No Rest For the Weary
As fresh as our first conference win in nearly two years felt Saturday night and exciting as was a late 4th quarter comeback reminiscent of the great Auburn teams of yore, one can never rest for long in the SEC. You simply wade from one welter weight bout one week into a heavyweight contest the next. This week is the Tiger bowl with LSU, and make no mistake, heavyweights they are and we need to make it through all twelve rounds with them. Not one more TKO in the 1st quarter!
The Purple Tigers will be looking for their first conference win after a run that started with a TCU team that is falling way short of expectations, followed by two cupcakes. In short, LSU is looking for meat to gnaw on, and after last year’s close call on the Plains, there is no way the team will look past us on Saturday even if most of their fans tentatively penciled in the ‘W’ months ago. You can bet all the corn dogs in Baton Rouge that John Chavis has been watching Nick Marshall film since early Sunday morning to see if our rushing attack can be shut down as effectively as demonstrated by State and how best to contain our Field Marshall. LSU fans will be watching to see if Track Em Tigers runs out annual “LSU Fans Smell Like Corn Dogs” story. Well, yea…
Auburn is shown as an early 16.5 point dog on Saturday and that’s probably a good thing. A little bulletin board material could only help at this point, having been favored in it’s first three contests. As this team slowly builds confidence, they remind me of some of the typical over-achieving teams of Auburn’s past, the ones that excel the most when expected to the least. Of course, all those teams had pluck and grit and exhibited none of the quit the team two years ago did that LSU accused of just tucking and rolling over. All this team needs right now is the belief that they have a chance, that they could win if they played their best game. That’s when the magic happens with Auburn teams. That’s what 29 seasons of being a fan has proven to me.
We have to learn to compete again in this league. We have to do it fast. It won’t be easy. We’ll face at least four top-5 teams this year. I don’t think any other team in the country can claim that. While there are no moral victories in the SEC according to fans, coaches may secretly beg to differ. Merely showing up–figuratively speaking– in Baton Rouge could go a long way to helping this team later in the season, but fans don’t want to hear that. We need the ‘W’. Baby steps, Blue Tigers, base hits.
But we have a LSU problem and it needs fixing. But we also have an Alabama and Georgia problem as well. Other than 2010, we have beat NONE of those teams since 2006 (plus Arkansas only once during that span). That covers the last two years under Tuberville and all four of Chizik’s tenure. That’s hateful to an Auburn fan, a position so vicariously evil that it makes you walk in the shoes of a Vandy or Kentucky fan. It’s the most disturbing trend I’ve ever seen in my career as an Auburn Tiger–losing to all our big rivals, and it has to stop. And if a genie had asked me which to pick back in 2010–a national championship or to stop the slide against the big three of Bama, Georgia, and LSU, okay, I still would have still picked the title, because it was really great and I would still not have believed that the latter would never happen to Auburn. Well, oh phooey!
Well, if Death Valley is the place where we start our turn around is going to be, then that’s where it’s gotta be. A top-5 team on the road in one of the harshest environments in all the country where we haven’t won since the Clinton administration is the back drop. Will our first SEC win in two years last week be enough to convince these guys that they can play among the elites in the conference again, or is it a bridge too far? Malzahn should blast Journey songs this week during practice to encourage the team not to stop believing if that’s what it’ll take. Maybe that worked subliminally a few years ago with Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. What would it hurt? Only deep down inside the players’minds knows for sure right now.