Auburn Thoughts for a Rainy Day
Tigers ran wild over Arkansas
(John Reed/USA Today Sports)
War Eagle, everybody! A long, wet football offseason continues here in the Deep South. This week, we received a nice spark from the Auburn basketball program as the men rode a hot start out to a 30-point lead at home against Arkansas and flattened the Hogs, 79–56. That Wednesday evening win came on the heels of a Sunday afternoon demolition of Alabama by the women of Auburn. The ladies put a 77–38 whipping on the Crimson Tide and pushed their season record to 19–7.
Auburn had a great evening against Arkansas, but the challenge level goes way up this Saturday. At 12:30 PM Central Time, Auburn takes on Kentucky in Lexington. The game will be nationally televised on CBS. One has to go back over 30 years, to find a time where Auburn basketball won in that arena. It was in January of 1988, when Auburn knocked off #1-ranked Kentucky in Rupp Arena, 53–52. Auburn also won at Rupp in 1983. Those are the only 2 wins over Kentucky at their place in my lifetime.
Kentucky has appeared to have some vulnerabilities earlier in the year, getting blown out by Duke and losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa and LSU at home. After the LSU loss, the Wildcats rebounded in dramatic fashion, clubbing #1-ranked Tennessee 86–69. A streaky Auburn bunch will try to keep a hot-shooting streak alive. The frustrating thing about this season is that Auburn has tended to be on fire against nonranked teams, but against the ranked teams, long stretches go by where Auburn can’t seem to buy a basket.
On Sunday the Auburn women host a pretty tough Missouri team on Senior Day. A win by Auburn would push the win total to 20 and pretty much guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament in March.
I continue to hear talk that the Auburn football team will be just fine at quarterback next season, but I think caution is the word in this spot. Auburn does not return any quarterback this year that has played in a college game that was still in doubt. Not having an established starter is a big deal. In the past 40 seasons, having an established starter resulted in a record of 264 wins, 89 losses and 5 ties. That’s a winning percentage of 74.4 percent. In years where multiple quarterbacks got 2 or more starts, Auburn has just 68 wins and 65 losses, or 51.1 percent.
Conventional wisdom is that Auburn will have to rely on the running game a good bit early next season. Auburn returns all 5 offensive line starters and every player that carried the ball 19 or more times. It’s an interesting group, featuring senior Kam Martin and sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow. Add in Malik Miller, Shaun Shivers and Anthony Schwartz, and the team has a deep group of runners. My question is this: who’s going to lead block for them? Auburn is very unproven at the tight end and H-back spots. To run the ball, one either has to block defenders or spread them out and be willing to throw to multiple receivers. It remains to be seen whether either option can happen next season.