TigerEye Review—Week 2
I know there are many fans out there looking in askance at the one troubling aspect about their team and wondering what this means for the rest of the season. It’s a natural response to the limited data that is available, and the tendency is to focus on what is in the immediate present and not look at the season from any sort of perspective or depth of field. Everything is in the present, and only the present is viewed.
Call it the “Myopia of the Masses” if you will.
I admit, it’s hard to look past Auburn’s immediate results from last Saturday. The offensive performance was terrible, and the loss is a black mark that will have to be overcome, and soon, if the fans have their way. It’s difficult in the extreme to place any confidence in the team despite the end result—that Auburn played a top five team to within a single score with the help of a valiant defense and a pitifully inept offense.
But think about that for a minute. When in the last seven years has THAT ever been possible to say? That the Tiger defense was the difference between a humbling blowout and a close game that could have turned on the result of just one or two big plays.
But what do the numbers say? Again, I fall back at this point of the season to see what the teams are doing, not against one other yet (except for Mizzou and South Carolina) but how they are performing to their own standard against variable levels of opponents.
Here are our standards:
Y’all just need to chill until interconference play begins
Offensively, the West still is having some problems. Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU are way out front, seemingly, but the quality of opponents they have faced has been relatively low. Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Alabama have each faced Power 5 conference members, but the differences in the losses were wildly different among the four. Surprisingly, Alabama didn’t recover that much offensively between FSU and Fresno State. That performance was just this shy of a recovery despite the win. As badly as Auburn played, the numbers have yet to normalize across the division.
Defensively, it’s another story. Auburn and Alabama both played top ten teams and are still showing elite numbers on defense. That is a glowing tribute in these trying times. Kevin Steele and Jeremy Pruitt are both proving to be the best in the division, if not the conference. Also, we can pencil in Todd Grantham, David Aranda, and Mel Tucker. However, it just might be that David Kotulski of Vanderbilt will be at the top of the list of anyone’s Broyles Award ballot. Just looking at what the Commodores are doing defensively with three- and two-star recruits is absolutely amazing no matter whom they’re playing. I for one will be tuning in to some of the SEC East games once the Anchor Clankers start to go head to head.
I don’t know what to think of the East offensively. South Carolina is an average team on both sides of the ball, but they’re undefeated despite being out-gained and out-passed by two very good offenses. Defensively, they just seem to wake up at the right time and place to squeak out a win no matter what the numbers look like. But overall, the East teams are in trouble when they have the ball. Mizzou can still do the big play, but its numbers are slowly dropping, and the rest of the division is looking far less well than expected. Once conference play begins, expect these numbers to drop in all categories.
Defensively? Other than Vandy and Georgia, don’t expect much from the East. None of the numbers against the quality of teams is giving me any confidence that there will be a rebound of any sort in the East. The race is between Georgia and almost no one else all the way to Atlanta. Were it not for Vandy’s numbers on defense, I would say that Kirby Smart has the division sewn up even before the real schedule begins. I’m just not seeing much to hope, otherwise.
So after the first two out-of-conference games, the numbers are rather stark. Unless there is improvement offensively in the West and any show or sign of life in the East, we’re left with the troubling thought of a less than competitive SEC across the board. The numbers are showing only 1 team playing at full potential, and it is untested against Power 5 or SEC-level competition. LSU and Alabama are only showing as above average compared to previous SEC champions, and the rest have serious improvements to make if there is a ghost of a chance of reaching the playoffs this year.
Was Auburn’s performance poor this week? Indeed it was. But in a larger sense, the conference as a whole has taken a step back alongside the Tigers. What happens when in-conference play begins this week and next will be the telling factor in whether the title of ‘Toughest Conference in America’ is a reality or not.
The Tiger can only lay in wait and watch.