Back in August RBR worked backwards through the 2013 schedule and attempted to preview the unknown. Some prognostications were fairly close and others were, well....off the mark.
How close or how far off were we?
Today we'll look back at the previews, starting with Auburn (sigh), Mississippi State and LSU and find out.
For Auburn to win they would need the season to start and end extremely well. They can't just roll (pun intended) into the end of November on a 7 game losing streak and hope to muster enough will to compete on the field with 'Bama. They'll need to believe they can win. If Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia all reel off wins, Auburn doesn't stand a fighting chance. BUT, if the Plainsmen somehow pull a few upsets and come in with any sense of confidence, the game may be closer than expected.
Malzahn will have to use a similar approach Auburn used in the 2009 IB. Jump on Bama early, throw everything they have at us, including the kitchen sink, get the fans fired up and hold on for dear life. They will have to find some semblance of a running game behind a veteran offensive line. If not, and they are forced to go pass happy with Kiehl Frazier, Auburn fans may not get that happy ending they were praying for, amiright?
An Alabama Disaster
Forgive me for even bringing this up but if something dreadful happens to the Alabama team prior to the game (i.e. injury at QB) Auburn may be able to pull the upset. Alabama seemed to have the 2010 Iron Bowl won until Mark Barron, Barrett Jones and Greg McElroy all went down. Again, this is just an element to the game that could lead to an Auburn victory.
Look Auburn, Cam Newton and Bo Jackson ain't coming through that door. You don't have the ability to simply line up and beat Alabama man up. You tried that the past two seasons and you got lambasted 92-14. Believe you can win, get some scores early and hope Alabama loses interest...That's all I got for ya.
What I thought would happen
I won't predict the score till game week but yeah, I think Alabama wins (I know, it's a shocker). The Iron Bowl use to be a game where records were thrown out but I need to see more fight from Auburn before I start predicting major upsets. If Alabama isn't plagued by injury and if they once again face the possibility of a SEC/BCS Championship, we won't have to worry about a lack of focus. That means Auburn will get the full brunt of the Crimson Tide war machine.
And even though I am predicting an Alabama win I do think the game will be more like 2009 than 2012. So, somewhere in the middle? Malzahn will do just enough to keep the game close but Alabama pulls away late in the 3rd.
Excuse my french, but shit...
To be honest, this was a fair preview of Auburn given what I knew at the time. Nick Marshall had yet to be named the starter and no one, not even their own fan base, believed Auburn would once again become a team of destiny.
I reviewed some of the Auburn previews around SBN and most had Auburn winning anywhere between 6-8 games and none had them beating Alabama. That makes me feel a little better about wholly underselling the Auburn Tigers.
They must be able hold Alabama to sub 21 points (and not just in the first quarter). Alabama will likely want to start fast and jump on MSU early and a couple first quarter scores for 'Bama would spell disaster for a possible MSU upset. The front seven will have to find a way to stop the Alabama running game without bringing a Safety up in run support and their DB's will have to hold on for dear life. If they can stop the run and get some pressure on AJ, keeping the game close may be possible.
They must take advantage of the LSU game. Think 2012 Texas A&M (actually don't, too painful). LSU is always one of ‘Bama's most physical games of the year and if Alabama comes in beaten and bruised, MSU may be able take advantage.
Their running game must be effective. The blue print on how to beat ‘Bama is there - run the ball well on 1st and 2nd down and give yourself a manageable 3rd down. (Oh yeah, you need an otherwordly QB as well.) Tyler Russell is that good, right?
What I thought would happen
I don't want to completely dismiss Mississippi St because they have been a thorn in our side for some time now but ask yourself this question— has MSU improved enough this off-season to seriously compete with the likes of Alabama? The game should be closer but I feel comfortable enough picking Alabama for the win.
MSU does return a solid offense but the defense, especially the defensive backs, won't be able to hold up to the Alabama passing game. Eventually the front seven is worn down and the 'Bama 2nd stringers see the field by the end of the 3rd quarter.
I expect Amari Cooper and AJ McCarron to have big days . I'll wager a bet that T.J.Yeldon goes for a buck fifty, Amari has 100 yards receiving to go along with a couple TD's and Derrick Henry adds another 100 yards on the ground.
Outside of basically calling for a blowout, I actually feel pretty good about this preview. If Bully wanted to beat Alabama, those three points would be a great place to start. The thing is, they held 'Bama to 20 points and took advantage of Alabama sleep walking. What they couldn't do is muster any sort of running game or take advantage of four Alabama turnovers.
CLANGA, when Alabama gift wraps you a win, you gladly accept it and say thank you.
How LSU Might Win- Simple, the same way they almost won in 2012. Play solid defense, especially against the pass, run the ball effectively, dink and dunk Alabama's defense down the field and on offense continue to convert easy 3rd downs (they were 50% on 3rd down in 2012).
What I thought would happen
Shockingly, I believe Alabama to be the better team but this is still LSU we are talking about. The game will once again be a physical contest that is decided in the trenches. For Alabama, there is no A&M waiting in the wings. Beat LSU and a second straight trip to Atlanta is likely and a chance for a 3rd straight BCS National Championship is firmly in sight. Lose and the hope for a three peat is all but gone.
Hope for the best.
Admittedly, no one knew what to completely expect from LSU in 2013, not even their own fan base. This is from ATVS' preview of the LSU wide receivers.
The returning starters feature four names we're all pretty familiar with by now: Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Kadron Boone and James Wright. Last season, we wondered whether they would be a strength or a weakness without a true, No. 1 go-to guy like Rueben Randle. It was one of the 2012 team's major questions, and frankly, it wasn't answered in a positive.
We've said it several times, but it bears repeating: this felt like a group of complimentary wide receivers without a bona fide, go-to top guy. Now, maybe one of the new guys we'll cover in the next point can be that guy, but that's a lot to ask of a new player. I still think we haven't seen the full ceiling of this group, at least when it comes to Beckham and Landry
Again, the dilemma when previewing a team in the preseason is making assumptions, not based on facts but on what happened the previous year. (This is why preseason polls need to be done away with IMO).
LSU started the year throwing the ball (see the UGA game) and then went back to the power rushing game mid-season (see UF) and finished with a more balanced attack.
Where I was most certainly wrong was in thinking LSU would be able to simply plug and play on the defensive side of the ball. LSU finished the year ranked 20th in total defense but given the near unstoppable combination of Mettenburger, Landry and ODB Jr, their three losses can be firmly placed at the feet of the defense and offensive line.