State of the SEC West: The Contenders, Part Three of Three—Auburn
My continuation of a three-part series concerning the contenders in the SEC West.
As promised, I'm here to deliver the third and final part to my lil' mini-series on possible West champs. Let's take a look at the third team.
Auburn is in a crappy situation. They've committed to running the spread offense under new coordinator Tony Franklin.
Auburn fans were optimistic before the season. Many realized that the offense wasn't dynamic last year, but it was a down year for them on the whole offense. Brandon Cox had one of his worst years, which also played a large part.
Auburnites thought, "Well, I know if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but the spread sure does seem to work for everyone else. Whatever helps us win..."
Well, now they're fed up, and for good reason. A spread offense should NEVER score only three points in a ball game, no matter whose defense it is. After last week's poor outing versus the LSU Tigers, it is now time to be concerned.
Auburn, a favorite to win the West by some, find themselves in a predicament. You obviously have to finish out the season with Franklin. Cutting people loose in the middle of a season is almost never a good idea.
However, Tommy Tuberville can't wait any longer for this system to be put in. It's SEC time now. Poor Chris Todd was "running for his life" all game last week. Of course he couldn't have a good game with no protection. This, to me, is a direct result of the spread.
Why? Because the hogmollies up front aren't used to the tempo and fast pace of the spread offense. By the fourth quarter, the O-line was so worn out, it was getting beaten repeatedly by a fresh rotation of talented LSU defensive linemen. Auburn has to chill out a bit and get the ball moving on the ground.
Nothing is more demoralizing to a defense than knowing what's coming and being unable to stop it. That's how the Auburn Tigers used to run the show: tough-nosed SEC, line-'em-up-and-punch-'em-in-the-mouth football.
Their defense is still trying to play that way, but the offense is making it tough, what with going three-and-out all the time. Thus, the defense is constantly tired.
The Tigers have to begin to control the clock again and methodically march down the field for points, just like they have this entire millennium (some of Auburn's best teams ever—and just so we don't forget, they are the most accurate example of the BCS system flaws. Poor guys.). They have a stable full of solid running backs. Use 'em!
If Auburn were scoring points at their regular pace (not too many, but certainly not three in games against the Mississippi States of the world), their only tests after last week's LSU game would have been Georgia and Alabama at the end of the season.
Unfortunately, nobody knows what the Tigers are going to do or when they're going to do it. All we do know is that change is coming in one form or another. My guess is Tuberville will begin to use the spread to rush more, not unlike the dynamic West Virginia offensive attacks of the last few years.
But until we see vast improvement, it will be a tough road for Aubie. They play Tennessee on the Plains this week. Tennessee plays good defense and has as much to play for this week as any team in the country. They're playing for pride and for their coach. Don't expect a blowout from either side.
After that, they must go to Nashville to face the upstart Vanderbilt Commodores. Look out, because Vandy is playing with confidence and heart this season. They're bowl huntin'.
Two games later, the Tigers go to Morgantown to battle West Virginia. Good thing for the Tigers that WVU is underachieving as well thus far in the season. Then it's on to the crucial last two games on their schedule: UGA and Alabama.
Georgia, at this point, is an easy pick to go in and beat Auburn on the Plains. However, we don't know exactly what they have. We'll know more after this week's Alabama game, where the Bulldogs will be pulling their third-ever "blackout."
The Alabama game is, luckily, two weeks later, giving Auburn a bye week to rest and prepare. But Alabama has a bye week also, and they'll be coming off Mississippi St. at home, not Georgia. The game is in Tuscaloosa this year, and the Tide are extremely hungry for a W.
I have to pick Alabama to win this game because of their necessity to win it and their season thus far in comparison with Auburn's. True, the Tide haven't had a real test yet, but nonetheless, they haven't looked as shaky as their cross-state counterpart.
With the present state of Auburn's football team, I have to say that they will lose to both Georgia and Alabama, and lose one of the three games between UT, Vandy, and West Virginia.
However, if Auburn can slip by the Vols, they have a good chance of going ahead and beating Vanderbilt and the Mountaineers, as Tennessee will be an emotional and hard-fought game, and their toughest test of the three.
Auburn's predicted record: 9-3 (5-3)
So there you have it—my predictions for the SEC West contenders. I have LSU going to Atlanta in December with Alabama in second and Auburn pulling into third. The other three teams are very interchangeable at the four, five, and six spots.
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