“Thank God for the Mississippis” has been uttered by more than one SEC fan through the years. It’s a popular sentiment during the rebuilding seasons. Unfortunately, Auburn now has the rare position of not being able to look past either Magnolia state team the way we always have in the past. Whoever begun the trend of us kicking off the SEC slate with State a few years back was a genius. Wading into your conference foes is way better than diving into the deep end where the LSUs, Georgias, and Alabamas swim. There are so many sharks in SEC waters. Hey, whoever put Amen Corner at the end of the season was a genius too. Jay argued yesterday that Saturday could be the most important game of the year. I think it’s the most pivitol one. A solid win builds conference confidence–something so desperately needed after last year’s debacle. A loss could derail everything. Yes, that sort of pivitol.
While Malzahn’s offense continues to spool up and improve, it’s nowhere near the production he wants. Yardage is great, and I love the extra attention to the rush while Nick Marshall gets his footing and dials back his arm, especially with another great back having a break-out game. Last week it was Cameron Artis-Payne; the week before, Corey Grant. Trey Mason continues to be consistent and the rushing attack is ranked early at #11 in the country. But the number of plays run–69 last week, is about 15% short of what we need. We didn’t win time of possession against Arky State, which doesn’t matter of you score with Oregon-esque quickness, so we must have more snaps. Teams will continue to pile yards on us–there’s simply no getting around that fact with the Malzahn system. Our best defense is more snaps–that and the defense of Ellis Johnson assuming a ‘bend but don’t break’ front to keep em out of the end zone. I definitely liked what I saw out of our squad with the high octane Red Wolf attack formerly run by Malzahn.
No, it wasn’t just you two weeks ago thinking that Washington State wasn’t a half bad team. You probably thought you were over-rationalizing Auburn’s improved outing against an out of conference BCS foe any which way but loose. Turns out those guys are better than most give them credit for, upsetting USC at the Coliseum 10-7. While Mike Leach and company did pretty well rushing against AU, they managed a whopping 7 yards against the Trojans. Luckily the passing game of the Air Raid offense was able to secure the ‘W’. It’s funny for me to think that almost five years ago, I was calling for Mike Leach to replace Tommy Tuberville after the 2008 season. I had the mistaken notion that the biggest momentum in recruiting meant to secure the biggest name available, and Leach was the man, looking to leave Texas Tech after a breakout season there. Turns out that someone was looking out for us, as Leach’s pass-happy ways probably wouldn’t have worked on the run-dominant Plains. He was fired following the 2009 season after the much publicized altercation with Craig James’ son. I wish him well with the Cougars.
Leach certainly did his part to put our old buddy Lane Kiffin on the hot seat two games into the season. After skating by Hawaii messily in week one, the mighty Trojan passing attack managed 54 yards total against Washington State, which instead sounds more like an NFL outing of Matt Linert or Mark Sanchez. Cries for the the boy wonder’s head are now out in full force. Joining him on the hot seat is Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team allowed 550 yards of rushing to BYU last weekend and a blow-out loss. Mack Daddy made quick work of his DC yesterday morning, but it’ll likely be too little to save his job. Brown should have allowed himself to get kicked upstairs years ago after failing to hand the reigns over to coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp, but egos are big in Texas as well.
Maybe we shouldn’t feel so bad for either of these coaches. Kiffin packed his dysfunctional bags after one season so the Vols could begin the process of healing ( a long road winding through Derek Dooley, albeit) and Mack Brown’s insistence to hold the power in Austin coughed up Will Muschamp back to the SEC where he will be content to languish the Gators behind Georgia and South Carolina for a few years.
Don’t think Muchamp isn’t on the hot seat in season three in the Swamp by dropping the sunset of the rivaly game with Miami last week. It’s not inconceivable that failure to compete in the east this year could put him out in the cold come December, depending on how he does with Georgia and FSU. And speaking of hot seats, how close did we come to hearing the whines of “Fire Mark Richt” after the Dawgs finally pulled out the victory against the Gamecocks in the 4th quarter? A 0-2 start there would have echoed the start of their 2011 season and the long knives would have been unsheathed yet again.
Man, how I love college football!