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Undercover Barner: Vexing Vacillation

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This week's Undercover Barner had a little trouble finding its identity.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

If Auburn was looking for answers from this past Saturday’s season opener against Clemson, it certainly received a mixed bag of them:

The Good:

After what seemed like forty years of wandering the desert*, Auburn's defense may have finally found the Promised Land, despite more three-and-outs than they should ever be expected to follow. The defense is the reason** Auburn had an inexplicable chance to win the game at the end.

The Bad:

Conversely, at least for a half, the offensive line looked like a bunch of kids who were playing an uninspired game of red rover. Red rover, red rover, send Dexter Lawrence right over!

The Ugly:

Gus Malzahn told reporters his plan all along was to use all three quarterbacks. The quarterback carousel wasn’t an in-game panic situation. It was on purpose.

So where does that leave us? Your guess is as good as mine. I mean, I think our defensive line is above average, our offensive line is below average, and everything else is a giant flashing question mark that falls squarely on Gus Malzahn’s*** shoulders.

I usually like for these columns to have a theme or an angle, even if that angle is something really stupid like comparing Auburn’s season to Taylor Swift songs****. For this week, I really have nothing. Kind of like Malzahn’s confused, identity-crisis offense.

And I should be able to come up with an angle. I had all offseason to prepare. The tailgating was great all day with some of the most talented tailgaters in the nation. We had great seats--the facilities were really top notch. And I’m one of the highest-paid***** columnists on this site, known for my ability to create themes and angles. Maybe I should try all the angles at once!

This could be another GIF post! Everyone loves GIF posts!

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Or you know what? We should slow it down with some sentimentality. How about an open letter to Auburn’s defense?

Dear Carl,

I love you. Let’s get married. Our children will grow up to be large quarterback hunters who love emojis.

But we've done a lot of sentimental and GIF posts recently. We need to bring in something new. Maybe something about superstitions?

I have to confess, fam, due to our All Auburn All Orange color restrictions, I wore an untested outfit to the Clemson game. And as we all know, untested clothing is just one step above nudism.

But you know what? I just love GIFs, and I think GIFs would give me the best chance to get my point across!

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I don’t know, though, I feel like the Family (c) really needs to express its feelings.

Dear Montra,

I love you. Let’s get married. Our children will also grow up to be large quarterback hunters who love emojis, but like even larger.

But what if Saturday was all our fault? We have to explore more superstitions! We have to get to the root of the problem!

So like what about non-clothing choices? Did everyone count their shaker shakes and cover their eyes for special teams plays?

WAIT, I KNOW WHAT WILL FIX EVERYTHING!

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Am I winning yet?

After a season where the offense struggled the most when Auburn played both quarterbacks without distinct, defined roles but with plenty of reckless abandon, somehow PLANNING to add a third into the rotation makes little sense. I don’t get it, Gus. Explain it. The players never have to answer to us for their mistakes because they don’t owe us anything, but you make big boy money. You’re a grown man. You’re [over] forty. Explain why your manic three-quarterback system is anything other than hubris.

Or don’t. Whatever. We may never know.

Toward the end of the second half, as the clock dwindled but Auburn still had a chance, the offense found some kind of identity. Sean White and John Franklin III each had distinct roles, with JFIII coming in for packages and White "managing the game" or whatever we’re calling "not throwing interceptions" these days. The offensive line realized they had to use their arms and Auburn actually moved the ball. I hate two quarterback systems but if that’s what Gus is determined to run, it worked fine. It was serviceable. Do that.

But Gus, please, please stop putting Jeremy Johnson in a position to have his home crowd boo him. As was mansplained to me on Twitter, those fans were booing the decision to put JJ into the game, not JJ himself. And while that may be true, I doubt JJ will read the myriad of twitter explanations because the intention of our displeasure makes zero difference to the player on the field who hears it. Gus, Jeremy is a good man, an Auburn man. But he’s just not good enough to be an SEC quarterback. Please stop forcing him to fail so publicly.

I guess Saturday’s loss to Clemson wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but that’s a mighty low bar to set this early in the season. Maybe the second half’s offensive success will be something the team can build on going into the remainder of the schedule. Maybe we can use this week’s game against Arkansas State to iron out the wrinkles of the two-quarterback system and give the O-line a little more time to gel.

Or maybe the game will come down to the last play again. Honestly it could go either way.

At least we have a defense, Tiger fans. And they’re hungry.

If you're making the trip to the Plains to see our Tigers take on the Red Wolves, enjoy the freedom to wear whichever color you choose. I know I'll be sporting some battle-tested navy 'neath the sun-kissed sky.

Until next time—War Eagle.

--

*

az

**Also Dabo???????????????????????

***Because it seems Rhett Lashlee is just a non-entity at this point. Good thing he’s working for free. Oh wait, I’m remembering it wrong.

****Whatever, that post was fire.

*****Not really. We all do this for $0 because we’re loud and love Auburn.