By Larry Burton
Most of this week’s questions had a similar slant, with people thinking or hoping that the worst is behind them as far as the schedule goes. So we’ll answer the two that are closest to the majority of the letters.
Is Auburn for real this year or are the just a lucky team that’s overachieved so far? Will they present a problem to us?
To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Auburn this year and have seen few of their games because until they beat Texas A&M, I just figured they were an improving team that was doing better this year because the side truth is, they had nowhere to go but up from last year.
They’re not a lucky team, they’ve earned every win and they are improving.
Here’s the deal on Auburn, they have a great rushing game and a so so defense. They were tailor made to beat Texas A&M, who can’t stop an old lady in a wheelchair from gaining good yardage on them and their defense was good enough to slow the Aggies down enough to win a track meet.
Saturday’s game against Georgia will show how far Auburn has come since LSU whipped them badly and show what the rushing game of Auburn can do against a more decent SEC defense at this time of the year. So far Auburn hasn’t beaten a team with a defense in the top half of the stats. If Georgia beats them, that should take the excitement from the Iron Bowl and Auburn won’t present a problem to Alabama at all.
However, if they win, there will be a firestorm of build up and publicity on the game, but they still won’t present a problem for Alabama. For a team to beat Alabama, they must be able to rush with the elite teams and pass with the elite teams and Auburn is not that.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will simply stack the line and dare Auburn’s young quarterback to beat them with his arm and that’s just too big an order for him to fill. LSU beat Auburn by a score of 35-21 and it wasn’t really that close. Alabama beat LSU by 21, while that doesn’t always tell the whole story, it tells a lot.
Now that LSU is over, does Alabama have anything to worry about before the national title game? Will Auburn or the SEC East champion present the most problems?
Maybe not with the three remaining games on the regular season schedule, but the SEC game could be a big worry. Last season, Alabama barely came away with a last second victory. Could the same thing happen this year?
The apparent opponent is looking like Missouri and they present a few problems that the Tide might have problems with. They have not one, but two quarterbacks able to run the team and test Alabama’s secondary. In total offense, they are ranked 15th, just behind #14 Auburn. (Alabama is #39)
Missouri is number 57 in total defense right now, for the record Auburn is ranked #66.
So now you may ask why I think Auburn won’t be a problem and Missouri could be a problem?
Missouri ranks 43rd in pass offense, a stat that doesn’t play into Alabama’s strength which is stopping the run. Auburn ranks 110 out of 125 teams, or one of the worst passing teams in the nation. That plays right into Alabama’s wheel house.
To beat Alabama, you have to have a realistic shot at stopping the run and keeping Alabama from grinding up yardage and controlling the clock and Missouri comes in at number 16 in the ranks in rushing defense. That’s a great number. Alabama is number five. And Auburn? They’re number 58. Alabama will run it down Auburn’s throat, but have a harder time with the other Tigers, those from Missouri.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter