When I look at the Auburn I game I think it can go one of three ways. Either a close win by Auburn (please don’t assume the game is an automatic w) or a close win by Bama (10 pts. or less) or a blow out by Bama.
Well most everyone thinks it will be a blow out by Bama. And, I sure hope that they are right. I want to beat them so bad that we are taking a knee in the 3rd qt. However, my gut tells me this is going to be a close Bama win. When I start to analyze the situation my mind tells me it could be close game as well. Here is why.
To begin with we are about as beat up as I can remember an Alabama team being. LSU took a lot out of us. Before that the loss of two Kouandjios looms large because our O-line was thin and limping. I guess Steen is ok from the head thing. I guess Vlachos foot is doing better. But our best guy, Jones is clearly not going to be 100%, although I’m sure he will give it a try.
But, even when healthy our line has not dominated this year like I hoped. If we had the 2008 or 2009 line Trent would be a shoe in for the HT. But, even against easy teams we at times struggle to run the ball. If it were not for Trent and Lacy being just extraordinary talents our run game would actually be weak. And, now Lacy is practically gone and we have worked Trent too hard the last 2 weeks. To be honest our ability to control ball when we have the ball scares me.
Then there is our passing attack. AJ, for all the stats still looks like what he is, a game managing Soph. Even when teams continue to load the box we rarely throw it deep and when we do go deep completions are even rarer. Many of our passing yards are little screens or dump offs to RB’s. And, lets face it, our best receiver right now might be Smelley. He certainly gives 100%, but it is sad that he is our biggest threat. Our WR corp, for all their stars, are not.
Add to our offense, which to me seems to be backing up, the fact that out field goal kicking is terrible. Now I don’t blame Cade as much as I blame the ones who recruited him and have coached him. I think he is trying as hard as he can, but he just can’t make a FG nor can he kick it to the end zone. He is going backward week to week. And kick off coverage has cost us two TD’s in two weeks. Mandel is only slightly better, although he has improved a little as the season has gone on.
As far as our D there are two things that scare me. First Ga So. is probably the closest thing to AU we have seen. AU tries to run misdirection and hopefully we will not be fooled. Secondly we are banged up on D too. We really, really, need a healthy Chapman. I just hope Barron is not keeping an injury hidden from everyone. And how will Williams and Gentry be this week? Is Ha-Ha really ready for the big time?
Beyond the specific places we are hurting comes the general places we are hurting. To begin with we are now having a real hard time putting people away. When we were putting it on Arky and UF I thought we had something. But then remember the way we looked in the 1st half against both Ole Miss and UT? They are bad, really bad, teams and we looked like their equal in the 1st half. We then preceded to let MSU and Ga. Southern stay in the game way too long. That means our last 4 wins have been struggles at times. Forget the final score of Ole Miss and UT, we did not dominate them the way we should. Now, I contend that as bad as AU is, they are better than all 4 of these teams. That right there makes me think we will struggle at least for a half if not longer.
Secondly AU has not lost at home for two years (since we beat them in 09.) Strange things happen down there. Just ask Utah St, MSU, or the Gators. I’m not saying they are paying refs, but from the games I have seen the refs have been very generous to AU. I think we need to realize we may not be playing 11 on 11 at AU.
Third, is the distraction factor. Last Sat we were distracted by the Okie St. thing. Now we have Game Day, the LSU v. Arky game, the national title talk etc. Going back to SC last year our team has shown the ability to be distracted. A great example of when we were not distracted was Mich St. last year. That game was under the radar and look how we played.
Fourth is the game prep angle. Clearly we spent all last week focusing on the triple option. Meanwhile Malzahn admits he was looking at Bama film last week. Personally I think AU started planning for Bama the week of UGA. That is why they looked so bad vs. UGA, not enough prep. They obviously did the same against Samford. When they were surprised to be in a close game with Samford they went to just running power plays which is not their game. Why? They had not been working on Samford. They just gave the ball to Dyer and let him grind it out. But, they did not reveal what they had been working on. I’m guessing we will see some option football, other misdirection, crazy wild cat formations, trick plays, etc. They will throw the kitchen sink, the stove, and the refrigerator at us.
Finally, is just the way college football has gone crazy the last two weeks. I think sometimes these things happen in big bunches. I would not be surprised to see LSU lose to Arky. I would not be surprised to see UGA win the SEC. I would not be surprised to see AU play the game of their year. They will need to play the game of their year to be in at the end, but I would not be surprised.
I so want to be wrong. I so want this game to be over by the half. And, maybe it will be. But, I have always thought this would be our hardest game and I stick by that, hoping I’m wrong.
In a way this is also the most important game of the year. I know, I know, you think LSU was. Well, if we had beaten LSU we would be in the exact same place we are now. We would still have to beat Auburn to get to the NCG. The only difference is we would have to beat UGA too.
Yes, the season really does come down to Auburn. We will at last find out once and for all the real nature of this team. When they had to win Stanford, Boise, Oregon, Okie St., Clemson, and Oklahoma all learned they couldn’t do it when they had to do it. Real champions win the games they absolutely must win. We are going to find out about this team on Sat.