TigerEye Review Week 12
Why the Game is Played Edition
Predicting any football contest prior to the actual start of the game is in many ways a leap of faith. Faith that your team will either continue to perform as it has or rise to the occasion that it is faced with. Faith that your coaching staffs will correctly game plan for what their team can do or even sometimes faith that a miracle play or circumstance will enable your team to come out of the encounter with a win despite the odds against such an outcome.
For fans of the program, it’s often hard to step back and compare two teams objectively and determine accurately what is going to happen. Many different issues can directly impact how the game is played, and how each piece of the puzzle will impact or influence the outcome. When all is said and done, the best test is actually to pit two teams against each other for 60 minutes and let the athletes and teams play the game.
And play they will, in spite of the perceived odds, in spite of expectations and in spite of any level of prognostication. It’s why we love the game so much. You just will not and cannot know what will happen until the players take the field and the game is played for real.
At TigerEye Review, I’ve tried to present the factors and statistics as I’ve seen them over the last ten years. I’ve taken what the league has given me and presented what I perceive as the key indicators of where the conference is in terms competition. As we reach the end of the season, it all comes down to the conference championship and the ultimate and ONLY test of who is best—to play the game between the Western and Eastern Division Champions.
No other game matters at this point. Or should. Let the players take the field. All we can do is watch and enjoy.
What was it like winning the Iron Bowl this year? Just like this.
Offense in the western division took a hit the last weeks of the season. Alabama’s penchant for struggling on third down reared its ugly head in the Iron Bowl against a powerful Tiger defense, and the maroon Bulldogs struggled in all phases in the Egg Bowl once Nick Fitzpatrick was injured. LSU manhandled Texas A&M but didn’t improve its stats all that much in the process. The Bengals are way too inconsistent over the entire season.
Four West teams are ranked in the top 20 for a reason, and that reason is a crushing defense capable of making offensive coordinators weep in their pillows at night. It has made the Western Division the most feared and competitive division in all of college football and is the primary reason that every team outside the state of Alabama has looked for a new coach in the last two years.
Georgia’s fall from the top of the SEC East on offense is a tribute to meeting the Tiger defense first hand. It failed to score and failed to reach the red zone as often as previously this season, which was enough to slip to second place offensively to the resurgent Missouri Tigers. All others? Better luck next year. You’ll need it.
Georgia’s defense is still intact and powerful. Despite the loss to Auburn, it remains a powerful team with terrific capability. Florida and South Carolina have shown resilience and would improve their teams’ impact on the bowl season if they solve their respective offensive issues.
State of the Conference
Some of you may be surprised that Auburn’s numbers after the month of November aren’t accurately showing this team’s performance and/or potential. But that is just indicative of where this team was and what it’s become. Auburn is still in the company of elite championship teams in the conference with its body of work for the entire season, and other than Mississippi State and LSU, there really isn’t much else left of the old Southeastern Conference. The glory years of a competitive conference from top to bottom seem to be a ghostly memory.
Part of this is the unprecedented coaching changes of the last two years that I’ve highlighted in this column. Of the ten bowl-eligible teams in the conference, how many coaches can say they are coaching senior players that they themselves recruited?
Only three—Nick Saban, Mike Stoops and Gus Malzahn. Every other team’s coaching staff has changed in the last two years with the exception of Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, whose Commodores failed to qualify for a bowl game by a single touchdown against South Carolina.
But wait. How, you ask, did Auburn just turn the CFP on its ear and dominate so effectively through Amen Corner to the SEC Championship?
Weeeellll, that’s another story. To see what this team has done on offense since the LSU game and, for giggles, what Georgia has done, let’s compare the TigerEye stats on just the last five games—which just happen to include games against not one but TWO #1 ranked teams in the CFP.
*Last five games of 2017
That’s the level the Auburn Tigers have achieved on offense in the last five games of the season. This is a fully fledged Championship Level team in every aspect of the game. The defense has been there all year, but the offense grew up in the last half of the season and is now firing on all cylinders as well and is as formidable as any SEC Champion in the past.
Let this team play its game, and there’s no telling where it’ll take us all.
What’s better than beating Alabama with a stick in the Iron Bowl? Forcing them to root for us in the SEC Championship game so they can have a prayer of being in the CFP too. WAR DAMN EAGLE!