Last week this time we thought Saturday’s Iron Bowl would only matter to Alabama residents; then came the most unlikely college football weekend in memory. Oklahoma State: Gone. Oregon: Gone. Oklahoma: Gone. Suddenly, Auburn has again been thrust into the national spotlight.
Only the Tigers stand in the way of a BCS championship game appearance by Alabama. The question this week is whether we’ll see a performance from Auburn like 2008 or 2009. If this past Saturday is any indication, it should make for a long afternoon. But we know this game is rarely that cut and dry.
With ESPN’s College GameDay in town and a raucous Auburn crowd expected, anything’s possible when all the pressure is squarely on Alabama. The Tide has come to Jordan-Hare Stadium twice before in similar circumstances.
In 1989, Alabama was cut down by an orange-and-blue buzz saw in its first visit to the Plains. The second-ranked Tide only needed a win over Auburn to play for the title. They lost that day 30-20.
Two years ago, behind the creative play calling of Gus Malzahn, Auburn nearly ambushed the eventual national champions, losing in the final seconds.
Does Malzahn have a thick enough playbook to make up for the lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball? Is there anything the Auburn defense can do to stop Trent Richardson? It’s hard to see a way on this Monday.
You’ve heard the old saying that a team is always getting better or worse, but never staying the same. I’m not sure this group falls in the first category. I hope I’m wrong.
This past Saturday’s game with Samford may go down as the most boring in Auburn history. The Auburn players seemed only slightly more interested in being there than the fans in attendance. The loudest cheer came in pregame for Pat Sullivan.
Even with the game seemingly close in the third quarter, neither players nor fans appeared overly concerned. Coming off the Georgia beating, you would think Auburn would be out to prove something, even against Samford. I guess not.
Then again, look at the performances by Alabama, Florida and South Carolina against Southern Conference opponents on Saturday. All were sleepwalking through the afternoon.
I got the feeling there were as many fans in attendance to witness the pregame presentation honoring Pat Sullivan as there was for the game. Speaking of Sullivan, the ceremony honoring him was classy and past due. A tip of the hat to the Auburn team for raising their helmets high in the air as Sullivan was honored. Having both squads on the field for the presentation was special.
In case you missed it, ESPN GameDay personality Lee Corso let the F-Bomb fly during Saturday’s live broadcast. He uttered the words during the closing segment of the show. It just came out. The best part was seeing Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit react. Funny stuff.
During the heydays of Florida and Tennessee, the SEC West was an afterthought. Who could have dreamed what was around the corner. The top three ranked teams in America now reside in the SEC West. A fourth team is the defending national champion. And then there are the Mississippi programs. How would you like to be them today?
Has a play-by-play announcer ever had a better weekend of calling football than ESPN’s Joe Tessitore? He called both Oklahoma upsets. On Friday, he was in Ames, Iowa for the Cyclones win over Oklahoma State; and on Saturday, called Baylor’s upset of the Sooners. I wonder if CBS would be interested in hiring him for Saturday’s Iron Bowl?
Anyone who says they have a clue where Auburn will go bowling is lying. The Tigers have been linked to the Gator, Chick-Fil-A, Music City and Cotton bowls to name just a few. A win by Georgia in the SEC Championship game could throw everything up in the air. My vote: Let’s go back to Atlanta. The Chick-Fil-A is the best small bowl in America.
My gut tells me that both Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof will be gone at season’s end. Malzahn’s departure will be by choice. Roof’s not so much. Another assistant who needs to get his act together is Trooper Taylor. While he gets an A+ on the recruiting trail, his receivers have underachieved all season.
There are rumors floating around that offensive line coach Jeff Grimes may leave at the end of the season. Some believe he will follow Malzahn. Should Malzahn land the North Carolina job, you can bet safeties coach Tommy Thigpen will go with him. Thigpen is a former Tar Heels player and assistant coach.