Reality check? Coaching letdown? Too early in the morning? Performance letdown? Lack of depth on defense?
Simply put "It's SEC football baby!"
In the wake of the beat down suffered at the hands of a desperate Arkansas Razorbacks football team, the Auburn Tigers discovered that just showing up in the SEC, especially on the road, is a recipe for disaster; sadly enough, a lesson learned every season by most good teams and rarely by great teams.
Many Auburn fans, sports writers, and especially the Tiger haters alike are explaining the occurrence that went down with furious rationale, excuses, and even so-called expert analysis.
With my knowledge of college football the human psyche suddenly resurfacing I have to break them all off proper-Lee.
It's quite comical knowing fans and especially sports writers are merely armed with the internet as their only source and a spell checker, only to ask this question: "Hey Larry what's a thesarus? Some type of dinosaur I figure."
Our favorite sport is worthy of all fans' expertise and opinions. It's amusing reading writers like my good friend Frank Crittenden dissecting all of the SEC teams and glorifying his beloved Crimson Tide.
So now it's my turn. My turn to attempt to explain the nuts and bolts of the 2009 Auburn Tigers and the direction of their season by analyzing the loss to Arkansas and the affects it had on the team.
There is no doubt about it: Auburn came out flat and laid a big fat egg. Chris Todd looked rattled early on, and the defense got punished by the Hogs' offensive line. I even got a text from a friend that simply read "Mallett for Heisman."
Now before I type anything else that may look like an excuse, let me say this: Arkansas looked like a completely different team and played lights out.
I saw many issues from the Tigers that from a leader's stand point need to be addressed.
The main issue, unfortunately, is not a quick fix. The defense is so thin from the trenches to last line of defense, they resemble the French Army and their last stand before surrendering Paris over to Germany during WWII...actually not quite that bad, but you get the point!
I know depth on defense is a serious issue and these young men are spending a significant amount of time on the field. My advice: Play harder and wrap up when tackling.
The scheme they run is to sustain energy and durability of the majority of the starters, who are playing almost every snap and will remain doing such as the competition increases.
Running a base defense with soft pass coverage to me, as an Auburn fan, is downright offensive.
Where are the blitzing linebackers? Well, they are seniors in high school and that's the reality of it all. Injuries and disciplinary actions are contributing to the Tigers' Achilles heel on defense.
Motivation, the right strategy by coaches, and players stepping up beyond their skill set are what makes up for a lack of depth on a good football team that otherwise would be average.
With a glance at the cross-state rivals and their current condition you see The Crimson Tide reveals outstanding depth is the key to their return to prominence. Alabama is a blossoming model for championship teams. It was a tough process, but rebuilding the Tide is how it's done.
The second team players for Alabama are without question a top 20 team by themselves at every position. This is very similar to the quality of riches that supported Auburn's dominance earlier in the decade.
The reload phase for Auburn football will be predominantly shorter than the Tide's rebuild and climb back to contender status by scholarship numbers alone. Auburn is not being affected by probation and the idiocy of people like DuBose and Shula running the program.
Auburn has a young and energetic coaching staff and playing time available to recruits at a major SEC program. As a proven winner, a return to being a contender is one or two years a way. And whoever said perpetrating as a contender isn't fun? It's what most programs do anyways.
Ahead of schedule or right on track? It's according to who you ask but this team plays a major role in answering such a question. The answer will be best served after the season is over by teams unity, the win/loss record, recruiting, and the immeasurables we don't even read or hear about.
In dealing with adversity, these young men are facing a challenge and a great life lesson early on: Your worth is measured during tough times and how you react not when how you are living when on top.
My philosophy: Mental toughness; get it or die!
It is well known across the SEC that Auburn is a very dangerous team and capable of deciding who if not them will be representing the West in the SEC Championship on December fifth.
Will the questions about this team be answered this weekend against a tough Kentucky football team?
I doubt it, but a win will set things back in motion and allow the Tigers to continue towards their goals and dreams for the 2009 season.