Ole Miss for Brunch
The Tiger defense needs to set its alarm clock for this aerial attack!
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! We are rapidly approaching the midpoint of the 2017 SEC season. This week, Auburn hosts Ole Miss in the dreaded 11:00 AM time slot. This typically results in subdued morning tailgating and a lethargic crowd. Auburn football has a reputation for mailing in these early games, earned during the Tuberville years.
Is the “early game” curse valid under current head coach Gus Malzahn? In 2013, Auburn only played once early at Tennessee. Thanks to cranked up special teams, Auburn handed Tennessee a blistering 55–23 loss. Auburn did not play before noon in 2014.
In 2015, Auburn was not very good and got shoved to 11:00 AM pretty frequently. Jacksonville State was an early kickoff, and it took some pretty severe late-game blunders by the visiting Gamecocks for Auburn sneak out with an overtime win. Also in 2015, Auburn was at Arkansas for an early kickoff and spotted the Razorbacks an early 2-touchdown lead before roaring back to force overtime. Auburn lost in 4 overtimes and lost a healthy Sean White. Ole Miss came to Auburn for an 11 o’clock kickoff the following week, and Auburn lost, 19–27. Finally, the Birmingham Bowl was an early Wednesday kickoff, and Auburn bounced Memphis by the score of 31–10.
In 2016, Auburn had its first road game of the year at 11:00 AM in Starkville. No early morning curse there as Auburn catapulted out to a 35–0 halftime lead en route to a 38–14 win. Auburn hosted Vanderbilt early and trailed at halftime but rallied in the second half and hung on for a 23–16 win.
My conclusion is that the curse is no more. If Auburn is playing decently, these early matchups are no problem. If not (see 2015), there are problems whether it is an early kick or not. Auburn’s struggles against Vanderbilt last season had more to do with a painfully conservative offensive game plan than any morning hangover.
My guess this week is that Ole Miss might make a game out of it with a really dangerous receiving corps. Auburn will have to pin their ears back up front and harass young Rebel quarterback Shea Patterson into some mistakes. The Auburn secondary had a great game last weekend against Mississippi State and will need a good showing this week again.
The Ole Miss defense to date has been surprisingly porous, giving up 430 yards per game and 35.8 points per game. In the two games Ole Miss won, against South Alabama and Tennessee Martin, they had to outscore the opposition in the second half, eventually winning by scores of 47–27 and 45–23. There were no second half explosions the last couple of games. Ole Miss failed to score in the second half in Berkeley, California, losing to Cal 27–16. Last weekend was an absolute disaster of a game in Tuscaloosa with Ole Miss getting destroyed, 66–3.
Coaches on the Hot Seat, after the jump!
Back before the season started, I did some speculation on which coaches were on the hot seat. With midseason now approaching, it’s time to revisit that theme. I did not have second year Missouri coach Barry Odom on my list, but I think the situation there now bears watching. It’s one thing to lose games in a coach’s second season in the SEC. For a team to look as terrible and unorganized as Mizzou has the past few weeks is another thing entirely.
I mentioned Mark Stoops, opining that the Cats were lucky to win 7 games last season and would not be so lucky this year. I have to take some of that back, now. Kentucky looks like a legitimately tough team and will be difficult for most of their remaining schedule to handle.
I also believed that Georgia folks would not put up with back-to-back 7-win seasons from Kirby Smart, either. Looks like little danger of that this year. Georgia has rolled out to a 5–0 start and looks to be the best team in the East, easily.
I did a quick Google search on “Tennessee football,” and the whole first page was filled with links about “who should replace Butch Jones.” Volunteer fans are quite upset with Tennessee’s 0–2 SEC start this season, especially after the 41–0 face plant against Georgia last weekend. The Vols now have South Carolina, then travel to Alabama and Kentucky. Three more losses are certainly possible, if not probable. And with the new early signing period legislation in place this year, cutting a coach loose at midseason makes a bit more sense.
We figured Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin was a dead man walking after the Aggies blew a 44–10 lead against UCLA and lost. The Aggies have not lost since. While the wins haven’t been pretty, they count just the same. The Aggies are 2–0 in the SEC, but that record won’t remain unblemished much longer as the Aggies host Alabama this weekend. Texas A&M then road trips to Florida and hosts Mississippi State and Auburn. I would say that Sumlin needs to win at least 2 of the next 4 games to survive.
Arkansas’ Bret Bielema is another one I whose seat I figured would be getting warm this year. The Razorbacks handled a couple of nonconference cupcakes but lost ugly to TCU and lost in overtime to Texas A&M. There is potential for Arkansas to get to 7 wins with South Carolina, at Alabama, Auburn, at Ole Miss, Coastal Carolina, at LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri still on the schedule. Frankly, as porous on the offensive line as Arkansas has looked, I’m not sure I see 5 wins in that list. I see 3 at best, and Arkansas fans aren’t happy with finishing 7–5 every year. A 5–7 finish would likely doom Bielema.
Stunningly, LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s name is out there on some hot-seat lists. I can’t believe that the LSU brass would even consider letting him go in year one. Heck, Nick Saban lost to UAB in year one in Baton Rouge. In a cash-strapped state, I can’t imagine the school paying a 12 million dollar buyout that early.
Finally, we have the Ole Miss situation. I had Hugh Freeze on the list, and he did not even make it to the first game of the season. Ole Miss is currently led by interim coach Matt Luke, but I think Ole Miss will look elsewhere for its next permanent head coach. I think Luke’s chances of retaining the job went up in the flames of a hideous 66–3 loss at Alabama.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn has hovered on or near a lot of folks’ hot-seat lists since a disappointing 7–6 season in 2015. Since then, Auburn has looked clueless at times and brilliant at times. Right now, Auburn is destroying opponents handily and looks to have a pretty clear path to roll through without a conference loss until “Amen Corner.” What has happened the last couple of seasons is that the quarterback gets injured and things fall apart. Auburn is one bad hit from starting a true freshman and being right back in that boat. If Jarrett Stidham stays healthy, Auburn will be in the SEC title race till the end of November, and the hot seat talk will be a distant memory.
We’ll have our usual Track’EmTigers.com open thread up and ready to go early, this week. As always, feel free to join in the fun. I’ll be at the keyboard with my coffee, ready for another play-by-play. War Eagle, and let’s mangle those Rebs!