It is now time to start looking at the credibility of the Auburn football program. Many things can be learned from looking at one’s self from the eyes of one’s rivals. To understand the context of this viewpoint, we must first take a look back.
In 2007, most sports writers and college football experts thought Auburn had a great shot at winning the SEC Western Division. Many stepped out on a limb and predicted such a feat. This limb was cut right out from under them.
We all know now that coaching was the problem with the 2008 team.
The same group of Auburn players that made up the 16th ranked offense in 2009, only managed a 104th ranking in 2008. If Auburn’s offense had only been of top-50 caliber, this team would have likely won 11 games.
Many writers and sports experts felt they lost their credibility by picking Auburn to do so well in 2008. They knew the players and talent was there. They also knew Alabama won the SEC Western Division, in what was predicted to be a rebuilding year.
This gives us a background for insight into two things.
First, Auburn has an inexperienced head coach with an overall losing record.
Second, Alabama has an experienced head coach that has a winning record. He also made most of these writers eat crow in 2008, when Alabama was picked by most to finish third or fourth in the SEC West.
Many of these writers will pick Alabama to win again this year.
This is for two reasons: they won the SEC West two years in a row, and the defending champ is forgivable when you are wrong, and credibility damage is minimal.
If any of them pick Alabama based on team performance at this point, then credibility is of no concern.
They have simply swallowed the hook called Saban, and are being reeled in inch-by-inch. Even the most uneducated and least informed writers know that the Alabama team is much farther away from championship form right now than it has been since Saban’s arrival three years ago.
One more thing we need to understand is that Alabama sports writers do not understand good offense.
There have never been many successful teams in Alabama with a good offense, and the last one with a great offense was in 1970. Many of these writers were not even alive back then.
Now without further explanation, let us examine the Alabama camp for their current opinion on the Auburn football team.
For those of you that do not know, Paul Finebaum is a local radio talk show host. He caters entirely to a large Alabama fan base. This has recently changed since his program was picked up for national distribution on satellite radio.
Paul Finebaum started out as an Alabama beat writer in the late 1970s and continued into broadcasting. This man knows and understands Alabama football inside out. He has based his entire career on this understanding.
Much of his success has been based on causing the Auburn athletic program and its fans misery at every opportunity. He has managed to con every Auburn football coach since Shug Jordon into allowing him access, only to later have this access used to damage the program.
To the best of my knowledge, Paul Finebaum has never attempted to do Auburn any good at all. I think his current access is minimal at best, since he's not been given a pass by head coach Gene Chizik or by anyone else on the coaching staff.
In fact, I know of no other person in the sports business that the Auburn family loathes more than Paul Feinbaum.
What better perspective could we get from the rival camp than from him?
We all know Nick Saban is not exactly fond of his own media cronies, and you couldn’t write much of what he says about Auburn anyway.
Paul Finebaum predicted the Auburn football season in his latest column, and there is something to be learned by understanding your rival.
He predicted Auburn to lose three games to Ole' Miss (upset to an underdog), Arkansas (upset to a dangerous offense), and of course, a loss to Alabama.
He predicted Auburn to finish at 9-3, and a strong year for Auburn. You must remember this is the man picked Auburn to go 6-6 at best in 2009.
He predicts Auburn to score an average of 32.75 points per game. Auburn averaged 33.31 points per game in 2009. This means he is predicting Auburn to get no better on offense in 2010 in their second year under Gus Malzhan.
He is predicting the Auburn defense to allow 22 points per game. Auburn averaged allowing 27.54 points per game in 2009. This is a big enough improvement that Auburn would have likely gone 10-2 in 2009 with these numbers.
In my opinion, if Auburn only allows 22 points per game, they will go undefeated and win most games with ease.
If Auburn only averages 32.75 points per game with this offensive line and the cornucopia of offensive weapons available, the 2010 season will be considered an offensive disaster.
As with any rival opinion, this can be considered a worse case scenario. Paul Feinbaum is actually reasonable with a worse case scenario both in wins, losses, and statistics. This is not an unreasonable assessment of the 2010 Auburn season at this point.
The one big hole in his prediction is the Iron Bowl. He predicts an 11-point win by Alabama. He thinks Alabama can hold Auburn to about the same score as last year while scoring 31 points.
There are two basic problems with this prediction.
Alabama could have scored 31 points on the 2009 Auburn defense. They had a good offensive line, and Auburn did not have enough depth to stay fresh and put pressure on the Alabama quarterback in the fourth quarter.
Auburn will likely field the best pass rushing defense they've had in years for 2010. They are dominant, strong, and fast. The 2010 Alabama team has an inexperienced offensive line.
Alabama will not hold Auburn offense to 31 points. Unless, Auburn has injuries galore to the offensive line. The Tigers are simply bigger and stronger than any combination Alabama can put on the defensive line. Alabama will get pushed around on both sides of the ball.
Auburn will average over 300 pounds across the offensive line this year. There are three dominant offensive tackles this year, where there was only one last year.
Alabama fans are setting themselves up to remember names like Gayden, Mosley, and Ziemba in the same way as they remember Punt-Bama-Punt.
Players like Fairley, Blanc, Carter, Goggins, Eugae, and Ford will make an indelible impression on their minds. The truth is, if Auburn loses this game, they will have under shot their potential by a wide margin.
This is what Alabama writers like Paul Finebaum are hoping for. It is the only chance they have in 2010. This Auburn team is better than Alabama right now, and unless they allow Alabama to work hard and overtake them, Alabama will not win.
If you need proof of this, you only need to watch both school's A-Day games this Saturday. I would suggest you attend one and watch the other on ESPN or ESPNU.
The results on the field will be proof enough. No one can argue their team into a better position than they are.