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Friday, October 3, 2008

Auburn-Vanderbilt preview

Well, it’s almost 24 hours until Auburn and Vanderbilt kick off in Nashville. This seems like a game that will give some answers about both teams.

If the Tigers can’t move the ball against the Commodores, I think the spread is doomed to fail this season. In Auburn’s defense, LSU and Tennessee both have very strong defenses. Not too many teams will move the ball at will against them. But Vandy is 12th in the SEC in total defense, so there are really no excuses if the Tigers struggle again.

For Vandy, it’s a chance to prove that that what’s going on is for real. We’ve seen a 4-0 start out of this team before (2005 to be exact, with Jay Cutler at the helm), but the ’Dores couldn’t keep it going, falling short of bowl eligibility. Yes, South Carolina was ranked when it lost in Nashville, and yes, the Ole Miss win looks a lot better in hindsight after the Rebels knocked off Florida last week, but Auburn is a contender in the SEC year-in and year-out. A win would go a long way in legitimizing the Commodores.

Anyway, I’m still fine-tuning this blog, trying to figure out what’s the best way to do things. I tried a position-by-position breakdown last week and it seemed like I was repeating a lot of stuff that was in the game advance that runs on our Web site.

This week, I’m going with a “10 Things” type preview, which is admittedly a pretty blatant rip-off of Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who does something similar in his weekly wrap of the NFL. Regardless, I’m going to try it to see how it works.

If anybody has some ideas out there, I’m all ears.

Without further adieu:
  1. I know it’s been mentioned, but I don’t think that a big enough of a deal has been made of the fact that Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in total offense and total defense. The Commodores are 112th out of 119 FBS teams in total offense and 73rd in total defense. I know everybody gets caught up in the great story that’s developing in Nashville, but those kinds of things eventually catch up to you.

  2. I expect a big game from RB Ben Tate. Auburn claims it will go more traditional with some of its formations, using a fullback and two tight ends at times. Tate, who has led the team in rushing in every game this year, is the Tigers’ best offensive weapon. It makes sense to use him.

  3. Josh Bynes looks like he’ll start at MLB instead of Tray Blackmon. I don’t think there’s a major drop-off. Bynes looked focused and in control last week in his first career start. He made plays and he made the right calls. You can’t ask for much more. Blackmon’s been up and down this year. It makes you wonder if, even when he’s fully healthy from a crack in his left wrist (and who knows how long that will be), if Bynes won’t remain the starter.

  4. Count me as one of those who think Kodi Burns should play more often. He gave the offense a certain pep last week. When things aren’t working, he can make something happen just based on his physical ability alone. I know that people tend to hype the backup quarterback, but look at the three most memorable offensive plays against Tennessee. Chris Todd’s touchdown pass to Robert Dunn, Burns’ completion to Dunn after eluding two tackles in the backfield and Burns’ third-down completion when the game was on the line near the end. Burns made things happen – plain and simple. He should be allowed to do so again.

  5. That said, Todd can’t experience the same kind of drop-off once Burns comes in the game. All parties involved claimed Todd didn’t sulk when on the sidelines and blocked out the boos that came from the crowd in the fourth quarter, but his performance doesn’t back that up. All the team’s offensive problems are not necessarily the quarterback’s fault, but a good quarterback finds ways to make things work even if everything is not perfect.

  6. Whoever wins this thing is going to do it on the ground, because the secondaries are full of talent. Auburn’s Jerraud Powers and Walt McFadden rarely, if ever, come off the field. And Vandy’s got three players – Ryan Hamilton, Reshard Langford and D.J. Moore – with two or more interceptions.

  7. Saw on ESPN a good term for what’s going to happen in the SEC over the next couple weeks – cannibalism. These teams are going to eat each other up. Look at some of the matchups in the next couple weeks. Oct. 11: LSU at Florida; Oct. 25: Georgia at LSU; Nov. 1: Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville); Nov. 8: Alabama at LSU, Florida at Vanderbilt; Nov. 15: Georgia at Auburn;Nov. 29: Auburn at Alabama. No one’s getting through that obstacle course undefeated. I just can’t see it happening.

  8. You know you’re off to a historic start when “since World War II” starts making its way into your releases. For instance, Vanderbilt seeks its first 5-0 start since 1943. Guess what was going on back then?

  9. Chris Nickson seems like a fantastic athletic quarterback, one who can really do some damage on the ground, but I just don’t think he has the passing ability to really hurt Auburn. The redshirt senior hasn’t thrown for 100 yards in any of Vandy’s four games. He’s passed for big yards in past seasons, but I wonder if the Commodores will take the restrictor plates off him this week. They’ve got a pretty good recipe for success going so far.

  10. I’m very curious to see what the crowd situation is like. From what I’ve been told, Auburn usually has more fans at this game than Vanderbilt does. With anticipation for a college football game in Nashville as high as it has been in a quarter century, I can’t imagine that being the case this year.

Prediction time. And this comes with the disclaimer that I lost to Mr. Quarter (yes, a coin flip) in the Beat Writers Pick ’Em on Rivals.com last week (in my defense, so did a few other guys in what was an upset-laden week). Well, I vow to make him look like Mr. Nickel this time around.

I’m going with Auburn 24-6. I think Vandy is a great story and a much-improved football team, but I just can’t see that offense doing much against the Tigers defense unless Auburn makes some sort of offensive or special teams mistakes that gift-wrap a touchdown. Offensively, I don’t think the Tigers completely figures things out, but I think they recognize that their personnel is best suited to pound the ball. And they’ll do enough of that to win comfortably.


Acid Reign said...

.....I'm excited about a two back system being used, but wait. Who's the fullback? Last I heard, we don't have one. John Douglas hurt a knee in the first game, and the only other one we have is senior walk-on Ryan Hastie. Heck, we don't even have two tight ends, with Gabe McKenzie on the defensive line, not with Brent Slusher hurt.

.....Worse yet, it looks like our healthiest running back this week is Tristan Davis. He's only coming off a head injury... No, we have to throw, and throw it well.

.....When we last saw Chris Nickson, on an early Lincoln Financial broadcast at Auburn, he couldn't find the ocean, with the ball. He tried to scramble, and the Auburn defense ATE HIM UP. I think we see more of the same, this year.

Auburn Tiger info said...

Douglas is being worked back into the offense this week, according to Tuberville.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need to get more slow white guys involved in the offense like Douglas. Give me a break. When did Tubs say he was being worked into the offense, I haven't heard that. It's gonna be the spread guys, get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Spread or two tight ends won't matter this week , all we have to do to win is eliminate penalties and turnovers.

Auburn Tiger info said...

Tubs said Wednesday or Thursday that both Douglas and James Swinton were easing their way back into action.

Don't get me wrong. The spread is here to stay. It's just Auburn will line up under center more so than in the last few weeks.