Over the past two weeks, no team in college football has had as much negative press as the Auburn Tigers. However, despite being 0-2, the Tigers might be in just the right spot for a sound turnaround. The simple truth is that Auburn is best with its back against the wall.
In my years of covering college football, no team in the SEC receives the backlash from the media that the Auburn Tigers have. According to critics, when they win it is because they cheated and when they lose it is because karma has caught back up with them.
However, somehow, the Tigers always come back swinging. Millions of people will be following this weeks game against Louisiana-Monroe with the hopes that the Tigers will falter once again.
At the start of the season, I predicted that the Tigers would win eight games plus a bowl victory. However, I also picked them to drop the first two games of the season. My reasoning was because they were installing two new coordinators.
This kind of change does not happen overnight.
Now the Tigers stand at 0-2 and the doomsayers are as loud as ever. This is not the first time Auburn has opened a season 0-2. Pat Dye was able to rally the Tigers in 1984 back to a 9-4 season and Tommy Tuberville pulled a similar feat in 2003 when Auburn ended up with eight wins.
Eight wins is still possible but it must start Saturday with a win.
New defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, will have his hands full this week trying to stop Warhawks quarterback Kolton Browning. The Texas native was impressive last week, completing 42-of-67 passes for 412 and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 69 yards and another touchdown.
While VanGorder is known for his bend-but-don't-break style of defense, he will need the Tigers defense to make plays in the secondary this weekend. The Tiger secondary has yet to collect an interception, despite breaking up six passes.
Another key for the Tigers defense is sacking Browning early and often. Despite Browning being sacked 65 times in the previous two seasons, the Warhawks offensive line looked solid last week. If stud defensive linemen Corey Lemonier and Kenneth Carter do not have big games, it could be a long night on the Plains.
While I have openly supported the job the Gene Chizik has done at Auburn, I do believe he made a critical mistake last season. At the time I wrote an article about the need for the Tigers coaching staff to name quarterback Kiehl Frazier as the permanent starter in Week 9 against Ole Miss.
This move would have given Frazier the needed number of snaps to launch him into a successful 2012 season. The Tigers finished the final four regular season games 2-2—the same they would have had Frazier been at the helm.
Some fans are jumping off the Frazier bandwagon. However, he will get this ship turned around. It will take some time as he is learning a new system, but he is one of the five best high school quarterbacks I have ever scouted.
The tools are there. The effort is there. Soon the results will follow.
This could be Frazier's first big game as a starter. The Warhawks secondary allowed several long passes last week, and the Tigers need to expose their weak defensive backfield.
Louisiana-Monroe did a fantastic job of getting pressure on Arkansas' Tyler Wilson last week. However, the Auburn offensive line is far superior to that of the Razorbacks. The Tigers should be able to get Frazier more time and allow him to get into a more effective groove.
Although the Warhawks have proven they belong on the field with BCS schools, the Cinderella story will end Saturday. Last week ULM had the perfect storm behind its back in their victory over Arkansas.
Lightning will not strike twice.
Score Prediction: Auburn wins 27-20.
Stat Line: Frazier 225 yards total offense