I'm sure glad the team showed up Saturday night in the second half to take care of Ole Miss. With it being Halloween weekend, nothing's scarier than a Chizik squad going up 14-0 on an opponent. Face it. We all look past this game. We take an Ole Miss win for granted. I'm not sure why this game isn't homecoming every other year. Even the networks and the announcers notice it and follow suit. That's why we get the third string of both. The stadium crowd seemed asleep, the team seemed flat at first and even I was peeking at other games on the couch at home. Although historically we haven't played them as many times as we have State, Auburn owns Mississippi like no other conference opponent we have and we've become dependent on this game being a win. Not that it showed.
Speaking of taking for granted, you figure Arkansas did just that at Vanderbilt before finally pulling it out. Vandy had them on the ropes a few times late but couldn't bring it home. Vanderbilt stadium must be the only venue in the SEC where even Arkansas brings more fans than the home team. Work on that, Commodores. While I would never resort to moral victories for my own team, close games against Georgia and Arky prove that your program is on the rise. Maybe I'll live long enough to see another Vandy bowl team.
Georgia might have been taking Florida a little for granted early, if you watched most of the World's Largest Politically Corrected So That You Can't Mention Alcohol Game. I was secretly rooting for Florida, but only so it would drive down ticket prices in Athens in two weeks. I was also drinking but at least I wasn't talking about it. The east is down to Georgia and Carolina. The Dawgs have us and Kentucky left, the Gamecocks Arkansas and Florida. With Carolina so banged up, I think you call the mutts the prohibitive favorite now to be the sacrificial lamb for the West champion in Atlanta.
So what of our Tigers, coming off the blow-out against LSU. What did we learn this past week of them dealing with that adversity?
- The defense seemed to regress a bit in the first half before finally toughening up--their 28 days in rehab following the first four games being completed. Glad they didn't totally fall off the wagon.
- We learned that half of Emory Blake is way better than no Emory Blake at all and that secondaries tremble at his insertion into the lineup. Or should.
- We saw Phillip Lutzenkirchen make a one-handed circus catch into the end zone but suffer having his wind knocked out, effectively preventing another performance of the oft-requested little jig, the Lutzie.
- We are all hopeful to reap huge dividends in Clint Moseley's confidence level from 12 of 15 completions and four touchdown passes. It's amazing what the kid can do when he's not running for his life.
- That Michael Dyer now has a legitimate chance to win the SEC rushing crown, beating out another back in the western part of the state. When the pass is a threat, Dyer runs wild. There's no prettier site than to see those short stocky legs trucking down field.
But now comes the BYE week and what a great chance it'll be for this team to recoup and mend before Amen Corner. But while we're sitting on the sidelines this week (and this year, really), it might be easier to see who's grabbed the spotlight in the conference now. Coming off their BYE weeks, LSU and Alabama meet in Tuscaloosa this weekend in one of the rarest events in CFB--the number one and two teams squaring off in the regular season.
While most think the winner of this game will play for the BCS title, mathematically, neither team nor Arkansas are yet eliminated. Make no mistake though--I'm going with that projection myself. Both the Tigers and the Tide are head and shoulders above everybody else in the conference. Arkansas has a shot, but Bama would have to lose to both sets of Tigers and the Hogs would then have to beat LSU. Stranger things have happened but these tea leaves seem to only read one way.
Probably the most disparaging thing we Auburn fans see with both those teams is the disparity in talent between them and us. LSU lost some good players, but Alabama lost a lot more, and they are both simply reloading this year. Auburn is rebuilding. We're a young team, loaded with freshmen and sophomores. But it's suggested that we have virtually zero junior and senior leadership but that's not the big picture. Could the LSU and Alabama staffs simply be getting more mileage out of their underclassmen through coaching, or are they just head and shoulders above us in talent? Really makes you wonder.
So sitting on the sidelines this week might be a great metaphor for sitting on the sidelines this year. In 2010, now was about the time in the season that we started to dream about a BCS CG appearance. How exciting that was. We know what those two teams are now feeling. It's great for them but a little lonely for us. We got to taste it. Now we're reduced to spectators--for the moment. If we're truly rebuilding then next year we should be back in the thick of it. We will challenge. Or isn't that what we always tell ourselves?