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After an abysmal showing against Arkansas, it's clear that Auburn won't right the ship this year.
Maybe I'm getting back to some sense of normalcy. Sixteen or so consecutive whirlwind days have seen me in four states, my car falling apart, being broken into, meeting David Byrne, watching Chipper Jones retire and seeing a lot of amazing concerts. Somewhere in there, I had a gala with Mountain Brook's elite, covered a football game or two and did a little radio. It's been busy. I think I can now come up for air.
1. Welp. The wheels are off. I didn't think the wheels would come off, but I was wrong. There is now a good chance that this team won't win a single conference game. 3-9 is a very real possibility. It's bad. And there is absolutely no reason after Saturday's performance to think it is going to improve. If this team can't stay on the field with Arkansas right now, it will be beaten by Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, along with the losses we had already conceded against Georgia and Alabama. It's over, Johnny. What's it mean? I still don't think Gene Chizik will lose his job this year. I think most reasonable fans had already given Chizik a free pass until 2013 after winning a national championship. The question I have no answer for is: If the writing is on the wall, and there's no reason to think it will improve next season, a season in which the schedule flips, why bother? No idea. Could Scot Loeffler be one-and-done? Yes. Is Jeff Grimes in trouble? A lot. But, in most cases, when wheels come off, coaches are given an opportunity to throw people off the ship before taking the fall themselves. These are the first places to look.
2. Oh my, O-Line. The offensive line is porous. It's just hard to watch. And it's hard to fathom how it's gotten that bad. People like Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky have been calling for Clint Moseley to get a chance all season. And he got it. But why? Kiehl Frazier wasn't the reason Auburn couldn't get its offense pointed in the right direction. Auburn's offensive line offering more sacks than a Krystal after midnight was the reason the offense couldn't point in the right direction. That this team and this staff continue to recruit top shelf talent and let it waste is troubling. But if one lesson is learned from this weekend, let it be known that it's not entirely Frazier's fault, and Clint Moseley isn't the magical answer. Until something improves up front, nothing else matters.
3. Defense. Auburn's defense is playing better each week. There are still problems, sure, but it is showing the improvements it should and it is encouraging. This defense had put Auburn in a position, with roughly 20 minutes remaining, where it trailed by just three points. And after its first-half showing, that's all that could have been asked. It gave the offense a chance, despite the offense's best efforts to bury itself. So I would have given up, too. When Clint "The Answer" Moseley came in and threw two interceptions in the end zone, I would have given up, too. Why bother? That Brian VanGorder has managed to show signs of life and show signs that the mess he inherited is being steered in the right direction while being faced with absolutely no offensive help speaks volumes to our preseason belief that the right man was hired there.
4. Georgia is who we thought they were. While I was in Athens last weekend, I tried to explain to some very dear friends what "the problem" is with Mark Richt. And this weekend, he proved it. This is it. This is all you get, Georgia fans. A 10-win season every now and again. A trip to the SEC Championship game, maybe. A BCS Bowl sometimes. But never a real shot at a national championship. Somewhere along the way, the phrase "coaching fatigue" was coined. Tommy Tuberville and Mark Gottfried personified it at Auburn and Alabama, respectively. Richt is the same thing. At some point, you've plateaued. You're not going upward. This is all you get. And while this is consistently very good, you want to know what else can be achieved. And "what else" isn't going to happen with Richt. Could it be worse? Much worse. But you take a leap of faith and you see what else is there because what you have is stale. Georgia fans are clearly happier with "coaching fatigue" than nearly anyone else in the country. Because Mark Richt is a "good, Christian man." That's all fine. But that's also all you're going to get.
5. This top five is cray. Right? Like, we're talking about Alabama, Oregon, South Carolina, West Virginia and Kansas State? For real? Are there more than "14" combined national championships among those five teams? I could look that up, but whatever. It's bananas. I have no other real takes on this, but still, it's nuts.
6. Braves fans. I love this group of people that live in Birmingham, Ala., and root for some random team: Red Sox, Cubs, whoever. And they complain about how terrible Braves fans are. "Braves fans don't go to games. HURRRRRR. Braves fans suck. DURRRRRRR." There may be three teams in Major League Baseball that pack their stadium every game. I just named two. And are you, Birmingham Cubs fan, among the group going? Further, Braves attendance is nearly 30k per game. It can look empty at times, because it's a massive park that wasn't really built for baseball. So now, when Braves fans pack that park for the first ever "wild card play-in game," they get mad about a horrendous call and throw stuff on the field. "You stay classy, Braves." HURRRRRRRRR. Stop it. Do you want the fans to be passionate or classy? Classy is the stupidest thing in all of sports. Is throwing batteries classier? Like, what is it you want, Braves haters? The South has a lot of real, authentic Braves fans. And they can't make every game. But they are just as passionate as your fan base. When the team's marketing department started the "Braves Country" campaign a few years back, it was one of the best marketing campaigns I've seen for a franchise. You're given the Braves if you grew up in the South. It's not a bandwagon. We all grew up watching Braves games with our fathers and grandfathers on the Superstation. So stop acting like you are "better than that" because you root for the Red Sox. Or Cubs. Or Yankees. THAT is a bandwagon. And if you're a fan, that's fine. I'm not giving you crap for being a fan. I'm giving you crap for giving me crap. Get over yourself. (Sounds like u mad. - ed.)