Bye Week Number One
Getting past the Gator loss
War Eagle, everybody! It is hard to believe that Auburn’s football regular season is half over. The Tigers stand at 5 wins and 1 loss at the midway point. As much as I’d have rather seen the team immediately beat up on Arkansas, the week probably comes at a good time as Auburn has played 6 straight games. It is a time to heal, reflect and correct.
Midseason grade posts are big this week across the newspapers and blogosphere, so I won’t really try to copy that. Rather, I’ll make a few notes on each unit and leave it at that. I’m not going to rehash the Florida loss again. This team and fan base needs to get ready for the rest of a tough season. All divisional and playoff hopes are still alive for Auburn.
It is remarkable that Auburn is 5–1 at this point, if one looks at the teams Auburn has played. Oregon has not lost since the opening week against the Tigers. And the Ducks have beaten quality conference teams like Stanford and Cal. They’d have to be considered the front-runner in the PAC-12 right now.
Tulane hasn’t lost to anyone except Auburn, either. They have quality wins over Houston and Army in recent weeks. Kent State is in first place in the MAC East. Mississippi State is 3–2, with a loss to Kansas State. And, of course, Florida is unbeaten.Take out the Auburn games, and Auburn’s opponents thus far have a combined record of 18 wins and 3 losses. All 3 losses have been against Power Five opponents, 2 by Kent State.
If there is a quibble at all about Auburn’s defensive line, it might be a lack of sacks. Opponents have had a lot to say about that, opting for getting rid of the ball quickly. Auburn has been just brutal up front on defense.
Linebackers have been a pleasant surprise, playing tough and physical. They have not had many blown assignments, either. We just don’t need them lined up to play man coverage on speedy slot receivers going forward.
The secondary has been good at tackling but not as great at playing the ball. I’ll join other voices out there and opine that if opponents are going to pop quick slants and screens quickly, we need to mix in some zone coverages where the cornerbacks know they have help behind them and can jump some of those routes.
I’ve enjoyed our punting team in recent weeks as coverage has really tightened up since a bad start in the first couple of games. We are not kicking it 50 yards like I would prefer, but a 50-yard punt means nothing if there is a 30-yard return on it.
Punt returns have been fun to watch until a fumbled one last Saturday. Auburn has done a good job of blocking and not drawing too many flags.
The kicking game has been stellar. Auburn needs just a couple of extra points against Arkansas to tie Georgia’s consecutive make record, and I have every confidence that record will be broken. Kickoffs have been mostly touchbacks, and the Tigers haven’t given up a big kick return since week one. Teams are really trying to avoid kicking the ball to Auburn’s return men as well.
It is really popular to rag on the Auburn offensive line this week, but I’m afraid I just don’t see it. Auburn’s issues up front stem from being outnumbered in the box and teams blitzing to slow down the running game and force errors from a freshman quarterback. This isn’t a great line, but it is a pretty good one. These days, football is about getting playmakers in space. Auburn hasn’t done as well at this as other teams in the conference thus far.
Surprisingly, this year Auburn has pretty good depth at H-back/tight end. Spencer Nigh has blocked exceptionally well for the most part, and the other pair of guys have not been bad either. Auburn has thrown just a bit more to this unit as well.
Auburn’s receiver corps has had injuries but has played pretty well despite that. Auburn’s standard 3-receiver set has Seth Williams, Sal Cannella and Anthony Schwartz out there. That’s some dynamite blocking ability and a couple of gamebreakers. Auburn also has depth off the bench.
Auburn has had issues being a bit too stubborn in the backfield at times, and now our most complete back is out of action for a few weeks due to injury. It is time for the rest of a talented and deep unit to step up and go.
Last week, notwithstanding, I’ve been very pleased about Auburn’s quarterback performances this season. The future is very bright, and I think we will see more and more spectacular things moving forward.
It is Auburn’s bye week, but there are some interesting SEC matchups to look at, this Saturday.
Saturday in the SEC after the jump!
The Saturday slate starts out with the annual grudge match in the SEC Easr with South Carolina visiting Georgia. I think USC has the horses on defense to slow Georgia down for a while but not a whole game.
Mississippi State visits Tennessee at 11:00 AM and should get back on the winning track after a bye week.
The 2:30 CBS game is Alabama at Texas A&M. I’m guessing that this game was picked before the season started. The Aggies have been a bit of a disappointment thus far.
Vanderbilt hosts Nevada–Las Vegas at 3:00 PM. It might be Vandy’s last chance for a win this season.
Interesting evening slate games start at 6:00 PM with Ole Miss visiting Missouri. Ole Miss has been able to beat up on some of the have nots in the league and scored a lot of points on Alabama. It will be interesting to see how they match up with a Tiger team that has quietly played pretty well since an opening-day loss at Wyoming.
Arkansas visits Kentucky at 6:30 PM. Both teams are still looking for an SEC win. Arkansas probably has better skill players, but Kentucky should control both lines of scrimmage. I’m going with the home team.
Saturday’s headliner game is at 7:00 PM in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Florida meets LSU in a battle of unbeatens. The winner of that one has to be taken seriously as a playoff contender. I’m interested to see if a talented Florida defense is able to slow down what has been the most prolific attack in the SEC thus far.