All’s Quiet on the Western Division Front
As far as Auburn-LSU weeks go, this one has been a snoozer. There’s been little build up outside of the obligatory stories written by in-state media members. I’ve yet to hear one corndog joke. References to Auburn’s agricultural history have hardly been mentioned by our French-American friends from Bayou Country. What’s happening here?
Even ESPN is unmoved by what’s arguably the most exciting rivalry in the SEC. They’ve chosen to carry Florida vs. Miss State over the battle in Baton Rouge – relegating the annual game between Tigers to ESPN 2. Now that’s embarrassing.
Fans from both schools are equally apathetic. Traditionally at Track’em Tigers.com this week each year is one of the most vocal in terms of fans from both schools getting together and trading insults with each other. Not this year. Both fan groups seem to have little energy for what is still a big game with huge ramifications for both programs.
That’s too bad.
Judging from this week, it’s hard to believe Auburn heads to Purple Tiger Country toting a 5-2 record while the Bengals sit 5-1 and ranked in the top 10. For numerous reasons both fanbases have their heads down despite somewhat impressive records.
LSU still controls its own destiny and should be counting its blessings. This is quite possibly the worst performing 5-1 team in college football over the past 10 years. In reality, the school that James Carville made famous should be staring down the barrel of a 2-4 season.
After a near upset in Seattle to open the season, Les Miles and company followed the performance up with Houdini like wins over Miss State and Georgia. Talking to several LSU fans this week, they all seem convinced LSU will blow it Saturday night. Let’s hope their pessimism is contagious.
For Auburn, consecutive losses have brought back nightmares of last season. Gus Malzahn’s offense is looking more like Tony Franklin’s by the week. The month of September has been hidden away like a crazy relative at Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa. Things got so bad this week that Auburn coach Gene Chizik felt the need to remind fans of Auburn’s early season success. “We’re 5-2,” he said. “We’re not 2-5.”
Things got worse for Auburn yesterday, when backup sophomore cornerback Harry Adams was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons. You have to figure if running back Eric Smith can assault someone in a parking lot and be back on the team in a matter of days, then whatever Adams did had to be bad. Regardless of the reasons, his loss has massive ramifications for a defense that’s holding on by a string.
The depth in the defensive secondary has gone from thin to non-existent. Auburn will now have to depend on sophomore D’Antoine Hood and redshirt freshman T’Sharvan Bell along with JUCO sophomore Demond Washington to provide depth where needed. This is not an ideal situation to be in when you are set to face arguably the best wide receiver unit in the SEC.
Maybe it’s only natural that both fanbases are more reserve this season. With LSU feeling undeserving of its record and ranking and Auburn fearing the worst after last season’s meltdown, maybe it’s best to keep quiet.
Better yet, it’s time for Auburn fans to snap out of the doldrums. I count myself among you who are feeling them. Saturday night is a huge game for Chizik and company. There’s nothing mandated that Auburn will lose its remaining Division I-A games. A win this weekend sets up a pretty favorable position for the Halloween showdown with Ole Miss. A win there and suddenly Auburn’s back among the nation’s best.
Who says the fun has to end in September? Sure the odds are stacked against them, but a win here and another one there and suddenly everyone starts feeling better about themselves. Grab an extra six pack Saturday night and let it all out. You deserve it. And so does the Auburn football team.
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