As we get ready for what may be the biggest game of the year, opinions on Auburn’s offense have been more plentiful than a Sunday morning episode of Meet The Press. I don’t know about you, but the season feels eerily similar to last year’s without the painful early season losses.
Nationally, most media pundits have written Auburn off for this Saturday’s contest with LSU. Assuming that most of them are basing this on what happened in Starkville last week, you have to admit it’s hard to fault them.
But students of Auburn football know that Tommy Tuberville coached teams are more complex. How they play one week doesn’t correlate to the next – for better or worse. Saturday’s game with LSU mirrors in a lot of ways how fans felt heading into the Florida contest last season. We all have to admit it: Even the most fervent Auburn supporters had to doubt the Tiger’s chances in The Swamp.
Fast forward to today, and I can find no one who has a feel for what will happen Saturday night – with the exception of Tommy Tuberville. Give the man credit (and let’s do that since today’s his birthday), he believes in the spread offense. Or at least he’s got everyone convinced he does. The only person I can think of more comfortable in their convictions is George W. Bush.
Following Thursday’s practice, Tuberville wasted little time praising the struggling offensive unit. “The offense looked good,” Tuberville said. “The main thing is to keep our concentration and cut back on the penalties. We’ve got to get better on first down. That’s obvious. We’ve got to get in a few more short yardage situations. “It’s been very good this week,” he continued. “Both quarterbacks (Chris Todd and Kodi Burns) have practiced and both have practiced well.”
Stand around Tuberville for a few minutes this week and he’ll have you convinced that USC would struggle against his team. This is one of the secrets to his success in the SEC. While many fans have panicked this week (see comment section), Tuberville has taken the Joe Cool approach.
The question is has it rubbed off on the team? Have they bought into it? History says Tuberville has sold them. One thing that should help the team believe is the return of running back Brad Lester to practice Thursday. For most of the week, it looked like Ben Tate would have to carry the load. Things now appear to have changed.
“Brad Lester went full speed today,” Tuberville said. “He’ll play this week. Getting hit hard for the first time you never know but he said he has no problem. We’re going to leave that up to him. The doctors have cleared him.”
In the end, the contest will likely come down to special teams – it always does in big games. Kicker Wes Byrum had perhaps his worst outing of his career last week. It was a big focal point during Thursday’s practice.
Maybe Tuberville is right. Cut out the mistakes and this offense is pretty good. At least that’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Count me as a believer. Happy Birthday Coach! Now go out and collect that big gift Saturday night.