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Day After Season End Thoughts

Outback Bowl loss, are we sour again?

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Minnesota vs Auburn Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

2020 didn’t start out on the best note for Auburn. The Tigers lost in a listless effort to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl, getting dominated on both sides of the ball and still somehow almost having a shot to win at the end. Instead, the Gophers controlled the clock, the ground, the skies, and ran things that befuddled Auburn’s offense and defense.

It sucked. The numbers bely exactly how much of a beatdown it was, even if the score doesn’t fully push that narrative.

  • Minnesota outgained Auburn 494-232.
  • The Gophers ran for 215 yards on 45 carries. Auburn managed just 56 yards on 26 attempts.
  • The stars showed out for Minnesota. Mohamed Ibrahim rumbled for 140 yards on 20 carries, and Tyler Johnson caught 12 balls for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Auburn’s leading guys were Boobee Whitlow (24 yards rushing) and Anthony Schwartz (49 yards receiving).
  • Bo Nix didn’t play poorly, but he had absolutely no help. Aside from the fact that we may as well not have had an offensive line blocking for him at times, Will Hastings and Shedrick Jackson both had costly drops, and Auburn’s other weapons seemingly ran with concrete shoes while the Gophers flew around the field.
  • Minnesota held he ball for more than 37 minutes. Despite a great effort by the defense in the second half, once it came down to brass tacks, we couldn’t get them off the field. Minnesota’s final drive included a fourth down conversion and a 3rd and ten conversion as well, both of which helped the Gophers run out the final 8:38 of the game.
  • We got supremely outcoached.

The fact that Jeremiah Dinson, who’s been around the block, had never seen some of the concepts that the Gophers were running is alarming. It’s alarming. Kevin Steele created a defense in a week and held LSU to 23 points. Joe Burrow had one touchdown pass against us. We might as well have not even been on the field yesterday.

  • It really sucks that we had everyone stick around for the bowl game and got that kind of an effort. I hate it for Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, but now they can go ahead and make their money in the NFL.
  • Back on the offensive line front, we’re seeing the results of poor recruiting from the past few years. In 2007, Tommy Tuberville pretty much threw in a bunch of highly-regarded freshmen and let them figure it out. Three years later they were the core of a national championship front. We also won some pretty big games in 2007, so it’s not like we really had to wait all that long for success to follow. We’re losing a handful of seniors on the line this year, basically everyone except Nick Brahms at center. Next season, it’s a tossup to see who will make up this offensive line, but it’s hard to believe that it could be any more underwhelming than what happened in 2019.
  • And one more note before we turn off the doom and gloom: we may be without Anthony Schwartz next season as well.

I can’t blame him. Schwartz has legitimate Olympic hopes, so if he has a chance to go, he has to make that decision. The problem is that our offense was so much more fluid when both he and Seth Williams were on the field together, so we’ll have to figure something out if he’s gone.

Alright. Enough of that. We lost a bowl game. It wasn’t a Playoff game. It wasn’t a championship. It came against a team hungry for a season like they haven’t had in more than a century. Minnesota finished the year at 11-2. You know who else won 11 games this year? Five other teams on Auburn’s schedule.

Oregon. 12-2.

Florida. 11-2.

LSU. 14-0 (and counting).

Georgia. 12-2.

Alabama. 11-2.

Minnesota. 11-2.

What the hell, man. Auburn went 2-4 against that list, with the losses coming by 11, 3, 7, and 7 points. Even with all of the problems — offensive line, quarterback, running back — we were within a hair of being elite. Yeah, that’s the moral victory, but what do you expect against a schedule like that? Would 10-3 make you happy? Would a win yesterday have done the job? A lot of the sentiment is that Gus Malzahn’s post Iron Bowl goodwill is gone after what happened yesterday. It’s not exactly a foreign concept. Teams don’t show up for bowl games sometimes. It sucks watching, but it’s not the end of the world.

So, what do we want from the offseason? Maybe a five-star offensive tackle recruit? A new offensive line coach? Thankfully, our schedule doesn’t appear to be quite as daunting as it’s been. Aside from North Carolina, who surprise surprise is going to get major hype during the offseason, the first half of the schedule is super manageable. We have to go to Georgia, but they’re going to be figuring things out with a new quarterback most likely, and if we hit the bye at 6-1, then 9-3 is the worst case scenario. We’ll get to see what Chad Morris can do on offense, and after seeing what we had yesterday, I fully support him calling the plays.

On defense, we’ll have to find some replacements for a few all-timers, but I think we’ll have a good core group coming back and we also got to see some young guys play quite a bit this season. I trust that our defense will be pretty solid either way. Until I’m proven wrong, I think we’ll be above average on that side of the ball.

Hey, yesterday doesn’t matter. We lost. It happens. It was an exhibition game, and we got outplayed. Moving on. There’s an offseason and Gus Malzahn will get to prove himself again in 2020.

For now, let’s pin our hopes for greatness on Bruce Pearl and enjoy basketball season fully. SEC play starts on Saturday against Mississippi State, and we’d better win, or else the Auburn fanbase may just implode with panic. War Eagle.