Looks like the nation will still be on holiday until a week from today. I went into the office yesterday but there was no one at work at any of the places I could see. With Christmas and New Year's falling on a Sunday and with only a week in between them, never under-estimate most Americans desire to meld them together into a whole fortnight of celebration, cheer and football. However, our Auburn Tigers went to work yesterday, practicing at the Georgia Dome in preparation for Saturday's Chick fil A Bowl against Virginia.
Watching the empty seats in the
Liberty Bowl Independence Bowl THAT GAME THAT WAS ON last night, I'm thankful that we're going to a game that will be sold out and have some modicum of interest to it. SEC teams are always a good draw, both as travelers and in TV ratings. This week will feature 15 Bowl games from yesterday through Saturday. New Year's Day will belong to the NFL this year since it falls on a Sunday. The big bowl games start next Monday night. Even with Auburn in a rebuilding year and having already lost it's luster as the returning national champion, I'll go on record now and say that our bowl game will have the highest ratings this week.
Virginia is certainly a wild card this year, coming out of nowhere and challenging for the ACC Coastal division. They didn't play Clemson, so we can't get a comparison of how we stack up there. We don't have much shared history between us, other than a UVA alumnus named George Petrie birthed our program back in 1892 and we had a home and home series back in the late 1990s.
As a matter of fact, we don't have any significant history with any founding ACC team other than Clemson, assuming you already know that Georgia Tech used to be in the SEC and spent a few decades in the Independent wilderness before joining their current conference. Regardless, it's no secret that most in our conference consider the Atlantic Coast to be a 'little brother' and we absolutely cannot lose another game to a ACC team this year.
Auburn doesn't have much to lose with this game so I think we should air it all out. And I think we will.
With two open coordinator slots, it's apparent now that Gene Chizik is trying to land some pretty big fishes who still have bowl games to be played, otherwise he'd gone ahead and made a move by now. With recruiting season about to go into overdrive, Chizik must be looking to make impact hires that will appease recruits, current players, fans and management. That's quite the task. I'm glad he's putting careful thought into it. His first batch turned out to be pretty good and he didn't have half the time.
I think one day we'll look back at Chizik's tenure at Auburn and see it as a multiple act play, with the curtain having just closed on the first act. Whether or not we'll have a long intermission next depends heavily on what will transpire in the next two to three weeks. With more teams joining the conference next season and with the SEC west already top-heavy with national title caliber teams, we can't afford to stay flat-footed.
I think Gus Malzahn goes out in style and throws the kitchen sink at Virginia. With his offense seeming overly conservative this season because of personnel shortages, it's time to release the trickery in the playbook and try any and everything to get this offense moving for one last hurrah. Will we see something reminiscent of the 2007 Chick fil A bowl, minus of course another half-season of Tony Franklin? Let it all air out.
Gene Chizik is taking direct control of the defense for this game. While some may believe this move to lead to a tsunami of direct-infused fire, I have my doubts that we'll see anything substantive, otherwise we might have seem his fine tuning earlier in the year. We're going to need some wholesale change in that department, but that doesn't mean the D can't let it all hang out for this game either.
I'm sure the Georgia Dome will be packed with the familiar blue and orange this weekend in the very home of the SEC. The site of our last game of 2011 will be the very same place as our first one of 2012. I think in between them, we're going to see some big changes as we get our team back on track. War Eagle and Happy New Year!