Pasadena Here We Come
Photo by Brandon Marcello/al.com
Let the buildup begin.
One week from tonight, Auburn plays its most improbable football game ever. How fitting that it be against Florida State, a program that is everything SEC but its address.
Unlike three years ago, there are more question marks heading into the BCS Championship game. There is no Cam Newton; yet this offense may be better than Gus Malzahn’s first edition. How well will they knock off the rust?
There is no Nick Fairley; but this defense, weak in some areas, may be the most opportunistic unit Auburn has ever fielded. Can the step up again on the biggest of stages?
On paper, Auburn appears to have little shot. What else is new? Nearly a 10-point underdog, the national media has decided Auburn’s luck will run out against the Seminoles. How quickly everyone forgets that they played four quarters of football before that final play of the Iron Bowl.
While Florida St. players have been vocal in their questioning of Auburn’s talent and schemes, Malzahn’s players have been all but invisible from the media in recent weeks. It’s that humble, workman like attitude that makes this team special.
Florida St. defensive end Christian Jones calls Auburn’s offense trickery. Linebacker Telvin Smith attributes the Tigers offensive success to poor play on defense.
“I feel like it’s a lack of execution on other people’s ends,” Smith said. “That’s why we’re going hard in practice, making sure we prepare well.”
Smith is a talented defender, but clearly handicapped between the ears.
The consensus nationally is that the long layoff will favor the Seminoles. I’m not so sure. Watching these bowl games over the past few days, it’s obvious that run first teams seem to have the advantage.
No unit has been more underestimated than the Auburn offensive line. The keys to the game will be how they perform up front and how the defensive secondary deals with Jameis Winston and the best set of receivers shy of the NFL.
That’s where the game will be decided. Pure and simple.
I’ll take my chances with that offensive line and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson having a month to prepare for Winston.
This time around things feel totally different. FSU is the toast of the town. Auburn is the neat story that can’t last forever. The pundits may be correct, but something about this game just feels right.
Logic can’t explain it. Then again, how to do you explain this season? Auburn will be the visitors. They will wear white. They will be tagged as lucky and gimmicky and having no chance.
And best of all… these Auburn players and coaches wouldn’t have it any other way.
As Gus likes to say, “Buckle up. This is Auburn football.”