Pigskin Punditry No. 6: Take Me Home, Country Roads

David SingletonCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2008

Imagine that you are in a long-term relationship with someone. Things appear to be going well. You love your partner. They seem to love you back. You've had your ups and downs like everyone else, but that happens in any relationship.

You and your partner have made a steady move up towards the top of your field. Outsiders think of you as possibly being the perfect couple—soul mates, even.

One day, something bad happens. Something really bad that was totally unforeseen by anyone—including the two of you.

But you figure things will work out for the best. Your partner would never leave you. They have professed their love for you.

And then you wake up one day to find out that you’ve been left in the middle of the night. On your nightstand is the “Dear John” letter. It talks about broken promises and things that you said you would change that you didn’t.

Obviously, you are hurt by these comments. In fact, it would be easy to say that you were crushed by these statements. You and your ex begin to exchange nasty words about who is actually to blame for the end of the relationship and head off to court to settle your differences.

But you soldier on and happen to come across a nice person that is more than happy to be friends with you. They happen to know you and your ex quite well and you seem to have a good rapport with them.

You start hanging out with them a little bit, and then one day they pull off a significant surprise just for you. You really didn’t expect this surprise and you welcome them further into your life immediately and with open arms.

In a sense, they become your rebound partner. Sure, their last major relationship ended in some controversy, and they really don’t seem like they completely fit with you. But they’re saying and doing all of the right things—at first. And you want to be happy again, so it is only natural that you would decide to take things to the next level with them.

Not too long after you seal the deal with them, however, you start to see that things may not necessarily work out for the best. There are some important decisions that they either fail to make or choose poorly when they do choose.

Simple things become unnecessarily complex. They change quite a few of the things that you loved about your ex and you find yourself scratching your head wondering, “What the hell are they doing?”

In this scenario, you are West Virginia Mountaineer football. The ex is Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. And the new partner is Bill Stewart.

Yes, any transition is complex, and oftentimes you find yourself wondering what your new partner is doing. But it was apparent while watching the Mountaineers lose at Colorado on Thursday night 17-14 in overtime, that Bill Stewart, while he might be a nice man, was hired way too hastily by the West Virginia administration.

Like Rodriguez, Stewart is a West Virginia native. He really does seem like a folksy, nice guy when I’ve seen him and heard him do interviews.

But being a nice guy doesn’t automatically mean that he’s going to be a good coach. And the clock management at the end of both halves last night might have been some of the worst clock management I’ve seen in 24 years of watching football.

Also, I wonder if bringing in Jeff Mullen and changing from the system that Rich Rodriguez ran with Pat White was the right move. I understand that as a coach, you want to get your guys in place.

But considering that Pat White was a very successful quarterback in the old system for three years, it seems like folly right now to try to have him pass more.

21-of-32 for 115 yards in the last two games seems to be example one of that.

Yes, I know, Mountaineer fan: you have gone on the road to play a good ECU team (whom you smoked last season, by the way) and an improving Colorado team with extra time to prepare. Kudos to you for doing that.

Considering, though, that you have a quarterback that had showed up on most people’s short lists for the Heisman trophy, that defense kind of rings hollow.

Although, I guess you can take solace in the fact that with two losses, any hopes of a national title are long gone.

At least the bad thing happened earlier this year than at the end of the season. So you’ve got that going for you, which is nice.

On to the pick. Only one this week, so I am going to have to make it count.

This week, Pigskin Punditry is going to focus on the SEC. I know, I know, the SEC gets so much love, it’s positively sickening.

But there is a battle of Tigers that has caught my eyes.

The Bayou Bengals and the Tigers of the Plains go head to head yet again in what has the chance to be a real barnburner. Or snoozefest. Take your pick depending on your point of view.

The theme this year in the SEC is going to be defense. Because once again, it appears that the defenses are going to rule the roosts.

LSU hasn’t really been challenged in their two games so far this season (LSU had their game against Troy postponed because of Hurricane Gustav). North Texas and Appalachian State really didn’t put up too much of a fight, so the LSU Tigers are probably still something of an enigma.

Neither Andrew Hatch nor Jarrett Lee have really done anything truly outstanding so far this season, managing the game more than anything else. Granted, there is a lot of other talent on the squad, and considering the opponents, they haven’t really been called on to do much yet. But that could be a problem now that we’re entering conference play.

Auburn already has a half-game lead on LSU thanks to their thrilling 3-2 victory over Mississippi State last week.

Okay, it was thrilling only because it was 3-2. Not necessarily because of the action on the field.

Tony Franklin was brought in by Tommy Tuberville to replace Al Borges before the bowl game last season to spice up the offense. Franklin, considered by some to be something of a guru when it comes to running a no-huddle spread offense, installed part of his system before the Chik-Fil-A Bowl last season. Auburn went on the win the game, and people expected great things this season.

Well, so far the offense has sputtered, scoring only 21.3 points per game and averaging 367 yards of total offense per game.

That’s not why Tony Franklin is there at Auburn, y’all. Those really aren’t the numbers that we (okay, I) expected.

Yes, it takes time to learn a new system, and maybe Auburn really doesn’t have the quarterback it needs to make this system go.

But if a solid (but not spectacular) Mississippi State defense can hold Auburn to 315 yards and force three turnovers, what could LSU’s defensive talent do—unless Franklin and Tuberville have just been snowballing us and haven’t really run the offense to its fullest capabilities because they didn’t want to give LSU any film.

Sorry. Even I don’t really buy that.

The last four games have been decided by a combined 14 points. This one shouldn’t be any different. I expect a low-scoring affair, with advantage going to the home team (continuing the recent trend in this series). The Auburn offense wakes up, and an ill-timed turnover by Andrew Hatch leads to a deciding defensive score for Auburn.

Auburn 17, LSU 16.

You can e-mail the Pigskin Pundit at: pigskinpundit@gmail.com


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