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TigerEye Review—Week 5

By on October 4th, 2017 in Football 6 Comments »
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Photo courtesy of Exxon Mobile

Improved Performance Edition 
 
I’ve mentioned before that early games of the season can oft times be deceiving in terms of efficiency and performance. Teams like Vanderbilt, Missouri and Mississippi State looked incredibly effective in opening games, leading the rest of the conference with squads firing on all cylinders both offensively and defensively. But the halcyon days of summer have evaporated, and those teams are looking nothing like their early season performances would indicate. The MSU offensive line struggled with no fewer than seven false starts on Saturday, and the early season media darling Nick Fitzgerald was repeatedly frustrated on offensive drives on the road in both Sanford and Jordan-Hare stadiums. The Vandy jalopy that ran so well early on is now on up on blocks in a Nashville driveway after two stunning and head-shaking losses, with even more difficult games in store ahead. 
 
Other teams in the conference seem to be on separate, competing circuits. First, there are those who seem to be doing everything right these days both offensively and defensively—Alabama, Auburn, Georgia—all seemed poised on the verge of greatness. Florida and Texas A&M have seemingly overcome their early losses and are well on the way to positioning themselves as spoilers of their respective divisions. Then there are those who have shown significant problems but seem to be improving somewhat slowly—Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina all have shown flashes of potential but still have troubling engine or transmission problems. And then there is the rest of the conference seemingly just spinning their wheels on the side of the road or might be off the course entirely. Both Mississippis and Missouri are here along with the smoking wrecks of the once proud Tennessee and LSU programs.  
 
On the Tiger side, the formerly given-up-for-dead Auburn passing game in Atlanta against Cousin Clem has been re-engineered to near Heisman-like numbers—80% passing efficiency, a strike-from-wherever-and-whenever offensive capability (57 yards on a 1st down from the 1-foot line) coupled with a defense the likes of which we haven’t seen grace the Plains in over a decade.
 
The purr and power of this Auburn team’s engine is a sweet, sweet sound these days. 
 
Good thing too, as the road ahead is long and hard. Both Alabama and Georgia have surged ahead of the rest of the conference in both wins and efficiency. This turn of events is fast making for an interesting end of the season. Of the three teams, Auburn will have the toughest and longest race to the finish line. Anything short of winning both Amen Corner games will likely leave the Tigers spun out of the Southeastern Conference Title game. Even if they get to the title game, it will likely mean a fast-paced drag race with either a very tough Bulldog or a rapidly improving Gator team.
 
And if the Tigers get to that stage? A further rematch with Clemson in the playoffs or a knock down drag out with a surging Penn State or Ohio State team and THEN a rematch with Cousin Clem—a race that leads through no fewer than five white-knuckle, hairpin-curve games out of the last six against top-ten or even top-five ranked teams. 
 
That is one heck of a track for the team to travel. Successfully negotiate THAT path, and the title of “National Champion” will be well and truly earned by these Tigers It would be a crime not to crown Chip Lindsey with the Broyles award and Quarterback Jarrett Stidham with the Heisman trophy. 
 
But that challenge is still far in the future. For now, let’s look at the numbers so far.
 
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I don’t know if we can still call this the Gus Bus. Maybe the Lindsey Lamborghini?

The SEC West

Offense

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Separation is beginning to occur between the upper two teams of the division and the remainder. Arkansas and Texas A&M are still showing potency on offense, but the two Mississippi programs are reeling from two disastrous weeks of conference play, and their numbers are showing abject failure to either move the ball on third down or score when in the red zone. And LSU? Stuck in the basement with three games against ranked opponents in the next month, two of which are on the road. That might leave the Bayou Bengals in danger of missing a bowl appearance for the first time in the 21st century. The last time that happened was 1999 under Gerry DiNardo.* 

Defense

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Auburn and Alabama are playing at the top of the NCAA on defense. Both Kevin Steele and Jeremy Pruitt are giving a class on what quality game planning, adjustment and execution with talented athletes at all positions can achieve week in and week out. Neither defense has really played a bad game, Colorado State and Clemson matches notwithstanding. The rest of the West is in trouble, though. Both LSU and MSU have shown troubling stretches in recent games, and just about anyone can score on the remaining three teams in the West.

The SEC East

Offense

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Georgia and Florida are both pulling ahead in terms of efficiency with recent numbers showing significant improvement, but the pace of change is still somewhat slow. Neither team is out of the woods, so to speak, and “average” is the most common term that could be used to describe them. The rest of the East? Downright pitiful. Vandy and Kentucky are showing their lack of depth and quality of athletes, but what are the excuses being offered for Mizzou, South Cakalacky and that Sanitation Worker convention at Knoxville? When you host your two biggest division rivals at home and manage to record just seven first downs, it’s time to re-evaluate everything you once knew about your offense.

Defense

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Not that these numbers on defense are that impressive considering the significant losses each team outside of Athens has suffered. Georgia’s dominance of the East is all but assured given a decent game against Florida’s suspect defense. Even a loss to Auburn won’t keep it out of Atlanta if the dawgs just keep to this level of efficiency. Florida could play spoiler to that plan, but it’s an outside chance at best. The rest of the East simply can’t be expected to compete for anything but second tier bowl games by the look of things. 

The State of the Conference

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Only three teams are showing potential to reach the playoffs from the Southeastern Conference. Of those three Auburn has the longest and most challenging road, having to play both of the other two during the regular season. While the rest of the conference will still have games they can play to upset that trifecta of excellence, there is definitely an “outside looking in” aspect to the remainder of the conference. If this continues at this rate until November, expect the Amen Corner to provide the deciding contests for who goes to and dominates the big dance at the end with the rest of league simply hanging on for the scraps left over.

But, however it ends, these past few weeks have been an absolute joy while watching a fast, hard hitting Auburn defense and an explosive offense win game after game. It’s been a little like watching Sullivan–Beasley light up the scoreboard again while those staunch Tuberville defenses that made “the Auburn game” a week of trepidation and dread for opposing teams in the early aughts of the last decade. Here’s hoping this ride continues all the way to Atlanta. 

*1999 was also the last time Auburn beat LSU in Tiger Stadium, prompting my favorite joke of that season as Louisiana Tech upset Alabama 29–28 the same weekend (Sept 18, 1999).

Question: “Who feels worse after Saturday’s losses? Alabama coach Mike Dubose or LSU coach Gerry Dinardo?”

Answer: “Mike Dubose. Gerry at least got a sympathy hug from his wife” (Dubose had recently settled a $300,000  out-of-court infidelity case involving his former Athletic Department secretary.)

 

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It’s hard not to like this latest turn of events

6 Comments

  1. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Your “The State of the Conference” rankings nailed it IMO. Well done.

    Man, this is a fun year to be an Auburn fan.

  2. AUNation AUNation says:

    There is a lot of potential for multiple SEC teams to be rematching in the play-offs this year.

    Scenario 1: UGa beats AU and then UA wins the IB. Two undefeated heavyweights slugging it out in Atl. If the game is close it would be hard to keep either loser out with one close loss.

    Scenario 2: AU beats UGa and then narrowly wins the Iron Bowl. If AU then wins in Atl. the voters will not be able to keep a one loss (to a top 5) UA team out of the playoffs. Setting up a potential Iron Bowl Part Deux, maybe even for the NC… in the event, the state of Alabama would explode.

    (Bedlam) Scenario 3: AU beats UGa and UA close, then loses to UGa in Atl. It would take a few of the undefeateds from the featherweight conferences losing, but there sit 2 teams who each have one loss to top five teams and one who has two losses, but both to top 5 teams. Could we have a 3 SEC + Clemson playoff? It won’t happen, but it sure is fun to think about.

    • aubobo says:

      Another variation on Scenario 3: AU loses to UGa then beats UA. Auburn is in the SECCG for the UGa rematch and wins. UGa and UA are both 1 loss teams with a 2 loss AU SEC champion. Talk about Bedlam.

  3. Tigerpharm says:

    More good stuff Sully and I love your pictures every week.

  4. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ….The Lindsey Lambo! I love it! A good navy blue rather than black would be perfect, for that car!

  5. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    My, Oh my! How the comments have changed since the Clempson game! It is fun now that the offense is improving. I do not care if LSU blows its’ engine against UF. I want a win in Baton Rouge.