Tuesday, November 24, 2009

family conversations: Aub week

Editor's Note: In the spirit of rivalry week, I'm following the lead of every other friggin blog on the planet and staging a "conversation" with someone from the other side. Instead of tracking down a rival beat writer or blogger, however, I traded emails with my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie, a henpecked father of two (you can view his family photo album here). You may remember Jamie from earlier conversations — like me, he's (mostly) a realist about his favorite team. As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the commentary section.

will: Thoughts going into this week? I have a few:
• Holy crap, is Les Miles stupid.

• I actually had my first encounter with Charles Barkley Friday night. Which was, obviously, kind of unusual.

• The battle between Gus Malzahn and Nick Saban/Kirby Smart ought to be fun to watch. Particularly with Auburn coming off the bye, and with no reason to hold anything back, there's no reason to believe Malzahn won't pull out every frigging stop he has and really cause Alabama's defense fits.

• There's also no question in my mind that Auburn can win the game: they have one of the only home crowds that really can affect a game, the obvious talent at coordinator and absolutely nothing to lose. A break here and there, and it's a nailbiter, and it's Auburn's to win.

• That said, I'm not sure I see it happening. I thought about this last year after the game: with a handful of exceptions, the Auburn-'Bama game typically is a microcosm of the two teams' seasons up to that point. Was it a huge surprise, for example, that Auburn committed two terrible turnovers at the worst possible times last year? Not really they'd been doing that all season against a 'Bama team that spent most of the season forcing turnovers. Was it a huge surprise, then, that Auburn pounded Brodie Croyle like a piece of veal in 2005? Absolutely not: Auburn had a fantastic pass rush; Alabama was playing with a patchwork offensive line. You get the idea.
This season, the biggest difference between the two teams is the fourth quarter. Alabama has spent all season winning it (they're outscoring opponents by some ridiculous margin for the season). Auburn has spent all season not winning it (they're actually being outscored right now).
Obviously, Auburn will have the off week and the rest that comes with that, so it's not as though they're going in shorthanded. Still, if it comes down to a fourth-quarter battle, it looks like 'Bama's game to win.

A few questions:
— Grade Gene Chizik's first season. What you expected? Ahead? Behind?

— I mean ... Les Miles is really stupid, isn't he?

— As we look into the 2010 crystal ball, what are Auburn's biggest needs?

Jamie: On Les Miles, did we need this past weekend to tell us how big of a nimrod he is?

In my opinion whoever is calling plays against Nick Saban should do one thing. Get the ball out of the QB's hand quickly. To me attacking a blitzing team is simple, let them take themselves out of the play. Screens, quick hooks, underneath stuff. (See Utah). It is my concern however that we will take our sweet time in waiting for slow developing routes to open up and allow the pass rush to get to us. Our offense on Friday will, as it has all year, depend on Onterrio McCalebb or anyone else who can fill that outside running role. No matter if McCalebb was getting yards early in the year or not, he had to be accounted for which opened up everything else. See our O before and after his injury.

When people speak of Physical teams what comes to mind is a power running game. The most physical part of Alabama however is the way they tackle. They play like the bully on the playground, the ones that the teacher had to tell to stop playing so rough. That takes a toll on an offense. By the 4th quarter the other team is ready to get on the bus. I hate watching Alabama win but I love watching them play. Against a team like Alabama you have to frustrate them. You do not have to run up and down the field — just don't let them dominate you. They are used to dominating people physically. Playing with such an attitude lends itself to frustration if they are not able to do so.

Instead of throwing out the record books, people should probably just go look at them. 2002, 2001, 1984 are just 3 that I can think of that were true upsets. We do not match up well. As bad and thin as our defense is, we must be able to score. It would be a lot easier to do that if we were not facing one of the top defenses in the nation. this is why I say 31-14 Alabama. I have watched enough football to know anything can happen ... but what will happen is another story.

Overall Gene's first year is a B all things considered. Auburn is an all time top 15 team and even better in the last 25 years. For such a program to be where we are depth and talent wise especially on defense is inexcusable. For that, to win 7 and go bowling was a pretty good job. However, we had 2 other games that I felt we could have won and didn't. We are also recruiting at an SEC level again.

in 2010 Auburn needs a QB to step up and some freshman to give some depth. If we have that I could see 9 wins next year which would be an obvious improvement.

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