The Last Pre-Iron-Bowl Tuneup Game.
Samford will collect a big paycheck this week
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
War Eagle, everybody! This week, the Auburn Tigers will host the Samford Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Since 2010, Auburn has mostly chosen to play a nonpower-5 opponent the week before the Iron Bowl, usually an FCS school. Tomorrow’s game will end that practice. Next season, Auburn will host LSU the week before traveling to Alabama, which will make for a rough end to the schedule.
Count me among those who were relieved when Auburn Athletic Director Alan Greene finally made a statement on the future of head coach Gus Malzahn. Every Auburn fan likely has an opinion on this one way or the other, but the silence from the leadership was becoming deafening. I think Greene could have been a bit firmer in his declaration, something to the effect of “Coach Malzahn will be our coach.” Instead, we got, “we haven’t discussed it. I like our coaching staff,” etc. Still, that’s something at least. Even if it were financially feasible, I can’t imagine coach Malzahn wanting to return to Arkansas at this time. That program is in tatters and will be a major rebuilding job. Malzahn states that he wants to win championships. Championships are less likely at Arkansas than at Auburn.
I’ve seen several posts from around the net this week on the difficulty of Auburn’s schedule during the Gus Malzahn era. I’m not going to try to recreate all of the stats, but the numbers do show that Auburn has played more ranked teams in every category than any other team in the country. Auburn routinely played teams in the top 5 every year in the past decade. Is Auburn’s record good against those teams? Well, Auburn actually has broken even on that. Am I irritated at some of what coach Malzahn does? You bet! Do I think Auburn should shell out tens of millions just to get rid of him and many more bucks to hire someone else? Not so sure that is a wise move at this time.
I’ve seen various pundits saying that Samford may give the Auburn defense fits this week, and if the offense can’t move the ball, the game will be close. I just don’t see that, myself. Samford is currently 5–6 against an FCS schedule. The strongest team they have played has been Furman, and Samford lost that one 58–14 at Samford’s ball field. Samford has scored 25 or fewer points in 4 games: Youngstown State, at Wofford, Furman, and East Tennessee State. Samford isn’t going to put up a ton of yards and points unless Auburn goes way down the depth chart.
A few weeks ago, there were complaints all around about tepid fan support against Ole Miss. I’m not sure we won’t see a lot of empty seats in this game against Samford. It won’t be as cold as the last couple of games with temps expected in the mid 60’s. However, a big band of rain will be moving through the state tomorrow, and periodic showers are likely. We will have our Trackemtigers.com Open Thread up and running for this one. However, I will miss the entire thread this week as duty calls at work. The game will kick off at 11:00 AM, Central Standard Time, and will be televised on the SEC Network.
A look at other SEC games this weekend after the jump!
Auburn kicks off the early action this week, hosting Samford. The line in this game has the Tigers around a 48-point favorite. Auburn’s previous tilts against Samford since 1992 have resulted in scores of 55–0, 35–7, 35–16 and 31–7. ( I went to fact-check at the Auburn website, and it shows Auburn beating Samford in November of 2016, 55–0. Auburn actually played Alabama A&M that weekend by my recollection. Also the school website is showing Auburn beating Samford 55–0 in 2014, but that game’s box score link goes to the 2016 game. Weirdness.) Anyway, Auburn is unlikely to cover that spread unless the starters play a good bit of the second half.
Western Carolina brings a 3–8 record into Tuscaloosa for a beatdown by Alabama at 11:00 AM.
The 2:30 CBS game this week is Texas A&M at Georgia. The Bulldogs have clinched the division and are fighting to stay in the College Football Playoff picture. Texas A&M is looking to bolster its bowl position.
East Tennessee State visits Vanderbilt at 2:30 PM. The Commodores have had a rough season and are looking to move up to 3 wins on the year. The Buccaneers have had a bad year also at 3–8. Vanderbilt should win.
Also at 2:30, Tennessee Martin visits Kentucky. The Wildcats should win and become bowl eligible with a 6–5 record.
Arkansas visits LSU at 6:00 PM. The bayou Tigers should be able to name the score against the Razorbacks, who fired their head coach last week.
Abilene Christian travels to Mississippi State for a 6:30 PM game. At 4–6, the Bulldogs need to win this game to keep their bowl hopes alive. That should not be a problem this week.
Tennessee visits Missouri at 6:30. Both teams are 5–5, and the winner of this game will qualify for a bowl game. Missouri is the home team, but I think Tennessee has been playing better in recent weeks than the Tigers.
Teams taking the weekend off are South Carolina, Florida, and Ole Miss. This sets up an interesting Egg Bowl next week. Ole Miss has already been eliminated from bowl contention, but I know it would love to spoil Mississippi State’s chances. The Rebels should be rested going into Starkville.