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News and Notes From Auburn Sports—6/6/2017 Edition

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Will Auburn football ever be a member of the Eastern Division? (photo: Auburn media file)

It is hard to be upset with Auburn baseball’s loss to Florida State in the NCAA Regional Championship. The team picked to be among the worst in the SEC has far exceeded expectations. Sunday night’s game against host Florida State was a microcosm of the season. The Tigers were down 6–2 in the second inning following a three-run blast by Dylan Busby. It would’ve been easy to turn the game off,and I turned over and went to sleep though my wife kept watching. Her screams of delight woke me when the Tigers went up 7–6 in the ninth. The Seminoles put a leadoff runner aboard but the next play defined the game as the season had been defined. When things looked to be in hand, Auburn suffered a setback.

Just as losing assistant coach Brad Bohannon to Alabama this week wasn’t something the Tigers could help, neither was the terrible call by the umpire that claimed Auburn’s fielder missed the second base bag as he made the transition to turn a routine double play. The loss of Bohannon could be a major distraction while the missed call almost certainly sunk Auburn’s chances to advance to a Super Regional.

Did you get your money in on Jarrett Stidham before he became one of the most popular dark horse candidates for the 2017 Heisman? Just a few months ago, I visited Las Vegas for the second time in two years during the Super Bowl, the most popular sports betting weekend of the year. For me, it’s the weekend to bet on college football. At the time, Stidham had no individual odds posted, meaning he was listed among the field, which has the worst odds. No. 8 now finds himself at 40–1, just behind teammate Kam Pettway at 30–1. Those odds may still be in the bettor’s favor as the JUCO QB is already listed on many websites as a Top 10 QB in the next NFL draft. That’s a lot of faith in a guy who hasn’t played a down for Auburn. 

SEC spring meetings raised the age-old talking point of Auburn to the Easy…err….East. It will never happen but yet it comes up every year. The sad thing is …

it really does make sense geographically. It is 1,061 miles from College Station, TX to Columbia, SC. The Alabama/Mississippi State line is neatly the halfway point. Texas A&M, Missouri, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas are easily west of that line, and Alabama is the east of the halfway mark by only 50-odd miles.

Sure, a move makes sense, but so does the fact that SEC football goes through the state of Alabama. While the SEC West  has title only been decided once in the Iron Bowl, the state of Alabama has represented the West in 16 of the 25 league championship games. Florida has represented the East 12 times and Georgia ranks second with five appearances. So, it makes sense not only geographically but also from a competition aspect as well. Regardless, it will never happen. 

There were some sparse notes in basketball this week. First, Auburn finalized the 2017-2018 conference schedule. According to a report by AL.com, Auburn will play its traditional home-and-home series against Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss as well as ones with South Carolina and Arkansas. The Tigers’ home SEC schedule will also include matchups with Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and road  trips are planned to Florida, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi State.

The Tigers were left out of the SEC/Big12 challenge just a year after being the team that provided the tournament tying win, a first for the SEC. Think that’s a coincidence? 

Center Horace Spencer hasn’t lit up the scoreboards for Auburn since coming to the Plains. The forward spent much of his time before Austin Wiley arrived in December as a center by default. For a few brief games, fans saw what could have been: a very good Auburn team that might have made it to the Big Dance. However, Spencer missed the last two months of the season nursing a shoulder injury before having surgery. No. 0 is now back practicing with the team and is about to head to Italy.

Spencer isn’t one of the headliner recruits that Bruce Pearl has brought in such as Chuma Okeke. And with only five starting spots available, it will be interesting to see how he fits in with Wiley, Okeke, and fellow forwards Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore. Purifoy is an obvious starter, and McLemore has athleticism that few can rival. There have been hints at a position move for Purifoy, so things could open up for Spencer down the road. 

Coach Gus Malzahn hosted the annual Big Cat Weekend for football recruits. However, there wasn’t the flurry of commitments over the weekend that there has been in recent memory. Many players came away impressed, but the lack of commitments is interesting. By all accounts, most recruits are taking a “wait and see” approach. Is it just prudence, or is it concern that another 8–5 season likely means a coaching change?

Handicapper Danny Sheridan seems to think Malzahn has to beat Alabama this year or face the end of the line. Chances are, however, that a loss to Alabama wouldn’t be the only factor in a coaching decision. Auburn is 0–6 in rivalry games not nicknamed by miracle plays, nor have there been any ten-win seasons, the staple of a good program, since 2013.

Until next time …

8 Comments

  1. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……The thing is, who would we get to replace Malzahn? I can’t see him getting canned if he goes 9-3, with an Iron Bowl loss. We need only look at the fate of the second and third place teams in the SEC, the past decade. Georgia fired Mark Richt, and promptly went 7-5 last season. And now LSU has Coach O as their head coach, after turning Les Miles loose.

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      I think all I can say is, we’ve played the game of hiring “up and comers” since, we’ll, forever.

      It migh be time to get out of that style of thinking and think big.

      Could we get Urban Myer? Shaw? Chip Kelly?

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      Malzahn is not Miles or Richt, at all. Both those guys averaged 10 wins. Not even in the same ball park.

      Still, you are right that it was short sighted to hock them. Why? Couldn't compete with Saban. Truthfully, they were more competitive with him than malzahn has been

    • AtkinsonTiger AtkinsonTiger says:

      Exactly, Acid.

  2. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    And…Stidham’s odds now 20:1

    Wow.

  3. AUglenn says:

    I don’t see why Auburn and Missouri can’t switch. I don’t understand why Missouri was put in the east to begin with?

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Politics:

      No. 1 Bama doesn’t want to allow anything that might be to Auburn’s advantage.

      No.2 Bama doesn’t want to have to play Auburn in a possible Iron Bowl rematch on some years in the SEC Championship game.

      No.3 Tennessee and (especially) Georgia doesn’t want to add Auburn to the east schedule, because it could make it more difficult for them to get to Atlanta. As it is for UGa now, they can lose to Auburn and still win the east – not so if the Tigers were in their division.

      As for Missouri, they were told which division they would play in when their application was approved to join the SEC.

  4. audad says:

    Zach, I always like your stuff, and this column was great as well. So, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but your first paragraph about the end of that baseball game is misleading. After AU went ahead 7-6 in the 9th, FSU did not get the leadoff man on in the bottom of the 9th, thus leading to the botched call at 2nd base. The first two men were retired, and then unfortunately a walk on a 3-2 pitch put the tying run on. And the next hitter hit the triple on a 3-2 pitch that tied the game and sent it to extras. And again in the 10th it was a lack on control after the first two were out that put runners on base with walks, and then ultimately the winning run scoring. I missed the bad call everyone talked about. I’m assuming that must have come maybe in the big inning the Seminoles had early in the game, and eventually cost AU more runs in that inning. Obviously a crushing loss after being one strike away twice in the bottom of the 9th. Not getting that final out when having two chances can be devastating. Just ask the Texas Rangers of several years ago when they had the St. Louis Cardinals down to their last strike twice in game 6, couldn’t put it away, then lost the game and went on to lose game 7 and a shot at their first-ever World Series championship.