A Weekend of Opportunity
Another week, another important game for this Auburn coaching staff to show improvement on the offensive side of the ball. I hate to continue the game-to-game parade-of-progress preaching, but it’s the truth. To be fair, the game planning against LSU was improved despite ongoing red-zone issues, and Auburn handled Louisiana-Monroe exactly how it should in beating them 58–7. Those are both good signs to me that indicate these coaches (and players) are slowly figuring things out and, most importantly, they’re all still pulling in the same direction.
Auburn’s game against Mississippi State tomorrow, in my opinion, provides a decisive litmus test that will indicate exactly where this team is entering the back half of its schedule. The Bulldogs are not very good by SEC standards and far from world-beaters. I give them credit for playing LSU tough in Baton Rouge, but knowing now what we know about LSU, I see that game as more of an exception and not the rule.
Mississippi State has done a fantastic job of playing Auburn close in the recent past, having won 3 out of the last 4 games. I think this is a series Gus Malzahn needs to swing back in Auburn’s favor to dampen the frustration within the fan base. That starts with a solid victory in Starkville Saturday afternoon. Auburn can’t afford another victory over an SEC opponent by completely kicking their way to a victory. A win is a win, but at some point, that offensive genius needs to start shining through. I feel confident that it will this weekend.
Changing gears, there are a ton of great games this weekend that could shake up conference standings and have serious playoff ramifications. Let’s take a look:
#20 Oklahoma vs Texas
The Sooners entered 2016 with all the prestige and hype worthy of a talent-filled team, but hasve stumbled in the early going by dropping games to Houston and Ohio State. Texas, on the other hand, enters this game unranked and seemingly on the rise. Texas would like to hand Oklahoma a second consecutive loss in the Red River Rivalry and continue its upswing. Both teams are 2–2 on the season and will be fighting desperately to improve to 3–2. It should be an exciting, high-scoring affair.
#1 Alabama vs #16 Arkansas
Good ole American football. That’s what this matchup brings in spades. Two teams built around tough, physical defensive play and methodical offensive production. Alabama obviously enters this contest with more than a slight edge in the talent department, but that hasn’t stopped Arkansas from playing them tough in the past. I think a hard-fought first half gives way to yet another Alabama bashing, however, and the Tide eventually throttle past the Razorbacks late in this contest.
#9 Tennessee vs #8 Texas A&M
Easily the most anticipated game of the weekend for me. I’m ready to find out exactly who the Tennessee Volunteers are. I’m ready to find out exactly who the Texas A&M Aggies are. Finally, we get that answer. In a schedule that seems to have no room for error, Tennessee has stumbled multiple times and has yet to come up short. It seems to be a team of destiny, but both squads seem to be capable of taking the next step and challenging for the SEC title against anyone in the conference. It will be a wild scene on Kyle Field in College Station. I think the fireworks start early and last all 4 quarters.
#10 Miami vs #23 Florida State
Is there a better bounce-back story in college football that Mark Richt’s renaissance in Miami? I don’t think so. Richt has the Hurricanes primed for a playoff run and catches Florida State in a bit of a slump coming off losses to Louisville and North Carolina. Florida State fights hard early in this game, but in the end, I think the Hurricanes want it more and take home a victory. There’s more than one hurricane brewing in South Florida at the moment.
There’s a lot to be excited about in week 6 of the college football season. The playoff picture will begin to come into focus, and the SEC will see some separation in teams as well. It’s tough to consider Auburn out of both at the moment, but the situation is what it is. The Tigers have to focus on finishing strong and hope that they are in a position to make some things happen for themselves at the end of the season entering Amen Corner. That starts with taking care of business in Starkville tomorrow.