Wednesday, October 20, 2010

family conversations, 2010 version: halfway there

With Auburn now sitting at the top of the football world and everyone in the football world's consciousness, and Alabama still a threat to win 10 and challenge for the division, it seems like the perfect time to resurrect "Family Conversations," a much-belovedrunning segment in which I trade emails with my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie about Alabama football, Auburn football and life in general. Just for fun, here's the first version for this season, in which we pick the preseason SEC standings. Neither of us has LSU-Auburn as the biggest game of Week 8. As always, feel free to argue with us, either here or on Twitter.

Jamie: At this point in the season, we have seen enough football to have an idea where every team stands.
• Auburn: If there has ever been a more obvious example of how much difference one player can make to a football team, I can't name it. Maybe Vince Young. That is exactly who CN reminds me of. The other thing about Auburn's offense that makes it so dynamic is the fact that even though McCalebb, Dyer, Fannin, Adams, Zachary, Blake among others are not Cam Newton, they are good enough to at least require attention, taking just enough pressure off of Cam to let him do his thing. Other than the obvious physical presence CN has, he is THE unquestioned leader of this team. That goes a long way.
Here's the rub...Auburn's defense, at least against the pass, is the worst I have ever seen. I really can't put my finger on it. We have good enough players. The D Line is top 4 in the conference. We have basically the same LB's and same Secondary that were playing on some pretty good defenses 2-3 years ago. Our depth, though is a concern, can't really be blamed for getting roasted in the first 25 minutes of a game. The glaring thing I see here is our obvious inability to tackle the guy with the ball. That is a coaching problem. Our tackling fundamentals are horrid, and will likely be the reason we do not win a championship of any sort. The way I see it, Offenses have so many moving parts, so many opportunities to fail, turn the ball over, run bad routes, miss blocks, miss snap, inaccurate passes and so on. Defenses generally have much less of a chance to have an off game. See ball, get ball. I realize there is more complexity than that, but you rarely see good defenses "sputter."
Auburn's problem is if this offense ever sputters for 3+ quarters, we will not lose, we will get blown out. We have a tough stretch. I believe we win by 10+ points this week. I believe we are undefeated going into Tuscaloosa. I also believe in order for us to go to Atl, we must have it wrapped up before Thanksgiving.

• Alabama is proof that experience>talent. Even though Arenas and Jackson were really good players, few would argue that the two corners playing right now have more physical ability. Yet, at least in Demarcus Milliner's case, he should not be starting on a team of Bama's caliber. He is to Alabama football what Neiko Thorpe is to Auburn: Glaring weak spot. Bama has the ability to cover his weaknesses up where Auburn cannot. Big difference. If you are a Bama fan you can take a true freshman making some mistakes at the corner spot. What you cannot take is the inability to run the football effectively with that line and those backs. Can't really explain that one. Mcelroy has to be able to beat teams with his arm and right now he is not doing that. He has been timid with the ball having what I called "Jason Campbell Syndrome". If you remember, this is exactly what Mcelroy did last year, and he did play well down the stretch. Alabama's issues can be and I feel will be worked out.

The rest:
• Georgia, typically, seems to be getting right just in time.
• Miss St could win 8. That's impressive.
• Two favorites had a chance to take grasp of the eastern division Saturday night. They both blew it. Losers.
will: I think the easiest thing for people like me to say is, "Well, if Auburn didn't have Cam, they'd be 3-4." But the thing is, Auburn does have Cam. And they're riding him like Seabiscuit, and they should — it's their best chance to win. The most impressive thing to watch about Cam: at this point he's like a great pitcher in baseball, and everybody knows what's coming ... and they just can't stop it. It's cool to watch.
The question about defense is a valid one, though. Even the best offenses have an off night every so often; hell, last year's Alabama offense was one of the best in the history of the program, and we went through a month where we couldn't throw, run, catch or block. Teams that win championships, at some point, have to rely on something other than their strength to win.
Then again, it's possible this is one of those seasons for Auburn, where enough good things keep happening and eventually a team gets the feeling it just can't lose. Alabama experienced a season like this in 2005: a blowout of Florida early, a fumble and timely field goal vs. Tennessee later ... it seemed like we couldn't lose.
Does that mean anything as far as this week? LSU will be the best defense Auburn has faced. Then again, LSU's head coach is an insane person.

Jamie: Watching what Cam Newton, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson you think the days of the drop back passer are numbered? Before you give a quick "no" look at how many teams in the nation, even big time programs, have gone to this style.
will: It's not like running quarterbacks or the option were just invented by Urban Meyer or Rich Rodriguez or Kevin Wilson: even during the era of "traditional" quarterbacks, people like Vince Young and Tommie Frazier started for teams that won national championships, while people like Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and even Dameyune Craig made names for themselves. There's always been a place in college football for quarterbacks who can free-lance with their feet and force defenses to stay honest against the run.
Besides that, football is cyclical. For most of the decade of the 1970s, the wishbone was the trendy fad; in the '80s it was the "pro set"; in the '90s the "West Coast" offense was everywhere. I don't see any reason to think things won't cycle back to more "traditional" passing in the future.

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