of twenty yards of backpedaling followed by a wave as the receiver passes by them for a touchdown, because that’s what they seem to do best.

KEY STAT: 6 Offensive turnovers by the Vols.

COMMENTS: Hopefully, the Volunteers enjoy the visit by South Alabama next week, because the month of October is ugly. Georgia and South Carolina visit Knoxville followed by road trips to Tuscaloosa and Missouri.

North Texas at Georgia (33 point favorite) UGA 45 – UNT 21

RATING: ? – Special teams made it interesting for a time

OFFENSE: Aaron Murray continues to throw for big yardage – 408 this time. Gurley was close to 100 yards, but an interception in the end zone and some troubling special teams play kept North Texas in the game far longer than they should have been.

DEFENSE: Shut down the run, as expected, but a surprisingly light pass rush and suddenly porous pass defense gave UNT new life time and again. Not until the middle of the third quarter did Georgia wake up and start to play.

KEY STAT: 5 pass plays in excess of 30 yards, one for 98 yards and a TD (longest in school history). Aaron Murray can potentially score from any place on the field.

COMMENTS: It’s somewhat normal for a team to zone out for a quarter against a sub standard team. But Georgia nearly did it for three quarters. I know the LSU game is looming, but still. They’re too good to have this big of a slump.

Colorado State at Alabama (40 point favorite) Alabama 31 – Colorado State 6

RATING: ? – Had trouble until the middle of the fourth quarter with a team that lost to Colorado and Tulsa

OFFENSE: McCarron had the hot hand, 20 for 26 for 258 yards, but he threw an interception that allowed Colorado State to score their first points and couldn’t buy a third down conversion for three quarters (and managed only two in the fourth). Nick Saban is obviously looking for someone, anyone to run the ball other than TJ Yeldon. No less than four other running backs (three of them freshmen) were handed the ball, and couldn’t seem to do anything of note. Other than a 38-yard scamper, Yeldon didn’t either. Running the ball is a BIG problem for this team.

DEFENSE: Those fantastic pass defense stats from the Virginia Tech game are also fast losing their lustre, as VT has had difficulty passing even when blowing out opponents in subsequent weeks. While Alabama’s run defense is stout as ever, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson completed 63% of his throws and moved the ball easier on Alabama than he did against either Tulsa or Colorado.

KEY STAT:  Alabama is averaging only 2.6 yards per carry against teams without a Collie for a mascot for half of September. Played two of the worst games in Alabama history in terms of rushing offense.

COMMENTS: How many times has a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team rush for less than 100 yards twice in the same month? Never. That shiny preseason #1 ranking is looking less and less sustainable as the season progresses. If Alabama can get by Ole Miss (think about that phrase for a second), they have another month-long breather in their schedule (Georgia State, UK, Arky, UT) before facing LSU, MSU and Auburn in November. 

Personally, I think that goal line hit and fumble in the TAMU game soured Saban on TJ Yeldon, but the problem is he lacks another quality back and is stuck scrambling for productive backfield options on offense, and not finding a single one but McCarron. Alabama is in deep, deep trouble if it can’t run the ball consistently. That is what Saban teams have done since he got there, and without that as a fundamental part of the team, the Tide stands to lose several games, possibly as many as four or five (including any bowl game). 

Keep in mind, if no viable running back talent is found this season, that means that there won’t likely be one next year either, and McCarron will graduate. We’ve gotten used to Alabama sporting quality running backs two or three deep in the last few years, but that well of talent seems to have hit a dry spell if the first three games are any indication. 

Don’t expect the great unwashed that are the Bama faithful to accept this sort of thing gracefully, especially if losses start to pile up this year and next. They’ll likely be only one outcome, multiple BCS trophies notwithstanding. If Nick doesn’t fix what’s broken soon, he might want to reconsider that offer from Texas.

Trivia Note: Were it not for Clint Walker’s pique, Donald Sutherland would not have had as successful a Hollywood career as he did in the 1970s. Walker was hesitant about the impersonating the General scene as he felt it was “degrading to his character” of Samson Posey. The director then asked Donald Sutherland to do the scene instead, and his performance led directly to being chosen for his two iconic breakout roles – “Oddball” in Kelly’s Heroes and “Hawkeye Pierce” in M*A*S*H.

The Dirty Dozen was his first ‘big break’ in film and he made the most of it.

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  1. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    WSU continues to look better than projected by most so-called experts.

    I can’t believe Arkansas State let Memphis beat them.

  2. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Good write up again Sully.2.6 yards per carry huh? That Bama stat is one that really surprised me.
    I’m interested in what takes place in Athens this week. Wonder if the dogs will try some hurry up to wear down LSU’s defense. After having to play 85 snaps against Auburn Saturday, they were getting tired. -

  3. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Itll be interesting to watch the Ole Miss vs Bama game. I havent seen either play an entire game this season yet. May McCarron get the stomach bug sat morning!

  4. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    For anyone who saw ‘The Book of Manning’ last night, it was great precursor to the Ole Miss/Bama game this weekend.

    I am not surprised by the consistency of LSU, but I am a little surprised that Bama is not rolling over their cupcake schedule. They’re still getting wins and that’s all those stupid computers really care about……

  5. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    While I love this very inventive and interesting column every week to get an update on how this years opponents are doing, I am old enough (unfortunately) to know that “comparison scores” are only of import for sports talk call in shows, ie they don’t mean anything.

    Good teams will play down to competition because the starters aren’t really challenged for one, and they don’t play for most of the second half for two. Coaches love this because it gives them a chance to hold the players lackadaisical performance over their head in practice the following week and goad them by yelling “YOU AREN’T AS GOOD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE!!”, “YOU PLAY LIKE THAT AGAINST (insert real opponent here) AND YOU GONNA GET YOUR ASSES WHIPPED!!”

    UGA and Bama will turn it on when they need to and should best everyone on their schedule that doesn’t have a Tiger for a mascot.

    Arky may use this loss as a motivator to fix problems that were exposed and turn the season around…or they might not be very good.
    UT is going to struggle regardless of who they play but they can certainly beat anyone that makes more mistankes than they do.

    Ole Miss and A&M are not to be trifled with but are beatable if you can get the QB off his game. Unfortunately that has not been a strong suit at Auburn for several years now. That has to change if we are going to capture an elusive seventh or eighth win.

    As for our Tigers, I am pleasantly surprised with how things have developed so far. The O-Line has progressed much better than I was expecting. We can run the ball even when other teams know that is our strength. Marshall hasn’t been good, but he has been serviceable…which is an big upgrade (unfortunately). Nick seems much more comfortable out of the pocket when not setting up for the deep ball, so I am surprised we don’t see more passing plays where he rolls out and presents the defense with the problem of having to cover him as well as the receivers.

    The D line is showing signs of getting where they need to be. They still aren’t getting enough pressure on the opposing QB though and that is really all that is separating our secondary from being very good. The secondary can’t make up for not having decent LB play but they have done a good job of shutting of the sidelines on intermediate and long pass plays. The middle of the field has been where we have been exposed and Ellis Johnson needs to find a cure there, in a hurry. All the stars, spurs and eagles in the world can’t help you if you can’t defend the middle.

    • sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

      Thank you for commenting and I’m glad you enjoy the column and appreciate your points. It’s been fun to write and I find myself looking forward to watching these teams play from an entirely different perspective.

      However, I feel strongly in something Aristotle wrote “We are what we usually do. Excellence, therefore is not a goal, but a habit.” In light of that, I tend to discount the raw score so much as the base statistics and visual impression from many of these games. In the case of Alabama’s running woes and the TAMU and Tennessee defenses, I just don’t see the basic production, fundamental techniques or quality that should be there on a consistent basis.

      Can a given team have a bad quarter, half or game now and then and still be a powerful opponent for a key game? Absolutely. Likewise a proverbial bottom-dweller statistically can sometimes up and slap the snot out of conference leader, else the term ‘Croomed’ wouldn’t have ever made it into the SEC Lexicon. This is why we watch the games after all, for this exact unknown and exciting drama. Think of it, are your favorite Auburn memories the blowout wins or the haven’t-got-a-chance-come-from-behind-OMG-they-did-it! ones in which the boys threw all the statistics out the window and just played their hearts out?

      But the raw truth is that the good teams execute fundamentals better than poor teams. They block well, tackle well, complete passes, make third down plays and prevent their opponents from doing the same. This is what I’ve tried to keep to on my analysis, which is why I’ve avoided trying to predict overly much. When I have, I attempted to present it as merely a strong possibility if these trends continuing, less of a sure thing.

      What I see from this analysis is that TAMU and Alabama are very vulnerable. Additionally, UT and Arkansas are performing poorly and inconsistent. In some respects we are too, but what I see is that this Auburn team is a lot more competitive in our future games than I anticipated in the preseason.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. Good stuff.