Monday, October 25, 2010

What we think we know -- Week 8

1. The Doubting Thomases in the miracle season of Cam Newton are running out of time. Every week, their arguments go something like this: He's a one-man team benefiting from a gimmicky offense!!
Or: Just wait until they play a real defense like (insert name here)'s!!

One problem: With the possible exception of Mississippi State, every defensive coordinator in the SEC who has plotted against Newton and Auburn offensive wizard Gus Malzahn has been embarrassed. The latest: LSU's supposed rock wall, which was designed by veteran DC John Chavis and patrolled by Patrick Patterson, presumed to be the SEC's best defensive player.

So much for supposeds and presumes. FOUR HUNDRED rushing yards later Auburn finds itself ranked at the top of the BCS with three SEC games remaining. The Tigers' utter dominance reminds me of how Alabama toyed with the league during its early wishbone days. When Alabama met Ole Miss for its first SEC game in 1971, retired Reb coach Johnny Vaught said the Tide's newfangled offense wouldn't stand up against a real defense. Well, he was right. it didn't stand up. It bent over and steamrolled Ole Miss from first whistle to last, leaving a level of carnage eerily similar to what Auburn is meting out now.

That said, if you want to write Auburn into the national championship game, do it with a pencil. The Tigers face a potential trap game at Ole Miss this weekend. It hosts improving Georgia in two weeks, then rests up before its end-all showdown against Alabama in Tuscaloosa the day after Thanksgiving.

Which brings us back to 1971. That year, Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan led undefeated Auburn into the Iron Bowl against undefeated Alabama and its gimmicky offense. The better running team prevailed. (AU Heisman winner Bo Jackson also lost his last crack at the Tide in 1985.

Now it's Newton's turn. The big QB is the run-away favorite this year to take home college football's most prestigious award, and he will bring the best running game seen in Tuscaloosa since the 1973 Tide.

Yet, the Iron Bowl has never been kind to Heisman Winners (witness Mark Ingram's struggles last year). Will that curse continue? Or will it be Cam "over the top," Camup the middle and Cam around end?

History, in this case, is a bookie. It could go either way, or it could easily be both

2. First things first, Alabama has plenty of work to do before the potential showdown in T Town. It must survive LSU's last stand in Baton Route in two weeks, then be ready for another knife fight with Mississippi State. The Tide is improving, but it still has significant flaws. Its defense is a shadow of last year's unit, and the running game still spews too much oil for so late in the year. Still, it can easily run the table, and if it gets home for turkey at 11-1, the Iron Bowl will make the last two SEC championships look like coed two-hand touch in the backyard.

3. Don't talk to me about LSU until they find a quarterback. Losing Ryan Perilloux certainly was a setback. But Perilloux is now (insert Eddie Murphy's voice from "Coming to America" a hunnert and thirty-seven years old!! Clearly, Les Miles had had time to find a replacement. In the end, the answer may prove to be Georgia outcast Zach Mettenberger, who like Perilloux lost his QB job because he didn't know how to behave. So much for closure.

4. Can South Carolina hold on? Based on their performance against Vandy, barely. The Gamecocks were in full choke mode Saturday before putting the Commodores away. Now they get Marcus Lattimore back, but they still face Arkansas (home) and Florida (away) to close out their conference schedule. That red blur along the rail is Georgia, which is making the greatest comeback since Lazarus. The Dawgs should beat Florida this weekend, but then face Auburn in greater Opelika. For Georgia to get to Atlanta, the Gamecocks must lose two. That they could easily do. But Georgia must win out. That they won't do.

5. In Nick Fairley and Cam Newton, Auburn has the best offensive and defensive players in the league. Naw, that team can't play at all.



J said...

And here is my $0.02:

- AU defense actually showed up for a change. But I was still chugging Maalox until #23 broke free for the game-winner. Gordon was right about Darvin Adams becoming a non-factor, and just as I hoped, Zachary stepped up nicely. But then again, it's not like we really needed to throw.

- I am happy to admit to being an idiot for rooting for Turner Gill to get the job over Chizik. Somebody go over to 800 S Mint St, tie John Fox to a table, and force him to watch the Auburn-LSU game. Hey, coach, you see what the Auburn staff was doing? MAKING ADJUSTMENTS! Running up the middle wasn't getting great results, so they ADJUSTED and started running on the edge. 400 rushing yards and a win. See what happens when you MAKE ADJUSTMENTS?

- With all the goofiness happening in college football this week, wouldn't it just be the normal course of doing business for UGA to lay an egg in Jax this Saturday?

- I said this last week but I'll say it again: What are the odds of Derek Dooley being at UT in 2011? He's going to finish 1-7, 4-7 (only games left they have a snowball's chance in Hades at winning are Memphis and Vandy). I could easily see the fan base calling for his head. And I could even see them clamoring for Phil Fulmer.

- I heard a lot of talk about how 'Bama is set up to run the table, destroy Auburn's season and leap-frog 2 undefeated teams into the BCS title game. I think folks are overlooking some things - like that 'Bama's defense is their weak link too, and that this is easily the best offense Auburn has ever had. Gordon needs no Maalox for LSU, but he might for Misipi State. Assuming both teams win out up to the Iron Bowl, I like our chances - but only a fool would predict a final score with more than a 3-point margin.

- I still think an Oregon-Auburn title game would be interesting. 150 points anyone?

- Stepping out of conference for a second, I got a good belly laugh reading JP Giglio's column today reviewing the ACC weekend. In his raking of the ACC schools, his comment on Virginia Tech was "wake me when the Hokies get to Chapel Hill." In other words, give VT no respect until they show they can beat the school with half the team suspended and whose marquee win in 2010 is over Rutgers. Now that's funny!

J said...

One other thing - Best sign in the stands for the year: A young co-ed in the crowd at Jordan-Hare with a sign reading "CAM NEWTON FOR HUSBAND"

Peter from Georgia said...

J, Might there be an outside chance that there will be a few interesting messages to CN in Tuscaloosa the day after Thanksgiving?

J said...

Peter - of course there might. Despite Mike Gordon's Chicken Little analysis of the Tide's defense, there is more than enough talent. There just isn't the experience of last year's defense. And if you're looking for a crimson messenger, Marcel Dareus is as good as they come. There is no evidence from any angle that suggests anything other than that the Iron Bowl will be decided by one score in the last minute of the game. Overall, I like our chances against the young 'Bama defense, but they have home field, which has been a bigger advantage than normal throughout the SEC. It's going to be one hell of a game and I'll probably go through 3 bottles of Maalox.

Michael said...

J, after perusing your 1,000-word essay, I come to this conclusion.

We agree. (Where did I go wrong?)

Here's Alabama's blueprint for beating Auburn.

Start fast, pound the salt out of the Auburn defense, get the crowd howling like Hurricane Katrina, . . . and hold on for dear life.

This is a much different Auburn offense and a much different Alabama defense.

But if all things fall into place . . . and Alabama has more booby-traps left on its schedule than the Barnies . . . it could be one of the best AU-UA games of all time.

To hell with the rest of the teams. The SEC and BCS championships run through the same state.