Gearing Up for a National Title!
These Tigers will be prepared!
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! And a happy New Year! Bowl season is in full swing, and 2014 is well underway. It’s hard to believe, but the SEC Champion Auburn Tigers are just 4 days away from playing for their second national championship in 4 years. In this time period, Auburn has gone from first to worst in the league, and back to the top. It has certainly been a roller-coaster ride, to be sure!
I will state definitively that New Years Day is probably my second favorite holiday of the year! Labor Day is my top one, as it signals the return of football season, and the near end of stifling heat in the South. But for pure television viewing pleasure, nothing is more fun than watching SEC teams going toe to toe with the best teams the rest of the nation can offer.
My intent for this post was to do my usual position-group matchup preview for the Auburn-Florida State game, making statements about which unit would have the advantage. Honestly, with no common opponents, I don’t really have a clue on most of them. It’s not really fair to either team’s guys for me to simply look at roster height and weight numbers, and try to guess how things will go on the field in Pasadena.
My guess is that both teams will be superbly prepared, and will lay it on the line Monday night. Clearly both teams played every game this season with purpose and fury, and I see no reason that will change with the calendar this month. As far as distractions go, a trip to California and the attendant hoopla a national title game brings should affect each team equally.
There is a troubling rumor that Gus Malzhan will be interviewed for the open Cleveland Browns job in the NFL, but I’m having a hard time being too worried about that one. Yes, it’s an NFL job with one of the more rabid and loyal fanbases in the country, but I just don’t see Gus leaving the sunny plains for a frigid rust-belt locale on the shores of a frozen lake. NFL insiders opine that the Cleveland Browns’ organization has much deeper problems than just coaching, and I can’t see coach Malzhan jumping into that quagmire.
As far as comparing the two teams in this college championship tilt, the best we can do is to look at how each league has fared thus far in the 2013-2014 bowl season. At this point, the SEC is 5-1, with the sole loss coming in Jacksonville, where Georgia dropped a 24-19 game against Nebraska. This was a bout featuring two physically superior teams that under-performed against expectations this season. Georgia looked like the better team, talent-wise, but just had too many execution breakdowns this season.
The rest of the SEC has dominated their bowl slate. Ole Miss went head to head with ACC foe Georgia Tech, and won 25-17 in the Music City Bowl. Ole Miss finished 8th in the SEC, whereas the Yellow Jackets finished in a tie for 6th in the ACC. Tuesday this week, Mississippi State blasted Rice in the Liberty Bowl, and Texas A&M topped Duke in the Chick Fil-A Bowl 52-48. Texas A&M finished tied for 6th place in the SEC, while Duke was the ACC runner-up. Yes, Duke moved the ball well against the Aggies, but so has every team with a pulse they’ve played this year, including the likes of teams like Rice and Sam Houston State.
On New Year’s Day, Georgia lost to Nebraska 24-19 in the Gator Bowl, but the other two SEC squads won. Without their starting QB, LSU still dumped B1G foe Iowa 21-14 in the Outback Bowl, and South Carolina bowled over a talented 9-win Wisconsin team in the Cap One Bowl. The SEC still has 3 matchups left to play before the national title game, Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl tonight, Missouri vs. Oklahoma State Friday in the Cotton Bowl, and Vanderbilt vs. Houston in the BBVA Compass Bank Bowl on Saturday.
The ACC has not fared as well this bowl season. Maryland opened the misery last Friday, losing by double digits to a C-USA foe Marshall, 31-20 in the Military Bowl. The same day, Syracuse eked by Minnesota 21-17 in the Texas Bowl. Saturday afternoon, North Carolina had the best performance of an ACC team in the post-season, bonking the fighting Tubervilles of Cincinnati 39-17 in the Belk Bowl, a virtual home game in Charlotte, North Carolina. Later in the day, ACC squad Miami did not take advantage of a favorable crowd in Orlando, as Louisville squashed the Hurricanes 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
ACC woes continued Monday afternoon in Nashville, as Ole Miss downed Georgia Tech 25-17 in the Music City Bowl. Boston College looked absolutely awful on New Year’s Eve in Shreveport, as they were run off the field by Arizona 42-19 in the Advocare V100 Bowl. Anyone remember when this used to be the Weedeater Bowl? Virginia Tech and the dreadful Scot Loeffler offense was bombed later in the afternoon 42-12 by UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Duke and Texas A&M pinballed it out in Atlanta in the evening, with the Aggies winning 52-48.
The ACC was unable to place even a single team in a New Year’s Day bowl. The league did place a second team in the BCS, as Clemson will take on Ohio State in the Orange Bowl Friday night. I’ll be interested to see how many empty seats there are in Miami. Finally, Florida State will take on Auburn Monday evening in Pasadena for the national crown. Thus far, the SEC is 5-1 in bowl action, while the ACC is 2-6. And Florida State did not even play North Carolina this season, the ACC’s most impressive bowl performer thus far. Meanwhile, Auburn has defeated bowl winners Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and bowl loser Georgia. The Tigers also own wins over bowl teams Missouri and Alabama, who play later this week. I think this pretty much ends the argument of whose season accomplishments are more impressive.
This coming Monday, we’ll be all-out here on TrackEmTigers.com. We’ll have our usual material, plus a national title open thread (or two, or three, as traffic dictates) up and running by early afternoon. We’ll have the usual play by play, complete with title-worthy histrionics. Win, lose, or draw, grades will be up by afternoon the following day. As always, please join us for the fun Monday! From worst, to first! This magical Auburn Tiger season concludes Monday evening, hopefully with the Tigers taking home another crystal football! War Eagle! It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!
Prediction: Pundits have declared for the last 5 Auburn games that the opponent would slow down the Auburn ground attack. They are at it again, in this matchup. It won’t happen. Auburn will continue to chew up yardage, and the Tigers will overpower Florida State, 44-31.