Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I've Moved!

I have recently moved domains, if you want to continue being a part of the blog visit the new site at http://abritoforangeandblue.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Florida Atlantic Review: S.S.D.W

It took me 20 minutes to think of how to start this post, I usually try and find the bright side to everything in life, even when you lose you can't help but bring out the sunshine pumper in yourself and say something like "at least we didn't lose" or "he played well, that's a good thing isn't it?".

Offensively we were poor yet again yesterday. The play-calling was beyond confusing and it seemed almost vanilla to me. We seemed to run the same plays, which were Dyer up the middle, bubble screens to Reed, wildcat with Bray and the occasional pass downfield, whenever our receivers were "open". Trotter looked average to me last night, this was not his best game and I have been behind him for a while and in all honesty it looks like we have reached the ceiling with him. Barrett can make some throws, but at other times he looks as indecisive as Brett Favre. As I watched him, there were numerous times when he couldn't make a pass because he either couldn't find open receivers, or FAU really did do a good job of covering our receivers, I really don't know which one it was, I hope our receivers aren't that bad.

Is it time to give Frazier a start? Kiehl did well running the ball last night and looks confident when doing it, almost Cam-esque. Frazier brings a lot more to the offense, and I honestly think sooner or later Gus will throw Frazier into a full series against an SEC opponent. Can't hurt can it?

What happened to Dyer's thirty carries a game? To be fair, there is no use risking him to injury in a game like this when our October stretch is coming up, but when he did run nothing seemed to open up for him, and that falls on the offensive line. The blocking was horrendous, as numerous times the pocket was collapsing and we had to take the sack. There was no aggressiveness on the line last night, and that is really, really concerning.

Defensively it was all the same yet again, although in retrospect the tackling did look a tad better and one person that did impress me with his tackling was Therezie. He was always in the right place at the right time and even prevented a touchdown run through the middle. I think he needs to hold a tackling clinic for the team one of these days.

FAU had the worst offense in the country when they walked into Jordan-Hare, and it's as if we just called them up and said "Look, I know things aren't going your way but we will help boost the confidence of your players by letting you get some yards on us, this can hopefully kick-start your season".

It's frustrating having to write out the same old deficiencies that are evident in this team, we are trying to simplify the playbook but if we simplify it anymore there will be two plays left on offense called "run" and "pass".

I find it hard to believe that an "elite" coaching staff like ours would allow performances like this. I don't believe that Gus is keeping his playbook to himself before October because teams have already sussed out how to stop us. Defensively, we can't even function at an average level right now which is incredibly dis-heartening.

Last year, we were able to outscore opponents because of our elite offense, but if teams are able to stop our offense more frequently then we won't be winning many more games. We can't keep calling ourselves "young" because that can't be a free pass to keep playing football at a poor level. We played Florida Atlantic last night and won by just 16 points, which is nowhere near good enough.

It all gets tough from here on out. Seven of our next eight opponents are SEC games and only two of them are at home. Ask yourself the question, where are the next wins going to come from? Samford? Ole Miss? Thats two...If we could win at least 2 more SEC games that would be excellent. I'd certainly take that right now. I think we have a good chance against Georgia, Ole Miss, Florida and even South Carolina. Stephen Garcia doesn't look very good right now. Forget about LSU and Bama because those two are on another level right now, hell even Arkansas will play us tough because they always do. The season is not over yet, and believe it or not progress CAN still be made, I haven't lost faith just yet.

In Chizik's post game comments he always points out the obvious, but week in, week out we don't make the necessary changes to become a better and more efficient team.

You know it's funny, Chizik always goes on about carrying the torch for former teams and players, and that Auburn was "made great way before you got here".

Well guess what Gene, we had great defenses before you got here too, one of which was yours.

Get it done.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Week 4 Picks

I haven't many any SEC picks this year so I think it's about time I do some. There are plenty of interesting games this week, especially in the SEC and I'll do some quick predictions on all of the interesting games.

My Auburn - Florida Atlantic preview/predictions (If you want to read them) are here

14 Arkansas vs 3 Alabama

Both teams will have to play towards their strengths if they want to win, Arkansas will have to get their WR's in space to make plays which I think will happen, but the question is how much? Alabama has a physical defense, and this will be the first real test for the Tide.

I think Alabama comes away with a win here, I just don't see Arkansas winning (they always crap the bed agaisnt Alabama it seems)

Prediction: Alabama 28-17 Arkansas

(Just a sneaky stat, but Arkansas is 175-82-3 all time when ranked in the top 15.)

15 Florida vs Kentucky

Florida have had an impressive start to the season, and that will continue as they defeat Kentucky tomorrow, on the road.

Prediction: Florida 31-16 Kentucky

2 LSU vs 16 WVU

I'll start off with the (Insert popular comment about both sets of crazy fans here). LSU needs to keep on winning if they want to continue challenging for the West. They have an incredible defense (yet again) and West Virginia should be a good test for them. I see LSU win this one on the road, but it will be closer than some expect.

Prediction: LSU 20-13 West Virginia

They were quick and to the point like I wanted. Tomorrow will be an interesting day for all sets of fans. One thing is for sure though, by tomorrow evening one team's SEC West hopes would have taken a blow.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Florida Atlantic Preview: Will There Be Improvement?

As we enter Week 4 of the wonderful and illustrious college football season a lot of Auburn fans are frustrated with last weeks performance. They are frustrated with our lack of basic fundamentals, including alignment and most important tackling, and I am right there with them. We aren't a young team anymore, we can't continue using that as an excuse, the more experience the players get the better, because nothing breeds confidence in your play like pure, in-game Division One football experience.

Am I worried? I'd be lying If I said I wasn't. My Twitter account has been my main way of expressing my frustrations with the team, questioning the lack of basic defensive coaching as well as trying to figure out why we still can't tackle properly. Some of these players have been in the system for quite a few years, including veterans like Neiko Thorpe for example. I understand Neiko is playing a new position but ask yourself this very honest question.

Would any of our defensive players START for any other SEC team right now not named Vanderbilt? Heck, why am I even slandering the Commodores? They are 3-0 and are having their best start in quite a while.

I don't mean to come across as negative, or critical but sometimes you have to be. I am still currently behind the coaches, but when I read what they are teaching the players it just makes me scratch my head in confusion. Where is the grit? Where is the fight? I am usually a positive person and I try to be find the best out of every situation but right now, there is no bright side from being the 117th worst defense in the country. If you don't believe me click here.

Rant over, this saturday we face the powerhouse that is the Florida Atlantic Owls. They come into Auburn with the 107th worst defense, and the very worst offense in the entire country. Does that mean we will give up points? Probably, I will be disappointed if we give up more than two touchdowns to a team this bad. We will still probably rotate in and out quite a lot but if we can give up less than two touchdowns that would be a step forward, but we won't even truly know that until next saturday in Columbia.

I have no doubt we will win, but this game in particular I will be looking for improvement on defense (duh!). I understand that we won't turn into a defensive powerhouse over a week, and playing Florida Atlantic won't show that improvement very much, but we desperately need some players to step up and become leaders. I don't care if they are true freshman or seniors, but a few players need to be more vocal, get in the faces of those doing things wrong, act like on-field coaches and just stabilise the defense. That will be key if we want to see improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

It is now up to Chizik to make the necessary changes to a team that needs them. Right now, we are on pace to win maybe five, six games unless we show some improvement on defense. Our offense can't always bail out the defense, and wouldn't it be nice knowing that we have a solid defense to rely on if things aren't working offensively? Take 2007 for example, the offense was borderline average but the defense was able to win us a few games that year. I'm not asking for a dominant defense, but a competent unit that we are able to rely on if things are going smoothly on offense.

The season isn't over yet, and I won't be pulling out the gun unless we lose this weekend to FAU, which I doubt even happens (even if we were to play an all-freshman team).

My official prediction for this game will be 49-17. Until I know for sure whether the defense is improved, I think we give up around 17 points to FAU which would be an improvement over the last few weeks. We need to stand up and be counted, these players can no longer act like boys....they need to start playing like men.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Clemson Review: So...What Next? + DLo Sighting

As I write this there are certain ways I could address the game and our issues, on one hand I could go on about how bad our defense has been and is getting and then cry for Roof's head like every other Auburn fan seems to be doing, or on the other hand I could look at this objectively and try to keep a positive view on the rest of the season. Let's try both.

Yesterday's game was nothing less than a shambles. Earlier in the day, my english soccer team Arsenal were up 2-1 and then imploded the same way defensively and lost the game 4-3. That shouldn't have happened and neither should this. Auburn lead by 14 points TWICE but still couldn't hold onto the lead. We seem to play better when we are behind than when we are ahead doesn't it? We almost went into over-time last week after being up by 14 points, if it were not for Ryan Smith's heroic goal-line stop. What is the issue here? Are we young? Are the players ignoring what the coaches are telling them about how to tackle? Or are Clemson just that good?

Offensively, it was not out greatest game. The biggest positive is that Dyer is proving yet again why he might be the best RB in the SEC. He has everything you want, power, agility, ability to break tackles and home run speed. He really is special, and is evidently the bright spot on offense. I think Trotter had a good game, sure he threw the interception but every quarterback throws those. Cam threw one against Clemson last year, remember him? I think he's playing in the NFL now, if I remember correctly. Trotter can make some nice throws, and I hope we stick with him as the season goes by. He is a leader and believe it or not he did lead us to victory against Utah State.

I knew going into the game we would give up a lot of points, I predicted we would give up 35 points but also score 45 ourselves. I didn't think it would be a blowout and frankly that's not how Auburn does things.

Ever since half-time struck at last year's Iron Bowl, Auburn's defense played really well the rest of the season. They gave up 3 second half points to Bama, 17 points in Atlanta and limited Oregon's fast paced/productive offense to just 19 points. We seemed to be hitting our defensive peak just at the right time last season which helped us win the BCS National Championship.

Ever since then, the defense has been less than impressive...in fact its been pretty awful hasn't it? Giving up 38 points to Utah State, 34 points to MSU and 38 points to a struggling Clemson is not what anyone wants. Sure, we lost a lot of players and the replacements are young, I myself has been beating this drum since the season started, about how the team is young and should be improving but three games in we look like a .500 team. Are we over-reacting because it's our first loss in so long? That is a possibility, Auburn fans have been used to having the luxury of winning games even in a close fashion, and that has always been the positive from our seeming glaring weakness of a poor defense.

Is this Roof or Chizik's fault that the defense is so bad? I could easily blame either of them, but let's just go with the norm and point the finger at Roof shall we? The Tampa 2 defense is a fine defense, and Chizik is one of the college coaches that has executed it so well in the past at places like Texas and Auburn. There is not an issue with the defense, but rather the fundamentals and more importantly the coaching. As I wrote in the article about the Tampa 2, it requires the defense to have sound tackling, something Auburn clearly lacks. We were in several positions yesterday to get tackles for losses, sacks, interceptions etc. but we hardly made any of them, which is not going to get it done. After the game, Chizik said this:

"I'm going to really have to evaluate everything and I'm going to look at some things"

What does this mean? Does it mean Chizik will take over the defense from here on out and attempt to salvage what we have left of the season? I'd like to think so, who knows what the coaches plan to do now but they will tell the players that the season is still not over even with a loss on our schedule. Chizik now has to find a new plan for the defense and I trust that he will. We have the talent, but have lacked the key fundamentals for us to get the required stops that we didn't get yesterday. Here is a tweet I saw yesterday that gauges how bad our defense really has been, and could be:

"Auburn Defense has given up 1,603 yards and 110 points in three games. On pace to give up 6,412 yards and 440 points, which would shatter record"

Pretty incredible huh? Here is a graphic that I also found on a message board yesterday, you really do find some funny stuff on these things.

That just signifies the importance of Gene Chizik right now, he MUST make the correct changes if we are to get some more wins this season, he simply must. We aren't playing Auburn defense right now, not even close.

We haven't even hit the toughest part of the schedule, but ask yourself where are the rest of the wins going to come from? Florida Atlantic, Samford and Ole Miss should be wins, so that gives us 5. I think/hope we will surprise a few other teams and come away with 7-8 wins, that is still a possibility even with how bad we played yesterday. It isn't likely, but still a possibility.

But, we will continue to carry on as always and focus on the next week. Next week we play Florida Atlantic, which I hope we can get a win from, (Am I kidding there? Do you think I am?) it should be a chance for the team to regain its confidence and for the younger guys to get more needed in-game experience. Let's try and salvage our season, because it isn't over yet, it isn't as if we are 0-3 (although we easily could be).

Just remember, at least you aren't an Ole Miss fan.

P.S I've been waiting a while for this: DLLOOOOO

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Former Tiger Darrell Williams Previews Clemson

Former Auburn Tigers RB Darrell Williams of the 1989 team talks about the upcoming game this weekend against Clemson. He compliments Utah State, Tre Mason etc. Everything he says I pretty much agree with, including his thoughts on Clemson, take a look!

(Yeah, I know the Zaxby's commercial looks good, I'm quite hungry now)

Clemson Preview: Time To Show Some Consistency

Can you believe we are half-way through September? Feels like just yesterday we were getting excited for the opener, gearing up for the Aggies. Time flies doesn't it? Well, its still only the third game of the season, and this weeks Clemson game is one of the very few Auburn games which will show up on my TV, hooray! Will feel good to watch Auburn in the crisp setting of a HD television, the way the Auburn Tigers should be seen on.

This Saturday Auburn plays their first road game against Clemson, a team that has been struggling mightily the last few weeks against teams like Wofford. They barely beat them last week and are favoured by Vegas over Auburn by -3.5, I'm not surprised by this, even through Clemson's struggles and Auburn's will to win the Tigers (the blue kind) are still a young team that is yet to play their first road game together. No one knows how the players will fare in a hostile environment they can't call Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Even though Dabo and the Tigers have been struggling as of late, there is no reason to think they don't have a chance. Sure, we have been playing better football but we are going into their house and playing against a team with some viable weapons. Ellington is a fast, elusive runningback that can break off a play whenever he finds space and momentum, as well as a few big receivers in Martavis Bryant (6'5) and not to mention true freshman Sammy Watkins, who is just filthy. You would be silly to think we won't give up quite a few points to this team, who are still a threat to anyone.

I'd love to put out a great defensive performance but until I do I won't expect one. Getting run up the gut is what Utah State and MSU did against us so well, so expect to see similar plays from Clemson against this defense. Offensively it will be like it was last week, Dyer making the odd play, McCalebb scooting around and Trotter making the adequate throws. If we could create a deep threat at wide receiver that would be splendid. The probable man for this is Benton, who we have yet to see catch a ball this season. Emory Blake has become a huge play-maker at wide receiver so thats another positive.

As for Auburn, this is a time to show some consistency with our play. We played a much more hard and physical game last week against MSU, we must keep it up this week on the road. Clemson want some revenge and I feel like we need to start out hot like we did last week. Get a few quick stops on defense and capitalise off of them, that way the confidence can build and we can keep on scoring throughout the game.

The only thing I worry about in this scenario is Gus Malzahn, because whenever we seem to get up by a lead the play-calling seems to become much more cute and ineffective. Setting a receiver screen on 3rd and 10 isn't exactly a solid call unless you are throwing it to Calvin Johnson. It becomes what some like to call "Tubershelling". It's as if you were sitting on a certain lead and throwing out play-calls as if you are throwing away last weeks leftover turkey.

Both teams need to continue winning but for Auburn notching every win we can will do wonders for our season, including what certain "mediots" predicted. I never thought we were going to finish 4-8 or even 5-7 so winning games like this will be big, especially games on the road. We haven't proven anything yet, so lets go out there and prove that last week wasn't a fluke. We shouldn't lose to the Auburn imitators this weekend, and I don't expect to either.

Clemson hasn't beaten Auburn in the last fourteen meetings (last win by Clemson was 1951!) and the past two meetings have gone into over-time, both resulting in Auburn victories. No reason why this one shouldn't be a similar outcome, I don't see us blowing out Clemson but I certainly don't see us losing to them either, even on the road.

Final Prediction: Auburn 38-28 Clemson

The game will be close, but I think Auburn snatches it out in the end, just like always. No reason to pick Auburn to lose until they actually do. I still think we lose at least four games but I really don't see this being one of them.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Mississippi State Review: Suddenly, The Cowbells Stopped Ringing

Remember last week when I said that if we play Auburn Football like we are supposed to we would win? I think we reached that feat on saturday, as Auburn beat State 41-34 at home. We weren't very much favoured anywhere apart from CFN, which 3/5 writers picked us to win. Apart from that I couldn't find anywhere else where we were favoured, including Vegas. It's the circle of life, pick Auburn to lose and we win. Pretty simple actually.

The game itself was two thirds positive and one third negative. One positive was that our offense is still clicking without Cam Newton, the second positive is that we keep winning no matter what, but the negative is that our defense is improved, but not where we want it to be. I don't want to take away the feel good factor from this game because I thought Auburn played very well, but I don't want to sugar coat the performance either. They put up 333 yards on the ground against us, and everyone knows that isn't good enough. To win in the SEC you have to stop the run, which Auburn was able to do last year. Whilst there was clear improvement seen on saturday there is still that nagging issue which will cost us some games.

The game itself was a shootout, as Auburn was able to put up 41 points including an interception return by DeMetruce "Meat" McNeal. I've always rated him as a player, and should be a solid safety for us this year.

Stopping Chris Relf was the real issue in this game, while he's no Cam Newton he was used in a similar way as Cam was used last year. With how frustrated us fans got at Relf running all over us, they were the same frustrations opposite fans had with Cam last year, albeit Cam is a much better passer than Chris Relf. Luckily, the only thing close to Relf that we will face again this year is Jordan J...wait, never mind.

Whilst we did get stops on 3rd down that area still needs improving. First and second down defense was not as much as an issue but getting the key stops will be big for us if we can get them more consistently. We seemed to always be bringing the linebackers to the line leaving the middle wide-open for Relf to run through. But like I said, we won't face many good scramblers like Relf again this year, so this game-plan may change depending on who we face.

Offensively we are still sound, Dyer is turning into one of the best backs in America and Blake is turning into a major threat at wide-reciever. The offensive line is slowly getting better and Trotter is impressing me more than most. Dyer breaking those long runs are big momentum shifters and you can clearly see he is developing into a fantastic running-back. The only thing we have yet to see yet from Barrett is his deep ball. Cam had the cannon-arm that we missed with Todd, but can Barrett make that throw? Do the coaches trust him to make that throw? Benton is supposed to be our deep threat at wide-reciever and if he can be developed into a big deep threat alongside Blake, Reed and Stallworth our receiver corp should be nothing less than outstanding.

The final drive was hard to watch until the very end. Ballard was burning us on the run which allowed State to literally walk down field. With how little we contained Relf through the game I was sure he was going to tumble into the end-zone and tie the game up. When it came down to the last play Ryan Smith came up and made the huge stop and won us the game. As I watched the replay I thought Relf could have stretched his arm out for the score, instead of face-planting it. It baffled me to say the least, but that's not my problem, nor Auburn's.

It would take me too long to go into mass depth and analyse this game from start to finish but overall it was a much better performance from last week. The team is young and should show this continual improvement every week. Saturday, we saw much more fight out of Auburn and that is a very very positive thing when dealing with a team this young. Some say Auburn are still lucky to be on this 17 game win streak but the fact that it's happening this often can't be chalked up to luck anymore. Chizik is a great motivator and coach and the staff have installed this never die attitude into the team (as I have mentioned before), which is incredibly valuable.

Next week we face Clemson on the road at 11am (again) and it should be another good game. Don't chalk this up as a win because it's never easy playing on the road, and even with Clemson struggling to beat Wofford don't think Dabo hasn't game-planned this one weeks ahead. He may not be a great coach but he isn't a moron either.

Is this Auburn team flawed? Absolutely, but good teams don't give up until the very end no matter what.

It wouldn't be Auburn otherwise.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mississippi State Preview

The time has come for me to preview Auburn's first SEC game of the season. Mississippi State travels to Auburn for a Saturday morning match-up against a some what struggling Auburn team. Both teams want to extend their unbeaten start to the season but only one team can come away with the doubleyou, so who is it going to be?

Both teams played different games last week, as Auburn struggled against Utah State at home and Memphis (coming off a 1-11 year) got a 59-14 beat-down handed to them from Miss. State.

State walks into this game as favorites, and rightly so. They played a much more convincing game last week and didn't seem to struggle against Memphis. Auburn was the opposite, as they would have lost the game if it weren't for a beautifully concocted onside kick, in which Auburn recovered and won the game from.

But it's not as if Auburn will walk into this game without a hope in hell, you do remember who we are playing right? Yes, Mississippi State, a team who we have practically dominated forever so don't get all nancy on me and act like we are walking into Baton Rouge or The Swamp. We are at home, and still have a punchers chance to win. Last week was not a positive sign as to where we are now, I said last week I thought we would probably lose this game but I also mentioned I would probably feel better about this game as the week goes on.

The truth is, if Auburn plays like they did last week then they won't win the game, it's as simple as that. We got pushed around in the trenches, displayed poor technique in several areas (particularly tackling) and got caught out of position quite frequently. State have enough weapons on offense to take advantage of that which is why we need to come out this week looking like a different team. Practice reports from this week have been positive which I guess is a good sign considering the circumstances. We don't have to be flawless but we can't make too many mistakes either. I think we may see more man coverage this week which is likely a good thing if we want to get enough stops on defense.

Good alignment, physical play and sufficient tackling can't hurt either.

I don't want to repeat what I have already said about the team, because I feel like I am wasting space. The coaches know what to do and I trust them to make the right calls this week and for the players to play a much more physical, hard-nosed football game (gosh, I sound like Chizik don't I?).

So what is Auburn's game-plan? Simple, just try and limit the run game of Miss. State. If Ballard can have limited holes to run through they will be forced to pass and we know that Relf is not a great passer. Auburn needs to quit making quarterbacks look like Joe Montana and start making them look like JaMarcus Russell. Get some pressure, get in their faces, be physical, ruthless etc. etc. You get the drift. I'm not worried about the offense because we will score in every game we play. It's almost a guarantee.

I'd like for less rotation this week so we could gain a team of those on a hotstreak. For instance, if a defensive-tackle is playing well in the middle we shouldn't just take him out. Keep him in there for a few more snaps so we can get vital stops. I understood last week was Auburn just trying to get younger guys reps, because to quote Coach Pelton they have to "grow up". Rightly so, because that is how you build depth.

The good news is that Auburn has tons of room to improve. The team is very young and the more experience they gain the better. I want the coaches to challenge the team and prove that they belong on a team like Auburn. We don't settle for mediocrity and Chizik knows it.

We don't have many home games this season so I feel like we need to make the most of every one. The fans need to be loud, proud and cheer on the team for 60 minutes. If you are going then act like we are the best fans in the country, because you know we are!

After thinking about the game extensively, I want to give my most real, yet Auburn fanned prediction I can give. I think we turn up the volume this week and come away winning 31-28. I can see it ending up like Clemson like year with it being close until the very end. I wish we could play Auburn Football and win the game with ease, but unfortunately it isn't that easy. I can see us getting the vital stops on defense and get more done on offense but you just never know with Auburn. That's the exciting, yet scary thing.

Stay loud, stay proud and stay true.


Just because I'm cruel, remember this?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Analysing The Gene Chizik Defence

The last few years has seen a lot of criticism over the Auburn defence led by Ted Roof/Gene Chizik. It has seen opposite teams eat up yardage, teams scoring early, teams pass the ball with ease and teams even taking advantage of Auburn's somewhat poor tackling. I decided to do some research behind the defence and show what tendencies it has in terms of strengths/weaknesses.

Here is basic quote that describes the Chizik Defence which some like to call, the "Tampa 2".

"Typically, the (Tampa 2) players don't have the prototypical size of other NFL defenders. Instead, stress is put on speed, smarts and flawless tackling (...) A quick defensive mind is a must, but the middle linebacker position is the straw that stirs the drink"

- Bryan Mullen, The Tennesseaan

I find that quote interesting in terms of last saturday's game. Jake Holland got a lot of stick for not "shoring up" the middle because of how much inside yardage we gave up (227 net rushing yards gave up). As well as the comment on tackling. Auburn missed a lot of tackles last week at key times and that is a big reason why we couldn't get the vital stops. In terms of the size comment, it does speak true of several of our players. Bates is listed at 205 pounds, Jonathan Evans is 225 pounds, Jake Holland is 235 pounds, and even some lineman aren't as big as they should be. Corey Lemonier plays at 240 (NFL prototypical DE's are between 250-280).

It is key for a middle linebacker to have speed as well as good tackling. The middle man must also be able to cover the middle of the field about 11-20 yards out from the outside linebackers as well as being able to run up to the line of scrimmage and stuff the run.

Pete Prisco, senior NFL writer for CBSSports.com, says "It takes a special kind of linebacker to do that, a guy with speed". Prisco (regarding the cornerbacks) says:

"They don't have to be great man to man cover guys, but they have to be guys that can tackle"

That's another comment about tackling. It pretty much proves the point that this defence needs to prevent as little big plays or as little additional yardage as possible to be effective. It is key that for a successful Tampa 2 defence the players (apart from the safeties) need to all be above-average tacklers. Tackling has been an issue at Auburn the last few years, I can remember countless times when we haven't wrapped up or finished the play.

Corner's also always have a 5-10 yard cushion on the defensive-backs. I am not entirely against this, but on 3rd and short (maybe 2-5 yards) it is useless using this type of strategy. If the receiver catches the ball its a first down and the defence has to start all over again.

Strong Safeties are also described to having to be "hard hitters". When I think about it Bates is a hard-hitter but recently got moved from Strong Safety to Linebacker. Interesting? DeMetruce McNeal (current starting safety) is known to be a hard-hitter as well.

Tampa 2 is a defence that prevents the big plays. Did Auburn give up any big passing plays to Utah State? Not that I can remember, we did give up a huge inside run through the middle and that is an example of the Tampa 2 failing. Last year Auburn were victims of long sustained drives but the defence relies on offences making mistakes as the game goes on. Luckily, last year Auburn had the luxury of having a very solid inside pass rush. Nick Fairley wrecking havoc as always, as well as Mike Blanc and Zac Clayton being solid inside men (Clayton got drafted).

Last year you saw several offences commit turnovers, which Auburn took advantage of. Such as the two 4th quarter interceptions committed by Tyler Wilson, both of which Bynes caught. Getting a good pass rush on the quarterback may allow him to make some bad throws or mistakes. The pass rush just was not there friday, which is why true freshman Chuckie Keeton looked flawless (even against a young defence).

The common theme to stopping the run from a Tampa 2 standpoint is directing traffic to the weak-side linebacker. "It is therefore necessary to have a skilled tackler at the WLB position". One of which, is Bates who still has major tackling issues at this point in his career.

There are several ways to beat this defence, some teams take advantage by using mis-direction plays or the defensive players "over-running" the play. Such as a middle-linebacker rushing to the line of scrimmage to stop the run when it ends up being a play-action on offence.

Right now, Chizik is the one who implemented this defence, not Ted Roof. If Roof got fired, we will still stick to this strategy any way. The real thing to think about is that Ted Roof is the linebacker coach. Is it a problem with him, or is it just young guys making expected mistakes? I think, yet hope to think it is the latter.

Gene Chizik allows his co-ordinators a lot of freedom, Chizik was able to use this defence effectively in 2004 but maybe Roof just doesn't know how to run it properly? Who really knows, I don't want to get into that.

Hopefully I helped you understand more about what we run on defence. I tried to make it as simple as possible, but it isn't necessarily a terrible strategy. Like many, I myself have been screaming out for more man-to-man coverage which I think could help. The key to running a successful Tampa 2 seems to be stopping the run. Something Auburn didn't do well last week, but did do well last year.

Here is a article about Chizik and his involvement in his past defensive jobs.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Utah State Review: Growing Pains Show In Close Win

Going into yesterday's game I knew we would give up a few points, my original prediction for this game was 42-24 but at half-time I wouldn't have minded giving up 50 if we could have come away with the win.

Last season we gave up 26 against Arkansas State and then went on to win a National Championship. That isn't going to happen this season, but I can still hope that we can grow as a team and win a few games, which I still think we will. Did yesterday's game have vanilla tactics? I really don't know, I certainly hope so.

So where did it go wrong yesterday? Because even though we still won you and I both know that the entire performance as a whole wasn't impressive. Although I have to say even though the offence struggled at times I don't think the performance on that side of the ball was that bad, the only thing that nudged me was that when the run wasn't working we just kept on running the ball. The offensive line is new so we knew there would be issues but I think Trotter needs to throw the ball more. 17 for 23 attempts and 3 TD's is a pretty impressive stat-line. Yesterday he looked good throwing the ball and our receivers certainly impressed me as well. Travante Stallworth caught pretty much everything, not to mention Blake and Lutzenkirchen are reliable as well.

Overall, I don't think our offence had that many problems yesterday and I don't anticipate us having many more issues, but that isn't where the main problems lie.

Defensively we were less than impressive yesterday, even though I could use a much worse description of the defence I still understand that as a whole the unit is very young and in-experienced. The only guys who played yesterday that have a good amount of college experience are Thorpe, Eguae and Bell. The defence is experiencing some major growing pains. Especially on the defensive line, where they got man-handled yesterday.

Daren Bates was one player that I can't make any more excuses for, he has been here three years and still has issues tackling the ball. One excuse that I WILL make is that he does seem to be in all the right places, and if he could tackle better he could be a hell of an SEC linebacker, but right now that doesn't seem likely. He always wants to go for the big hit, and although it gets the crowd fired up and rather him get a tackle-for-loss.

The linebacker unit as a whole was not impressive yesterday, but people do forget that we have had attrition/injury problems there as of lately. Jessel Curry transferred, Jawara White suffered a really bad injury last season, Kris Frost is out for the year and LaDarius Owens recently moved from linebacker to defensive end, which was his high school position. However this is not a good excuse. There are certainly slim pickings at that position, but one man that I do hope can make a difference is Eltoro Freeman. Freeman has worlds of potential physically but mentally he hasn't been able to put it all together as of yet, I guess we will wait and see.

I'm no coach, nor am I an expert at tactics but I don't like the constant use of zone defence. On 3rd and 4 giving the wide receivers an 8 yard cushion will do us no favours. I'd like to see us blitz more on 3rd down and play man-to-man to prevent giving up the inevitable first down. We didn't look too bad in a man-to-man scheme. Like I asked earlier was this a vanilla defensive scheme? Will we play more man-to-man next week against the Bulldogs? Getting slashed through the middle on the run is something else that needs to be worked on. Last season we had the luxury of having good run-stoppers in Bynes, Blanc, Fairley and Clayton and right now we are looking young and exposed in that area.

We weren't perfect yesterday but I'm still shocked at how we managed to come out with the win. Being down by 10 with two minutes to go pretty much means you are going to lose, but when it came down to it, that onside kick that was a thing of beauty. Chris Brooks got the ball up high and Blake just nipped it out of the air and ran with it. Special Teams seems to be a strength, what with Parkey's leg of steel and Tre Mason looking like Devin Hester on kick returns. That should be a bright spot for us this year.

Oh and for those who left early shame on you all. I'd KILL to be able to see an Auburn game this year and even if we were down 35-0 I still wouldn't leave. The players need the support if they are to win more games this year. Kudos to those who did stay and support your school. The team pulled out the last minute comeback which I was and always have been impressed with. This never-say-die attitude has been installed in this team, which is why we won the National Championship last year and it's why we won yesterdays game.

Next week we play against a pretty impressive looking Mississippi State offence, and if we don't make the correct changes we could be making Vick Ballard look like a Heisman candidate by the end of the game. We play at home in another 11am game so I hope we can come out firing on all cylinders and play a consistent and better game. Some say we will get blown out next week but I don't think we will. I'm not saying we will win the game but the last time we got blown out was in 2009 against LSU. I certainly think we will be in every game we play in.

Chizik and Roof know that there are tweaks to made on defence and I trust them both to make them. We won the game yesterday and no matter what people are thinking we aren't in a disastrous position. We are 1-0, the season's heart is still beating and we have a chance to keep on winning if the correct changes are made. Perhaps I will feel better about next weeks game as the week rolls on. We can win next week, but I can't say right now that we definitely will. If we don't make the right changes, it could be a long season. I think we will get a better idea of our season by next saturday.

Let's get our season really started next week, lets be as loud as we can and support our team in our own stadium. We need to enforce the stereotype of a HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE.

Don't forget, we are still undefeated.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The London Auburn Club

As you all know, I am British (If you didn't know that there is something truly wrong with you) and my fan hood has extended for a few years. I always wondered if there was a fan club based in England or anywhere in Europe where several alumni and fans meet up to watch games. Well, apparently there is.

Yep, turns out a group of alumni from around Europe all gather at various times to watch Auburn games (which I find incredibly awesome). Here you can find a post on their official website that details a gathering for the Iron Bowl 2010, with a short description and even includes a few pictures of the event.

They also gathered for the Georgia and LSU games this past year at peoples houses and A Sports Cafe based in London. Kinda' cool isn't it? They say (Bama fans) that no one (outside the south) knows Auburn like they know University of Alabama. I disagree, even though these people are alums their love of the game and for the team stretches all the way to Europe! Hear that haters? We have frickin' fan clubs over here.

This post/story from the site also really intrigued me, have a read:

I used this phrase one chilly morning to a young woman wearing a distinctive Auburn sweatshirt waiting on the platform in my local train station in North London.

She looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

The sweahirt had been sent to her by a friend because she had auburn-colored hair. (Sugar,

that was orange—a true ginger as they say here, not auburn.)

The next time I tried the phrase was in Amsterdam, sitting in front of the Anne Frank Haus.

“Damn, I told her not to wear that visor. Everywhere we go, somebody says something.” was the response from one of the ladies. At introduction, I recognized both names as prominent faculty and staff members.

After a chuckle and a short chat, we drifted our separate ways.

But I am always reminded of the old adage that no matter where you are in the world, if you yell “War Eagle!” in a crowd—you will be answered.

Awesome, huh? I for one also remember my own mother telling me she saw someone else wearing an Auburn sweatshirt in a local fish 'n chip shop (Brit term alert) in my own village! Cool isn't it?

Utah State Preview + Other Bits

Finally! The College Football train has arrived at the station and will be staying until January. Feels good doesn't it? I'm sure as hell excited, no matter what our expectations are from others I'm still pumped for yet another season of my favourite sport.

Where do we begin? Well, this Saturday morning Auburn will host the Utah State Aggies in Jordan-Hare for their opener, even though Utah State is not a big opponent there are a few reasons why people are still looking forward to this game:

- It is the opener, so the crowd will be loud and pumped.

- Fans get to see new and young talent perform, I for one am looking forward to watch true freshman Erique Florence, Angelo Blackson, Tre Mason and Brandon Fulse perform on Saturday.

I'm looking for Auburn to use a lot of different players in this game, as they hope to nail down who could be our big play-makers this season. I can even see the first 2-3 games being like this, because even though the depth chart has been decided, the coaches are still trialling certain players and looking to whether they can or can't make plays and become impacts this season. Auburn already has a few proven players that will be the main pieces on offence this season, such as Phillip Massivegerman, Emory Blake, Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb.

Defensively, Auburn may struggle early (which is what I expect) or they may hit the ground running. I think because of the new-ness of the defence in certain areas and lack of game experience I can see certain players making a few mistakes, even against Utah State. Remember last year against Arkansas State (with an experienced defence) Auburn looked poor on defence, I came away from that game thinking we would struggle to get to the 10 win mark (I was way wrong on that).

No matter how it goes, I expect Auburn to get a win. Chizik said he is anticipating a 2 QB system which could be tricky or it could fail (here me Bama?). Utah State have posed threats to several big schools over the past few openers, including a close 31-24 loss to Oklahoma last season. If you are worried about Utah State because of that, you are truly a nancy. We are Auburn, we haven't, nor will ever be scared of any opponent that walks into Jordan-Hare Stadium. I think we win by at least 20 points though personally, we may give up a big play or two but we sure as hell aren't losing this game.

Here's a stat for you, Utah State is 1-54 (all-time) against teams ranked in the BCS or AP Poll. That should say enough.

My overall prediction: Auburn 42-20 Utah State

In other news there are two other mouth-watering games this weekend between LSU and Oregon as well as Boise State and Georgia. I don't know what ESPN were thinking when they decided to have these two games on at the same time, I still haven't decided which one to watch. Since I enjoy watching LSU play, and respect Oregon I will probably watch that one, which I will be rooting for an LSU win.

I don't usually root against SEC teams, but I hope Georgia loses to Boise State. The two teams I will never root for are Georgia and 'Bama. If Georgia do win, Mark Richt probably sticks around longer and we can continue taking recruits out of their state, if they lose I get a satisfied smile on my face. I always find the bright-side to everything.

In all honesty I think Georgia beats Boise State by a touchdown, I think this may be a low scoring game so I think Georgia wins 21-14. I also think LSU defeats Oregon 24-17, however I wouldn't be surprised if Oregon shocked LSU and came away victorious.

I will be tweeting throughout the game and will probably be breaking out the various celebration tweets for when DeAngelo Benton scores a touchdown, you know its going to happen.

Get prepared people, buy your game-day shirts, tailgating tumblers, various meats, kegs and don't forget those scotch eggs. They are British and they taste wonderful.

Until next time.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Depth Chart Released/My Thoughts

The depth chart for the 2011 season just got released and there are a few surprises to say the least.

(Here is the depth chart, I'm not re-typing the whole thing. Click here)

The Surprises

- McCalebb over Dyer? I wouldn't read too much into that, both are starters in different situations. Dyer is the no1 choice on the inside run and McCalebb on the outside. Simple as that.

- Travante Stallworth starting at WR? Never saw that coming, he has apparently looked good in camp and if he can become a play-maker I'm all for having him starting here. Uzomah and Denson both are freshman that should get a few looks as well. Coates not being mentioned probably means he will be redshirted, unfortunately.

- Sigler over Wright at back-up DT? Gabe Wright came in with a lot of promise and was thought to be having a decent camp, Sigler recently got moved into the DT spot and it looks like he's made a big impression.

- Benton not starting. I've been a huge fan of Benton lately and even though he is playing directly behind Blake, he will get his shot to make some plays since Blake moves around the offence quite a lot.

- No Jawara White? I'm surprised to not see White backing up any LB position.

- Is this the end of Joel Bonomolo? The beast came into Auburn out of JUCO and was expected to make a big impact, and he is nowhere to be seen on the latest depth chart. I think his opportunity may have come and gone


Other than that the rest of it looks exactly as I thought it would. The team has very few seniors and A LOT of freshman. No matter the talent level the team is young so expect some early struggles on both sides of the ball.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

I Can Already Smell Football Season

So, exactly one week today Auburn kicks off their 2011 season against the Utah State Aggies (game preview will come next week) and I have to say I am incredibly excited and somewhat thankful that this drivel season is coming to an end. I can only deal with rumours of illegal benefits, suits, cars, tattoo's, abortions and player bounties for so long.

One thing that is bothering me at the moment is me being able to see the game, Utah State isn't a big team but I still want to watch this young Auburn team play and what kind of excitement they could bring to the season (and its also the opener! duh). I am moving houses next weekend, so I may get stuck having to move boxes and may even be without Internet connection. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Don't believe all the downplay of Auburn's 2011 season from all the talking heads in the media either, sure Auburn isn't going to repeat but we sure as hell won't be gutter slugs either. Right now, Auburn is a young yet talented team which needs time to gel and gain experience. There are bound to be players at each position stepping up and becoming play-makers when you look at the state of things.

Auburn has enough weapons on offence to be successful in 2011, and when you have an offensive co-ordinator as talented as Gus Malzahn you have to feel like you are in a safe position. The defense has also won games for Auburn in the last few years too so don't expect that side of the ball to be completely terrible either, sure we lost experience but there is a clear upgrade in talent at certain areas of the team.

Leadership is also a big need for Auburn this year if they are to win games, in reality the team has very few seniors and the players I am looking to step up into being leaders are Eguae, Blake Thorpe and Freeman (and to a certain extent Dyer). Having enough leaders on both sides of the ball will be instrumental to Auburn this season. The coaching staff is talented but they can't play the game can they? Auburn has enough talent to compete but leadership is a very underrated thing.

Just a short blog today, but you can tell the excitement is building within the program. the closer I get to game time the more confident I get about the upcoming season. Who says down years can't be fun, and who says this has to be a down year?

Buckle up folks, it's going to be good.

"Tradition never graduates" - Nosa Eguae

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Tuesday Blog/Weekly Roundup

Ever since the Danny Sheridan fiasco came to a close, news seems to be slow right now. Obviously thats a good thing isn't it? No news is good news?

Obviously as the season draws closer fans seem to crave positive news on starting spots. Everyone wants to know who the teams secret weapon may be, or who could step up and break out into the national spotlight. We, as fans crave this news like Terrelle Pryor craves relevance.

Auburn's quarterback race has been settled, which bodes well for Gus Malzahn and the offensive staff in the next couple of weeks. They get to decide who will gain the starting spots at wide receiver and even the offensive line. Those are the question marks on offence right now, since I believe the defence is pretty much settled in terms of who will start at each position and who will get to rotate in and out over the course of the season.

Getting these players some practice time and chemistry is key at this point if Auburn are to pull off some early wins against the likes of Miss. State and Clemson, both will be tough tasks but aren't impossible, like some would want you to believe. Neither are exactly in elite form right now are they?

Did I mention how happy I am that these are early kickoffs? I probably have already.

In other news, NCAA President Mark Emmert came out today and said the Cam Newton investigation is still open, but not being actively investigated. Big difference between the two, because if new information comes out the NCAA will actively investigate, but as of right now there seems diddly squat in terms of any new or different information.

The NCAA will keep this open as long as possible because of the slight chance that new information does sprout up. Its standard procedure at this point to keep it open until the statute of limitation runs dry.

The point is, I'm not surprised that this is the case, and don't expect the NCAA to close this investigation any time soon.

Did you hear Jordan Jefferson is in deep shit? You probably did, and the word right now is that him and three of his teammates (Chris Davenport, Josh Johns and Jarvis Landry) will meet with the police today to discuss this matter. Would this be a bad thing for LSU? I'm not so sure, I think Mettenburger could be a solid quarterback. Because there are conflicting versions of what happened, I would not be surprised if nothing came of this, especially with how the judicial system works in Louisiana. But thats just me.

As the season draws even closer the excitement is certainly building around Auburn, sure I don't live there but I am getting this impression on Twitter and even on Facebook (come like the new page if you haven't already) that fans are excited about the opening game and excited about what the season holds for the Tigers.

It seems as if the weekend of Auburn's opener is my last few days of freedom before I head back into education for another year. Whilst Travel and Tourism was fun, I get to study Media which could be fun if I get to include my blog in any assignments, but it's not as if many of you might care, I'm just wasting words here.

Oh, and for those of you worried or even upset about pre-season predictions or poll positions, don't be. Wouldn't you rather be post-season champions rather than pre-season champions? Just ask Georgia fans, I'm sure they'd choose the latter.

But it looks like they have other things to whine about right now.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Barrett Trotter Wins The QB Race (Podcast)

So I decided to explore what I could do with my content and one idea I came up with was an audio blog. Sure, its on YouTube but it is a blank screen so nothing to look at I'm afraid, I basically give my thoughts on the Quarterback race and what it means. I will definitely do more of these in the future, they are quick and certainly quite dynamic.

Thanks and tell me what you think!

(Please excuse the dumb background noises as well, and you may need to have your sound quite high too)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Its Like Throwing Water Over A Fire

I like the idea of being innocent until proven guilty. I also like the idea of backing up what you have to say and prove what is being said.

I had a teacher at school two years ago and she always taught me to source what I was saying, she said that she wouldn't believe what I was wrote in an assignment until I provided a legitimate source in each bit of information I provided. I used to get so testy when she kept telling me over and over again that this was the case, whenever I had forgot to provide a source.

Now I see why.

In the past 10 months or so, several individuals have promised they will come out with brand-new proof that will be groundbreaking into the Cam Newton investigation. Proof, which will force the NCAA to finally deliver the blow to Auburn's football program and thus making many rival fans across the country happy that Auburn got what they deserved.

A few weeks ago, USA Today's very own oddsmaker Danny Sheridan vowed that he would tell all on Paul Finebaum's radio spot, that he would broadcast the name of the "bagman", who delivered the money to the Newton family.

There was the fire, the spark, the flame...but it turns out Danny brought his own bucket of water with him.

Apparently Danny was advised not to say the name, because after consulting with his legal adviser Danny decided against it last minute, which sparked a major uproar amongst the two sets of people who were looking forward to it the most, up until that point.

One was Paul Finebaum, the other was the entire Alabama fan-base.

As I listened all I could do was laugh, shake my head...and laugh some more. Sheridan didn't say the name publicly because he was afraid of getting sued by said person. My question is, why would he be afraid of getting sued if he knew he was telling the truth? Is he actually confident in his source, or is this entire thing a big bowl of mumbo jumbo?

Come on Danny, you need to know the facts before you open your mouth, bragging on National radio that you can definitely come out with the goods. You could tell that Finebaum wasn't happy with Danny on yesterdays show, his tone of voice was much louder and less monotone than the usual every day wind-ups of Mr Paul Finebaum. The truth is, they are both jokes.

There isn't much else I can say about this situation, if you have proof then spill. Don't diddle daddle and get afraid of being sued from something, if you know what your saying is the truth.

I'll just hang up and wait.

If I had a pound coin for every time someone told me new information was coming out, I'd be able to afford a flight to Alabama and a ticket to an Auburn game on top of that. Crazy isn't it?

The funny thing is, I'm not even kidding.

Monday, 15 August 2011

DeAngelo Benton Knows I Exist

My favorite Auburn player since 2009 DeAngelo Benton was cool enough to give a very quick shout out to his biggest international fan! This (short but sweet) video was shot by the great WarBlogler.

Am I crazy to post this? Of course not, I live in Europe!

Still rooting for him hard to win a starting job this year and for him to fulfil his potential!

If he does reach his potential, he has the chance to be a great player for Auburn, watch out!

Thanks DLo and good luck!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

2011 SEC West Predictions

Now we come to the SEC West, which is considered the strongest division in all of college football. The SEC West boasts five pre-season ranked teams out of the six including Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Fast forward to 2011, and we have yet another season approaching which is bound to provide some entertainment. Will we see another player with a Cam Newton like impact? Will we see another freshman wonder like Marcus Lattimore? You just never know.

Alabama Crimson Tide

The Tide roll into the 2011 season with the hope to make another run at the National Championship. They are already favorites for the SEC and currently boast a pre-season no2 ranking by most polls. Nick Saban is known for his stout defenses and this year he features talent such as Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Robert Lester, Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick. A good defense is pretty much guaranteed for 'Bama this year, you can't argue that.

But what about on offense? Regardless of their no2 pre-season ranking they do have some questions on offense. Who is going to be the quarterback? The two obvious candidates are AJ McCarron, a young redshirt sophomore with limited back-up experience, and Phillip Sims who is a redshirt freshman with no experience whatsoever.

Another question is who will be the main man at wide receiver? We already know 'Bama will feature a strong run game lead by Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey, but to take attention off of them both, the Tide will have to find a wide receiver with the ability and threat to make the big play. Teams took Julio Jones into account the last three years, and 'Bama need to find another Jones. The possible candidates are JUCO Transfer Duron Carter (who as I write this still hasn't qualified) and DeAndrew White. Marquis Maze will also feature as will Darius Hanks.

'Bama's schedule this year is by no means tough, but there are teams that have a chance to catch them out throughout the year.

No doubt 'Bama will have a really good defense this year, but if they can develop a productive offense another SEC Championship is not too far away. As of right now, I could see them dropping a game or two.

11-1 for the Alabama Crimson Tide (One loss to either Auburn, Arkansas, LSU).

Arkansas Razorbacks

The Razorbacks are starting to make headway in the SEC West. They are already yearly contenders and some of the talent they have produced through the last few years has been fantastic. Such as Darren McFadden and Ryan Mallet.

Arkansas still hasn't found a legitimate defense to contend with yet, which is why I am skeptical of their chances to win the SEC West. Their defense was no worse than Auburn's last year, however do they have their own Cam Newton?

Bobby Petrino is a marvellous offensive coach, and his run and gun play-style has certainly produced in masses in the last few years. This season they feature a star at RB (Knile Davis), a whole host of elite wideouts and an up and coming quarterback in Tyler Wilson.

If Arkansas can field a decent defense, there is no reason why they can't make a run at the SEC and possibly a National Championship. They have the ability to beat anyone any given week.

As of right now, no one has seen them field a legitimate defense. I don't see them being any worse than last year, but I certainly don't see them being much better (unless Wilson is the next Andrew Luck).

10-2 for the Arkansas Razorbacks (Two losses to either Auburn, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina).

Auburn Tigers

As a major fan of Auburn I'm not quite sure what to think of the them this season. Auburn comes off a National Championship year in 2010, and 2011 will be an opportunity for a young team to grow and gel, not to mention trying to keep in contention with the rest of the formidable SEC West. Auburn loses a ton of starters from last year, including juniors Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and Darvin Adams. A lot of writers/fans expect Auburn to fall off the face of the earth because they "lost all their good players".

Listen closely, because I will say this just once:

Auburn is young, but still very talented.

From my calculations (excluding any new starters on the offensive line) Auburn will only have three seniors starting from day one, which include Brandon Moseley, Neiko Thorpe and Eltoro Freeman. Amazing isn't it? Well thats what a pathetic 2008 recruiting class gives you, we got a few decent players out of it but overall it was a poor class. If you want to go back and look at that disaster go here, but why would you?

Its no secret that the schedule is tough. Auburn plays on the road against South Carolina, Clemson, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and gets Alabama, Miss. State, Ole Miss and Florida at home. One of the toughest ranked schedules in the country, but no task is too large for this team.

Even though Auburn is young and in-experienced, I think at least half of those games are attainable, including a surprise win over someone because you and I both know Auburn likes pulling upsets.

I've equalled that to 8 regular season wins. If Auburn can get solid play from the quarterback position (which under Gus Malzahn is not an impossible task) and also get some consistency on defense, then I think anywhere between 7-9 wins is the bench-mark for Auburn this season.

8-4 for the Auburn Tigers (Four losses to any of Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, Clemson).

LSU Tigers

Doesn't it seem like LSU is loaded every year? I think it does. They are turning into a real pro factory as every year they put top players in the NFL. Some of these include Glenn Dorsey, Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis....Jamarcus Russell? Haha

LSU's weak spot over the past few years has been the quarterback position. Last season featured the mediocre Jordan Jefferson but with a dash of back-up Jarrett Lee.

Is Jordan Jefferson going to improve? I feel as though this is the only thing holding LSU back from another SEC Championship. The Tigers have a loaded defense, nice pieces at wide receiver and running back, and a pretty decent offensive line.

There is no such thing as an easy schedule, but LSU's doesn't exactly scare fans. Sure they have to play the other 4 ranked teams in the SEC West, but they also get the exciting pleasure of playing Oregon on opening day, which I will certainly be tuning in for.

Can Jordan Jefferson become an elite quarterback? Can Les Miles become competent in time management? LSU might be Bama's biggest threat in the West, and if they find a good QB then it will be a fight to the very end.

11-1 for the LSU Tigers (One loss to either Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Oregon)

Mississippi State Bulldogs

The cowbell ringing crazies roll into 2011 expecting to be a much better team. The Bulldogs went 9-4 last season including a big win over the Michigan Wolverines.

They were a threat last season, almost beating the eventual National Champion Auburn and even beat a ranked Florida Gators. They have weapons on offense, including running back Vick Ballard and a nifty quarterback in Chris Relf, and not to mention a decent coach in Dan Mullen.

The Bulldogs do get Alabama and LSU at home this year, as well as playing Arkansas and Auburn on the road. Beating 2/4 of those teams would be huge for the Bulldogs, and I think it is certainly manageable.

8-4 for the Mississippi State Bulldogs (Four losses to either Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina)

Ole Miss Rebels

The bottom-feeders of the SEC West finished 4-8 last year.

That says it all doesn't it? Will they get any better? Its up to Houston Nutt to make sure it does. Can the Rebels defense step it up this year?

The defense finished last place in the SEC giving up 35.2 points per game. It was the exact opposite of what Ole Miss fans expected but its now or never for Nutt to get Ole Miss back to at least competing for the West. Nutt even brought in Masoli last year but unfortunately it did not translate to wins on the field.

It's a short piece on this team, but 4 wins won't wow anyone and when playing in the SEC you need to be a much better team. Houston Nutt is on the hot seat, could he get fired after another bad season? I don't think Ole Miss would give it a second thought.

Unless Ole Miss wins 9 games this year I don't see Nutt being the head coach for the Rebels in 2012.

6-6 for the Ole Miss Rebels (Six losses to Georgia, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State).


So there we have it. 2011 is slated to be another nice year in the SEC and I can't wait to see what might happen. Will a highly thought of powerhouse tumble down to the bottom? Will a lowly thought of team rise to the very top?

Put your seat-belts on folks, its going to be a hell of a ride.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Official 2011 SEC East Predictions

The time has come for me to give my full thoughts and predictions on what I expect out of each SEC team in 2011. The conference is going to have more wide-spread competition this season then there has been in the past, which is why my predictions may not be agreed upon with everyone reading them.

But as always, we will march on.

This edition will preview the SEC East. Last year the conference was weak, as the yearly superpower Florida slumped into a down season which left the division race wide open between the other 5 teams. South Carolina eventually took the title and were then beaten by Auburn in the Georgia Dome (pretty badly I might add).

2011 is no different.

Florida Gators

The Florida Gators were a dominant force in the SEC when Urban Meyer took over 6 years ago. Winning two national championships in three years and not to mention having the media's godchild Tim Tebow will earn you that status.

Urban Meyer is gone, and Florida found a replacement in former Texas and Auburn defensive co-ordinator Will Muschamp. This is Muschamp's first coaching gig, one which he hopes to impress immediately because lets be honest, a place like Florida recruits itself doesn't it?

2011 is another rebuilding year for the Gators. They have a new coach, new defensive and offensive co-ordinators and just 9 returning starters on both offense and defense combined.

With a tough schedule this season, as well as a new system to learn for the players I am not optimistic about Florida this year. The fact that Charlie Weis has coached some poor Notre Dame offenses in the past and Will Muschamp being a rookie head coach doesn't exactly scream confidence.

7-5 for the Florida Gators (Five losses to any of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State.)

Georgia Bulldogs

The perennial under-achievers of the SEC roll into 2011 with a team with some talent, but still unproven in several areas. The Bulldogs went 6-7 last year, including an embarrassing bowl loss handed to them by Central Florida. One thing they do have going for them this season is their quarterback position. Aaron Murray is the best quarterback in the SEC, but who is going to run and catch the ball on offense?

The Bulldogs are banking on in-coming RB recruit Isiah Crowell making a Marcus Lattimore type impact on their season. If Crowell is even half as good as Marcus Lattimore then Georgia may have a nice year after all.

The Bulldogs do return 7 starters on defense. They have an experienced secondary but a young defensive line.

Richt simply put, has to win this season. Georgia is a team that could improve only a little or they could improve a hell of a lot, you never know under Mark Richt. I think they will improve quite a bit.

8-4 for the Georgia Bulldogs (Four losses to any four of Boise State, South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State.)

Kentucky Wildcats

Joker Phillips had about as good of a first year at Kentucky as anyone could have hoped for. The Wildcats were in every game they lost, and even gave the BCS Champions Auburn a little scare (37-34).

Its a new year for the Cats, and after losing their three offensive stars (QB Mike Hartline, RB Derrick Locke, WR Randall Cobb) the fact that they play a tough SEC schedule doesn't make matters any better for them. Their SEC slate includes road games against LSU, South Carolina and Georgia, and they get the Gators, Vols and MSU at home. However, their non-conference schedule should help them make a bowl game this year.

If their defensive line can make an impact, then UK can win a few games this year. Linebacker Danny Trevathan is a great player to watch on defense too.

7-5 for the Kentucky Bulldogs (losses to any five of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, MSU, Ole Miss, Louisville.)

South Carolina Gamecocks

Last season, Steve Spurrier had the fortune of having a team full of uber-talented players, most of which return this season. Marcus Lattimore became a household name at runningback, Alshon Jeffery is their monster wide reciever, and Stephen Garcia (when not on the booze) is an adequate quarterback.

With Garcia and Jeffery both certainly on their way out after this season, this may be Spurrier's best chance to win the SEC yet. He has the talent to win games on both sides of the ball, not to mention having All-SEC corner Stephon Gilmore and DE Devin Taylor.

South Carolina went into the SEC Championship game looking like a large threat, whilst they still were they stifled against Auburn (giving up 56 points) not to mention losing out on the Chick-Fil-A Bowl by Florida State. A late-season meltdown cannot be in the cards for Steve Spurrier anymore.

The Gamecocks are bonafide favorites to win the East this season, and I see them being well a oiled machine on offense and defense every single game. They play in a weak SEC East so they have the schedule in their favour, but if they can play well on defense consistently, and get a few lucky bounces of the ball here and there, then lookout.

Here come the Cocks.

11-1/12-0 for South Carolina Gamecocks (A possible ONE loss to either Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State) --- SEC EAST CHAMPIONS

Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols looked to be making waves in the SEC before Lane Kiffin bolted, which meant last season was a major rebuilding year for Derek Dooley.

In 2010, the Vols managed to just get by after finishing a very average 6-6. I think Dooley did a good job last year considering the circumstances.
The Vols played with less than 70 scholarship players for much of the season, and also came within a couple of plays of an eight win season. When you consider what the team went through after Kiffin's sudden departure in January, I think that was the best case scenario for Derek Dooley, don't you think?

Onto 2011 and the Vols are looking to make a name for themselves in the East, and contend for the somewhat wide-open division title. Tyler Bray came into the spotlight last season and is looking to improve through 2011. Obviously this Vols team isn't ready to contend for a National title, but that doesn't mean a 8-9 win season is out of the question.

I think considering what the Vols currently have, if they can get a few good bounces of the ball through 2011 I think they can challenge for the East and beat a few decent teams.

8-4/7-5 for the Tennessee Volunteers (losses to four/five of Florida, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas).

Vanderbilt Commodores

Now we come to the dead-wood. Ok, I'm just kidding but yet again the Vanderbilt Commodores are set up to have another pretty mediocre year of football, but I don't suppose they care too much. After all they have solid baseball and basketball programs.

Nothing ever really excited you about Vanderbilt Football. Sure they beat Auburn in 2008, but thats for another article. Last season Vanderbilt finished a horrible 2-10 (1-7 in the SEC), but they can't get any worse this season, surely?

There has been a lot of positive vibes coming out of Nashville about Vanderbilt football lately, and that's good enough for me (lazy I know).

6-6 for the Vanderbilt Commodores (Losses to six of Ole Miss, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, UConn).


So that's my thoughts on the SEC East. Obviously the division is still rebuilding, but I think certain schools are sleuthing their way back into SEC relevance once again. None (apart from South Carolina) will compete for an National Championship, but 2012 could be that year for a few more East schools. But that's for another day.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Interview with the WarBlogler

You either love him or you love him. Its one or the other. WarBlogle.com is arguably (ahem) the best Auburn blog on the net and I decided to interview the brains behind the operation and gather his thoughts on the 2011 season.

Earlier in the year, the Blogle also interviewed me about my fan-hood of the Auburn Tigers. If you want to see that go here.

So after asking him just a few questions (Yes it is a short interview) about the upcoming season, here are some of the interesting responses I got.

1. Considering what Auburn lost and what still remains, do you expect Auburn to still be challenging for the SEC West?

If I didn't, how could I call myself a fan? Why should I even go to the games? I think Auburn can compete every year. There is never a year where Auburn or Auburn fans should look at their schedule and think "well we really don't have a chance this year". That's what Vanderbilt does.

As we saw last year, and pretty much every year, what is usually expected in sports does not happen. I say this all day, every day, but as long as Gus Malzahn is at Auburn, they will be more than fine. Nothing against Chris Todd, but Auburn broke records with him at quarterback and although Cam, Nick and tons of seniors left this year, there is more talent on this team as a whole, and especially more than 2009. That is the same team that won 8 games, with almost the same road schedule as this season.

2. What are your main concerns with Auburn this season?

Linebacker is probably the biggest concern for me. Auburn is losing some major leadership with the departure of Josh Bynes, so Jake Holland is going to have to grow quickly and hold down the middle. The offensive line is going to take some time to gel, but the 1-2 punch of Dyer and McCalebb within Malzahn's system should make that a little easier than most expect.

3. Which freshman do you think will make the biggest impact in 2011?

I'm going to go with Quan Bray. He seems to be the biggest playmaker of the bunch and has earned high praises from the coaches already. Another guy who we'll probably see starting by the end of the season is Angelo Blackson. He came to camp already looking the part and appears poised for a great career.

4. Who is your break-out player of the year candidate in 2011?

I think Quindarius Carr will surprise some people this year. Most fans only know him as the punt returner who fumbled in the Iron Bowl and struggled to get any yards when he did get the punt, but as a receiver, when he's played, he's made some big deep catches. Most of the receivers that play or have played with him rave about his skill level, and now with Kodi, Darvin and T-Zac out from in front of him in the depth chart, he'll have more of a chance to shine.

5. How many games do you expect Auburn to win in 2011?

At least eight. Auburn has more talent and almost the same road schedule as the 2009 team that finished with eight wins. I will be disappointed with seven or less.

6. Let's play word association. Tell me the first thing that pops into your head for the following words.

Bama? Fake

Bryant-Denny? Wins

Cam Newton? Swag

Onterrio MccCalebb? Crazyfast

Nick Fairley? Hungry

Nick Saban? Unhappy

7. Finally, when do I get my free t-shirt?

When i see you at the Iron Bowl this year. Make it bloody happen, chap.


I'd love nothing more than to make the Iron Bowl this November thats for sure.

Thanks to the Blogle for taking time out from his various trips to Los Angeles and everywhere else and doing this. As far as football blogs go I definitely think this man has the best Auburn blog on the net! Hopefully we see the Tigers wear blue helmets this year in honor of the WarBlogle! (Ok I'm just kidding).