Major Reisman: “Ten”
Team: “Sawyer and Lever are in the pen”
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.
With so many ranked teams taking their ease this week, you’re bound to see something both surprising and mundane at the same time. Sure enough, SEC teams staked wins to keep the conference races tight both East and West, but no small number of those were by virtue of some surprisingly poor play by their opponents. Auburn, South Carolina, Missouri and Georgia all won over inept to bad play by their opponents in one fashion or another. This coming week will answer some questions, and likely raise some more.
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?
ER = Efficiency Rating (see my Cafe Malzahn article)
This week’s Dirty Dozen after the jump.
It looked a bit strange, but we all knew how this was going to end edition
Auburn (7-1, ER:4) at Arkansas (3-5 ER:-5.5) (9 point favorite) AU 35 – AK 17
RATING: ! – Mixed emotions – like watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new Porsche
OFFENSE: In a departure from the norm, Auburn went vanilla for most of the game, exercising a dominant run game and capitalizing on Arkansas mistakes to a 14-3 lead at halftime. Rhett Lashlee opened up the play calling briefly to drive the length of the field in the third, then launched a quick strike long pass to Sammie Coates, but immediately retreated back to a grinding clock eating run game to secure the win.
DEFENSE: Had difficulty stopping Arkansas’s power run game, but generally denied Brandon Allen any middle to long passing yardage, forcing Arkansas to drive the length of the field on the ground or risk three and outs when trying to pass. Stiffened dramatically in the Red Zone, allowing only two touchdowns in five Hog possessions inside the 20.
KEY STAT: -3 on turnovers
COMMENTS: So much for the talk about Tre Mason not being durable enough for the SEC. A terrific performance, especially yards after contact. While difficult to watch, a SEC road win in Arkansas is nothing to sniff at, as it hasn’t happened since 2007, and this is the second largest margin of victory for Auburn since Arkansas joined the SEC.
Arizona State (5-2) at Washington State (4-4, 12 point underdog) ASU 55 – WSU 21
RATING: ?? – Another WSU meltdown
OFFENSE: WSU has officially abandoned any sort of run game, relying solely on Connor Halliday’s arm to fuel their offense. It isn’t working. In nine first half drives, WSU pitched six three-and-outs, including five straight to start the game. In five second half possessions, two were three-and-out, and one was two-and-out due to an interception. That’s nine of fourteen possessions that never earned a first down.
DEFENSE: While the offensive was going three and out, the Cougars allowed ASU to march down the field at 7 yards a pop and score. They were down 21 points before the offense earned a single first down. ASU’s zone read and option passing was devastatingly efficient and WSU simply could not stop the Sun Devils at all, forcing only a single punt in each half and surrendering over 550 yards for the fifth straight game (and fourth loss).
KEY STAT: 7 designed run plays by WSU for 27 yards. Halliday was 4 for -25 in sacks resulting in a net of 2 yards.
COMMENTS: This loss severely impairs WSU’s chances to appear in thier first bowl game since 2003. They will need to win two of three remaining games against Arizona (5-2), Utah (4-4), and Washington (5-3), only one of which is at home. With no run game and a permissive defense, they’ll likely be multiple touchdown underdogs in each.
Arkansas State (3-4) at South Alabama (3-4) (3 point underdog) AKU 17 – SoA 16
RATING: !! – A very hard fought game
OFFENSE: Kennedy was efficient, but the Red Wolf run was stuffed early and often. A first quarter drive ended in a fumble, squelching the lone visit to the red zone in the first half. Later in the game, Kennedy sparked two key drives for touchdowns as AKU acheived a key conference win.
DEFENSE: Stopped a potent South Alabama passing game, but gave up a number of yards on the ground. Capitalized on a key interception in the third to ignite their offense. Didn’t let the Jaguars outside thier end of the field in the fourth quarter
KEY STAT: Kennedy was 15 of 17 for 136 yards
COMMENTS: A defensive struggle that hinged on whichever team was able to find a weakness in the other. AKU found the short slant and Kennedy was able to keep some key drives alive with his arm.
Mississippi State (3-4 ER.5) at South Carolina (6-2 ER: 1) (12 point underdog) USC 34 – MSU 16
RATING: ?? – A Bulldog nightmare after Halloween
OFFENSE: For the first half of the season, Dak Prescott threw only three interceptions and looked like he was the Bulldog hope for an SEC quality quarterback. He threw three more against the Gamecocks and fumbled the ball twice, directly resulting in 23 points, taking what was a fairly even game otherwise and blowing it up.
DEFENSE: Had difficulty keeping league leading Mike Davis from gashing them, but kept Connor Shaw from completing more than half of his completions. Unfortunately, four of those were touchdowns from within the Red Zone, where the Bulldogs have a nasty habit of letting people score over 95% of the time.
KEY STAT: 5 MSU turnovers
COMMENTS: MSU actually played decently otherwise, racking up nearly 80 more yards than USC, but Prescott’s fumbles and interceptions spelled an end to their bowl hopes this year. With November games against TAMU, Alabama and Ole Miss remaining, Dan Mullen’s team will likely be spending the bowl season on the couch.
UPDATE: I would feel remiss if I did not at least address that Dak Prescott’s mother Peggy Prescott passed away on Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer. There are no words to express my sorrow for this young man, and I have nothing but sympathy for him and his family as they deal with this tragic loss. His obvious courage to suit up and play with such a burden is a fitting tribute to the woman who raised him and bespeaks a very mature and dedicated young man. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dak and the Prescott family.
LSU (7-2 ER: 3) – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Taking a week off before hosting Alabama.
Ole Miss (5-3 ER: 0) – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Waiting for their chance to stir the bitterness in the overflowing cup of woe served to the Arkansas fan base.
Western Carolina (2-7) – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: The Catamounts get an extra week to relish a rare conference win.
UTEP (1-6) at Texas A&M (6-2 ER: 0) (45 point favorite) TAMU 57 – UTEP 7
RATING: ! – Just another ho-hum six touchdown game for Johnny Football
OFFENSE: Incredible as it might seem, this was one of Johnny Football’s worst passing performances of 2013 and except for a 49 yard scamper, one of his worst rushing the ball. Granted, not much was needed against UTEP due to their penchant for turning the ball over, but it’s curious that TAMU punted more in this game than any other all season.
DEFENSE: It’s hard not to look good with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, but TAMU actually seemed to step up on defense and shut down the UTEP offense after a single scoring drive. Nothing they tried seemed to work against a surprisingly adept defensive effort by TAMU.
KEY STAT: 11 receivers caught passes for TAMU
COMMENTS: All the easy games are over, now we’ll see what TAMU is made of with MSU, LSU and Missouri teams looking to improve their bowl chances.
Tulane (6-2) at Florida Atlantic (2-6) (3 point favorite) FAU 34 – TU 17
RATING: !! – A second half redemption for the worst week in FAU football history
OFFENSE: After a shocking 69 yard pick six and down 17-7 at halftime, the Owls settled down to a grinding power run game that scored on five of eight second have possessions, one of those a ball control possession that ended the game.
DEFENSE: Shut down a very good Tulane offense starting in the second quarter. Became a brick wall to the run, and harassed Joe Montana’s son Nick to no end, registering two sacks and three interceptions in a dominating second half.
KEY STAT: Did not allow a Tulane first down for the last 25 minutes of the game
COMMENTS: That must have been one heck of a halftime speech by interim coach Brian Wright. I can’t think of a better in-game bounce back since Joe Cool himself was running the San Francisco 49ers offense back in the 80s. He’re hoping Coach Wright is rewarded with the head coaching job at the end of the season.
Auburn (7-1 ER: 4) at Arkansas (3-5 ER: -5.5) (9 point underdog) AU 35 – AK 17
RATING: ? – If it was difficult for us to watch, it must have been excruciating for the Hogs.
OFFENSE: Very effective running the ball for yardage, yet still below their average. Additionally Arkansas had obviously schemed their offense well in the off week as they sprung just about every trick play possible to grab a first down and keep drives alive. However, in they red zone the either turned it over or stalled.
DEFENSE: Despite their best efforts, simply could not stop the Auburn run game, even when they knew it was coming between the tackles on nearly every play. Burned deep on a go route pass for a touchdown, Auburn first proved it was capable of running up the score in the air at will, and then proceeded to pound it up the middle again, just because they could.
KEY STAT: Three of Mason’s four touchdowns were scored standing up.
COMMENTS: Auburn won without even trying very hard to do so. It was evident that Bielima was pulling out all the stops, and Malzahn was just pounding the ball into the line to secure the win. What else do you do on a business trip other than take care of business?
Tennessee (4-4 ER: -3) at Missouri (7-1 ER:2.5) (10 point underdog) Mizzou 31 – UT 3
RATING: ? – Another Jeckle and Hyde game for Tennessee
OFFENSE: Down to thier third string quarterback, the Volunteers struggled to move the ball on the ground and through the air. When they showed any spark at all, it either ended in a fumble or interception. Could never seem to cross the Mizzou 40 yard line, and had only a single red zone possession which ended on downs. Pitiful.
DEFENSE: While limiting Maty Mauk’s completions otherwise, the Volunteers let him pass for three touchdowns in the red zone, a full quarter of his throws in the game. Tennessee was also unable to stop the Mizzou run game, surrendering over six yards a carry.
KEY STAT: Allowed 334 yards rushing
COMMENTS: Tennessee’s continues to have an up and down season and struggles with consistency from game to game and even quarter to quarter. Their glaring weaknesses (poor passing, susceptible to the run) play to Auburn’s strengths in the coming game.
Florida (4-3 ER:0) at Georgia (4-3 ER:-2) (3 point favorite) UGA 23 – UF 20
RATING: !!! – Still the best drama on TV
OFFENSE: While clearly dominating in the first half, Georgia ran over one of the best defenses in the SEC and Murray was on target and deadly. For most of the second half until the last offensive possession, Georgia fell apart. The line stopped blocking, Gurley stopped running and Murray was harried, sacked for a costly safety and fumbled the ball in the red zone. Only the last ball control drive saved the game for the Bulldogs.
DEFENSE: Handled the inept Florida offense well until put in impossible situations in the third and fourth quarters by the offense. The only real failure was not keying on Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy as a run threat in the red zone and letting him waltz into the end zone to bring the Gators within a score.
KEY STAT: 2 missed field goals by Florida
COMMENTS: The Dawgs escaped from Jacksonville with a victory for the third time in three years. Not convincing by any stretch of the imagination, but a win is a win for the drama-queen of the SEC. It’s not necessarily always good football, but it’s best to keep the popcorn handy when watching Georgia play this year. It never disappoints.
Alabama (8-0 ER: 7)- BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Alabama takes an extra week to prepare for the showdown in Tiger Stadium.
Week 10 Efficiency Ratings show some interesting changes. Kentucky actually won a game against some non-conference opposition in convincing fashion, which shows up as a dramatic improvement. The drop in production by both Missouri and South Carolina after large victories is explained by their relatively poor production, and the relatively ineptitude showed by their opponents. Both of those games were handed to them by Mississippi State and Tennessee. For the same reason, Georgia gained no improvement from beating Florida, but the Gators plunged in efficiency due to their dismal first half play.
One more road trip for the Gus Bus, then back to Auburn for the season’s two biggest rivalry games. We’ll need to put on war paint from now on.
Trivia Note: Truth is sometimes stranger than even Hollywood fiction. Above is a member of the ‘Filthy Thirteen’ in full regalia prior to a mission in occupied France. The leader of the unit was actually an acting Sergeant James Elbert “Jake” McNiece, whose mother was part Choctaw and the inspiration for the unit’s habit of donning warpaint and sporting mohawks throughout the war.
Jake McNiece passed away on January 21, 2013 at age 93, as the last member of the unit. He earned four Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts during the war. His obituary is here, it’s quite a read.
“We never washed a piece of clothing. We never shined any shoes or boots, and we didn’t salute officers. We didn’t go for any of that malarky, you know?…I was the biggest goof off the Army ever saw.”
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