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The Smoking Barn - Outback Bowl

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I didn't stretch for this, so watch those hammies!

Goodnight, sweet prince of the play-action, red baron of the read-option.
Goodnight, sweet prince of the play-action, red baron of the read-option.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (er, almost).

I sat down to think about this yesterday, and I think I like the idea of New Year's Eve, but I've only ever been to one fantastic NYE party, and that was last year. I got to visit some old and new friends in East Nashville and drink beer at 3 Crow Bar. It was chilly. It was neat.

That said, Watching football on New Year's Day stresses me out. If you're an Auburn fan, watching football is like work—no, it is work. It's also something of a disease that we welcome into our young bodies for guts and glory and competition and "the moment, the opponent," and all that:

BUT, I am excited to watch Auburn one last time this season. And let's face it, how good is Nick Marshall, really? I mean, I think we're a little spoiled to have had this kid at the helm the last two seasons. Sure, it's not been a fantastic season in comparison to last year, but hey—it's the SEC, and it's the playoff, and y'all just need to go ahead and prepare mentally and physically (vomiting and seizing may occur) for the image of Lane Kiffin holding up the golden lipstick tube that is the new trophy.

Gah, I'm nauseated typing that.

Anyway, let's focus on what's at hand: the WisKAHNsen BAHGERRS. Even though I have two degrees in English, don't hold me to that pronunciation.

I know very little about this squad from the north (that's where WisKAHNsen is, right? North?). I did a little research, however, and it turns out that an old, legendary meaning of Wisconsin means "it lies red." Well, what do you know about that, Cameron Artis-Payne?

CAP went on record saying he wished he could run against the likes of Wisconsin's B1G opponents, essentially throwing 50 shades of shade at both the B1G and the entire CFB world. And to that I say, LE BOOM, MONSIEUR.

Well done, Sir Whose Art is Pain and also throwing shade.

Melvin Gordon apparently doesn't know CAP very well, but the Badger defense is going to be seeing him in their dreams for the rest of January. So shut up, Melvin. Your name is Melvin. There is no nickname for you.

LET'S BREAK THIS THING DOWN, SHALL WE?

1. You can't say the name "Barry" without being super creepy/attaching "baybeh" to it

Er, maybe not creepy, but I always think of Barry White/Kool-Aid Man when I hear that name. You have to say it with that "ohhh yeeeaahhhh" baritone. In fact, challenge. Next time you're at a bar, fellas, walk up to a pretty lady and say the following in Barry White Barrytone:

"Hey, baybeh. You know what this shirt is made of?"

"..."

"Boyfriend material."

Gus has done several things right this season. Big surprise, right? The Duke Williams situation, as sour as that was for fans to endure when it was announced, reassures me of the one thing I already know—Gus is Gus. He doesn't grovel. He doesn't beg. He doesn't cut corners. If you make a mistake, sure, he's going to help you through it, but you're going to pay your dues off the field, too. Good for you, Gustav. Despite Auburn's many off-the-field issues this season (I'll go ahead and carve out the Grand Canyon in the comment section below for you folks who want to take me to task about the whole Jermaine Whitehead deal), I've never panicked about discipline issues at Auburn—not under this regime.

He also made the decision (was it really that tough?) to let Ellis Johnson go. I like the guy, but it was the right call. Welcome home, William Boomsicle Muschamp the Eleventh.

The Wisconsin coaching situation is crazy. Their athletic director is coaching them. Their AD. I would actually enjoy a new rule in football where, if the opposing team's head coach leaves for a more alluring job near the coast (or anywhere other than a place where some folks wear cheese on their heads), and this move necessitates an athletic director stepping in for a game, your team has to follow suit—er, just the AD part. Obviously, this is a ridiculous rule, but don't tell me you're not trying to envision Jay Jacobs wearing a visor and talking to that Samantha Ponder kid at halftime on the way to the locker room. I mean, really, anything is better than listening to Joe Kines ramble on about life on the Bayou and catching shrimp with his secret son, Scott Cochran.

Auburn has the edge. I'd like for Gus to open up the playbook with reckless abandon.

THAT HIGH SCHOOL OFFENSE, PAWWWLLLL. IT AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT TRICKS AND GIMMICKS. HALLOWEEN WAS TWO MONTHS AGO, PAWWWLLLL ($1 @grantbland)

Coaching Advantage: Auburn (duh)

2. I officially dislike Danny Kanell more than Jesse Palmer

Yep, spread the word. It's official. Jesse Palmer just doesn't know any better and has a limited vocabulary. Danny Kanell is just a two-day-old sour bowl of Mee Crob soup. And I'm going to leave it at that, because I know my grandparents and probably folks from my church read this, so, just God Bless 'im.

How many times were we forced to hear this all season: "Jeremy Johnson is the best back-up quarterback in the entire country"???

Granted, I have to admire Jesse's zeal. I wish I had it. Where can I find a zeal like that? I would thoroughly enjoy having him follow me around for a day and commenting on my daily routine. "That sandwich is a bit overrated. Your toothpaste is overrated. You're single? Probably the best wingman in the entire country."

What is it with Jesse and geography, anyway? Do they not give you maps in Canada? You can just say "he's really good at football things."

Sure, the Jeremy Johnson Era is about to begin. I get aroused thinking about those crisp zips leaving his blessed hand and hitting Duke Williams right in the breadbasket for a bazillionty touchdowns next season. But let's stop for a second once again and give Nick Marshall his due.

Nick is one of the greatest quarterbacks to come through Auburn's football program. He's highly under-appreciated by many (perhaps even some Auburn fans who don't remember what it's like to have everyone around screaming "KO-DEE KO-DEE" in 2008). I've enjoyed watching this kid play ball for us, and I'm truly sad to see him leave. Whether or not he's a quarterback at the NFL is irrelevant. He will make money on Sundays playing for somebody. No kid is perfect on or off the field, but Nick was the captain of this ship for two awesome years, and I'm just glad I got to witness him in person my last year of graduate school in 2013.

Even if CAP eats a giant karma sandwich and Melvin Gordon gains another thousand yards this Thursday, Wisconsin hasn't played a quarterback like Nick Marshall, and I've got some bad news for you Badger fans: it's his last game, and he's gonna be hungry...

Quarterback/Offensive Advantage: Auburn

3. "It's part of the bigger narrative..."

NO. It's not. There is no "narrative" anymore. Twitter has killed that idea, and I'm going to stop saying it in 2015, as you'll see in a post next week with my 2015 Barnin' New Year Resolutions.

If we were going to label this season with just one word—the narrative, if you will—it's gotta be "expectations." I'll take other suggestions in that large parking space down there I've reserved in the comment section, but in my mind, this year was supposed to be ours—on paper, anyway. It wasn't...kind of.

Look, I'm not going to pretend that I'm ecstatic about 8-4, but I'm not complaining, either. It would've been nice to beat Dan Mullen, Kevin Sumlin, Mark Richt, and the devil himself, but it just didn't happen. And you know what? Time marches on.

While our expectations as fans certainly didn't pan out, can you just sit back for a second and appreciate how little stress and expectation there is for this bowl game? Seriously, think about it. Everyone from Birmingham that cares about football things is in New Orleans sitting at the feet of the master and writing screenplay scripts about the life of Blake Sims and everything that was predestined for him to be the quarterback in Lane Kiffin's magical offense and make it to the FIRST PLAYOFF PAWWWLLLL WHAT'S SHAKIN', BACON? AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT THE FAT! WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THAT??? ($1 @wardamnjared) The only thing you'll hear about Auburn after this game is Scarbomb's ($1 @grantbland) imminent column about how discipline issues cost Auburn a 1-loss national title. The rest will follow suit. (Bye, Selena.)

It's not the same as "well, if Auburn loses, whatever." No. It's not that. I want us to win, big. I expect it. It's just going to be a lot more loose and colorful for Gus and the Tigers. It's a bowl game. Let your hair down, Auburn. Play some hip-hop to really get the people going. That's what football means to this state.

Can you imagine the kind of momentum a win would give us on Thursday going into the offseason/signing period? I can't think of a better way to end a rather mediocre season with a convincing win over a team whose best player is named "Melvin." That's almost as intimidating as the name "Blake" (sorry, @blakeells, not you).

Nothing-to-lose, everything to gain Advantage: Auburn

It's going to be a fun game. Sure, we're without Duke, we're playing in the Outback Bowl, and it's Barry and Melvin and the boys from Cheese-head country, but it could be a lot worse. Just ask Les Miles.

For those of you at the game, enjoy yourselves and be safe. It's probably quite sunny and warm in Tampa this time of year (well, all year, I reckon), so just pretend it's spring break (minus the life-altering consequences) and let loose. Pull the Tigers through, and remember, 2015 is going to be a bright year for Gustav, William, Jeremy, and the Cardiac Cats. WDE.

Final Outback Bowl Advantage: Auburn

Opposing Team/Coach/Fanbase Hate Index: 8/10 (they're basically Alabama fans with more facial hair and probably a stronger beer-gut core from packing all of that cheese)

Score Prediction: Auburn 38, Wisconsin 24

Because where there's smoke, that's probably just the fire from the feet of RUNNING BACK U, and I'll fire these hot takes until the cows come home. FOR THE LAST TIME (REALLY), DO NOT TELL ME HOW TO BARN, SIR. WAR DAMN EAGLE ALWAYS.