Good afternoon all. I have been too busy for my weekly write up until this point, but I have a lot that I want to say about the LSU game.
I would like to say that I just read wde1988′s column entitled “For Your Consideration…”, and I tend to agree with a lot of what he says. As long as I’ve been on this site, there are quite a few people on here that tend to be, for lack of a better euphemism, have too much sunshine up their butt. Make no mistake about it, I am very hopeful for the future and believe that we have made quite a few strides already, but I also accept the reality that we have a LONG way to go, much further than most people on here believe.
Like wde1988, I say this simply because I am well aware of the expectations of most people here, and I find most of them quite unrealistic and some as downright ridiculous. Just before the LSU game I read double digit numbers of supremely homer-esque predictions of us beating the number 6 team in the country, on the road, in bad weather, a year after we won a grand total of 3 games. If that isn’t ridiculous, I don’t know what is.
Here is the reality: We have 3 wins. There are 2 OOC cupcake games left, which should equal 2 wins. Of the SEC games, we SHOULD win at least 1 game out of Arkansas and Tennessee. As far as ranked teams, Ole Miss should win, and Georgia, A&M, and the Turds should beat us handily. That puts us at 6 wins, which is pretty much exactly what I predicted last year. We could conceivably win both TN and AR games, which puts us at 7, and if by some kind of miracle we happen to beat 1 of Ole Miss, Georgia, Bama, or A&M, that puts us at 8 wins. What are our realistic chances? Honest to God, I think our best chance of a win of those 4 games is Ole Miss or Alabama. Our defense will get decimated by JFF and there is no way in hell that Jake Holland or any of our LB corps will be able to tackle Todd Gurley. Ole Miss though, is ‘new money’ as far as being a good team, and Bammer looks VERY vulnerable. There are more than a few holes in their vaunted defense, and we all know that Nick Saban’s kryptonite is a hurry-up offense, (reference his whining and crying in the offseason about LOL-player safety-LOL).
The real reason Nick Saban hates hurry up offenses is because his entire defensive philosophy is based on packages. He has different player packages for every single down and yardage situation, and is constantly switching between the two. With a hurry up offense, he can’t do that, and it kills him. This is perhaps the greatest weapon we have against the turds, and the reason I think of those 4 teams, with the exception of Ole Miss, they are the ones we have the best chance to beat.
However, there is an unfortunate reality that most people on here refuse to accept at this time: We just simply aren’t that good.
The coaching staff is fine, and progress is being made. I’m not calling for any heads, and am not ranting and raving like I was last year. Malzhan is not the incompetent that Chizik was. I also find it amusing that the SAME thing that happened to us last year has been happening at Texas the last 2 or 3 years. Guess who Gene Chizik’s coaching mentor was? If you said Mack Brown, you win the prize. They both are very poor head coaches who won a BCSNC the exact same way: with a once in a generation super-athlete quarterback. If we had given Chizik another year, we’d just like Texas right now. However, we made the tough choice that needed to be made, and now we have hope.
Despite all the positivity, we do have problems, both in coaching and in execution. Some questions have to be asked.
Is Nick Marshall REALLY our best option at quarterback?
Marshall, unfortunately, just isn’t very good. We are seeing now why he was recruited as a DB and NOT as a QB. He shows flashes of brilliance, but most of the time he just isn’t that good at all. He misses wide open receivers and makes bad decisions throwing considerably more than he should. Where he seems to be best is in the 2 minute offense, but even then he still makes big mistakes. It’s painfully obvious that Malzhan doesn’t really trust him yet, and the playcalling during every game to this point proves it. I don’t seem to see much progression of that trust either. Malzhan is giving him little to no freedom in this area, and that is not good, because it defeats the entire purpose of the ‘hurry up’ offense. Also, it limits Malzhan because it allows teams to stack up against the run, not really believing that Marshall is a threat throwing the ball. Until we get better at the QB position, we will NOT be good enough to compete with an elite SEC team.
Why are our LB’s so bad?
With the exception of Kris Frost, our LB’s are terrible. Our ‘best’ LB Jake Holland, tackles like my grandmother. The middle of the field is wide open every game, and we are seemingly unable to stop a good running game. Until we can recruit a few more Kris Frosts, our defense will always have a HUGE hole in it. This does not bode well for playing ANY SEC team, much less a good one.
What is up with the playcalling?
I have not liked the playcalling very much this year. As I said earlier, some of this can be attributed to lack of trust in the new QB and the offensive personnel. However, with Gus Malzhan as our head coach, I have noticed a few things about him that I haven’t liked that much. For one thing, he seems to be a REALLY BAD micromanager when it comes to the offense. He won’t trust his QB, he won’t trust Rhett Lashlee to call the plays, and he is generally playing Chicken Ball, (ref. last week’s ranting). At some point, Gus is going to have to grow a pair and take some chances, whether Marshall is that good or not. He will NEVER beat a good team in the SEC coaching the way he does now. Another big problem I have with Gus is his penchant to move away from what’s working. During the LSU game, if he had kept giving the ball to Tre Mason, he would have had 200 yards. But every time Mason showed some success, he’d pull him and try something else. It’s like he was afraid to keep pushing success.
As I said last week, football is NOT a game you can play scared, or especially coach scared. Right now, Malzhan is coaching scared. He’s coaching NOT TO LOSE, rather than to WIN. As long as he’s doing this, we’ll never be good. I’d rather see us lose 70-0 while leaving it all out on the field than see us lose 35-21 playing scared. That kind of stuff starts at the top, with the head coach. These players are kids, and they have to screw up to learn. Gus has a free pass this year, and possibly next year as well. He should be using this time to teach these kids to be fearless.
Why in the hell is Kiehl Frazier running the Wildcat? For that matter why do we even run the stupid thing?
News flash coaches, the Wildcat DOESN’T FRICKING WORK. It hasn’t for years. The only reason it worked for a while is because it was new and defensive coaches didn’t know what to expect. Now, it’s been seen. Whenever a team lines up in the Wildcat, all defenses do is say ‘OK, here comes a run, stack the box.’ The Wildcat might work if there was a genuine threat to throw and it forced teams to account for it, but no coach in the country seems to have the stones to try it, including Gus. Just get rid of it for God’s sake. Stop trying it. It’s stupid.
Of course, these are the negatives. There are MANY positives this year, too. This is the difference between this year and last year. This year I have hope, and I see things that make me really look forward to the future. Things like the following:
Our secondary is so much better than last year it makes me weep with joy. I see a bright future there, and us having some shutdown corners. Our safeties are smarter and better tacklers then I have seen in a while at that position.
Our DL, while not being dominating, is doing a decent to good job and will only get better.
Our OL is the same as the DL. They aren’t dominating anybody, but they are looking quite adequate and even good at times. They, too, will ONLY get better. The future looks bright.
We are returning to the mantra of ‘running back U”. All our RB’s look like they could play at the next level. While some are still young and have problems, overall as a group they look GREAT, and in a year or two they will be dominating the SEC.
I am quickly developing a man-crush on Ricardo Louis. He is big, fast, has good hands, and plays with no fear. This guy has the makings of an ELITE receiver. Him, along with Sammie Coates, give our QB’s some great options to throw to.
I have written this as an addition to wde1988′s opinion. It is perhaps a little more positive than him, but it’s what I think. We are NOT a good team now. We will NOT win 8 games this year. We will more than likely win 6 or 7 and go to a lower end bowl, which is about what I expected. Until we get a franchise QB and fix the LB position, we will NOT be a good team. But……it is coming. It’s going to take a couple of years, but if things continue on this pace, we’re going to be good. Despite the fact that we lost to LSU, and were mostly completely outclassed, the team didn’t quit. They spotted LSU 14 points in the first 5 minutes due to a couple of bigtime screwups, and never stopped playing. Last year, that would have been a 50-0 blowout. This year it was a 14 point loss, where at times it felt like Auburn was just on the verge of clawing back and making the #6 team in the country sweat. This is a BIG step from last year. As I wrote many times before we started the season, Gene Chizik left one hell of a mess, and it’s going to take time to clean it up. But…..this team is in the right place mentally. That is the first and most important step. These kids believe they can win any game. That is a credit to the coaching staff, and is perhaps the most important aspect to becoming a good football team.
In one week we have Ole Miss. They are better than us. They are ranked. They SHOULD beat us. I haven’t mentioned them to this point because I wanted to save it for last. They are a good team, but they are vulnerable. This is a classic trap game for them, because the following week they have the Aggies at home. On top of that, they aren’t THAT good. They aren’t LSU, and against LSU, we were competitive. Should we beat Ole Miss? On paper, nope. They are a better team. But, we have 2 weeks to prepare. We are at home. They have a big game the following week. We are confident. We are improving every week. As of now, I am putting Ole Miss on upset alert. If they don’t show up ready to play, Auburn will beat them.
We aren’t the doormat we were last year, boys. You’d better be ready.