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Schedule Stockwatch, Week 3

Sorry, but as long as this guy's the quarterback, I'm not going to be intimidated by the Vols.
Sorry, but as long as this guy's the quarterback, I'm not going to be intimidated by the Vols.

A weekly update on how Auburn’s future opponents are faring and where Tiger fans’ worry level should be headed.

Week 4: Ball State. The Cardinals showed their first signs of life in the 2009 season, going on the road to West Point and outgaining Army by 110 yards. Unfortunately for BSU they also outturnovered the Black Knights 4-1 and lost 24-17, with the deciding score coming via a late pick-six as hideous as you’ll ever see.

In response, BSU blog OverThePylon was moved to poetry:

Edge’s 0-3 Haiku
poop feces dung s**t
cow-patty diarrhea
brown-snake crap turd log

Worry Level: LOLOLOL. I don’t care how old you are, that’s some funny … uh … stuff.

Week 5: Tennessee. This is the part of this week’s Schedule Stockwatch where I say something that might come back to haunt me, because I am not feeling the Vol love in the wake of their noble surrender to the Gators. The general consensus (as espoused by, to pick a blogger at random, Doug Gillett) seems to be that Jonathan Crompton “didn’t look horrible” and that the Vols should be proud of their decisive moral victory in the Swamp.

First: Crompton was every bit as awful as ever. His line: 11-19, 93 yards, 4.9 YPA, 2 INT, 0 TDs. Whenever a quarterback finishes a game with a yards-per-attempt number under 5, that’s bad; when he pairs that with a 2-to-0 INT-to-TD ratio, sorry, but that’s pathetic. And what tiny crumbs of success Crompton did have came on dump-offs and check-downs–according to this 3SiB post, Crompton threw downfield all of three times, on on those three attempts suffered the two picks and an incompletion. Crompton brought less than nothing to the Vol offense, just as he always has.

Second, whatever credit Kiffin gets for the buttoned-down, grind-it-out game plan that helped keep things competitive (with a giant assist to the Tebow Child for his two brainlock turnovers), he loses that credit and then some for Tennessee’s final drive. As Saurian Sagacity has pointed out, even after taking over relatively deep in their own territory with 6:01 to play and trailing by 10 points, the Vols still refused to come out and play, using the exact same mix of straight-ahead running plays, swing passes, and clock-draining huddles they’d been using since the first quarter. The Vols wound up burning off more than 4 minutes of clock without even crossing midfield. While trailing by 10 points. In the dying minutes of the fourth quarter. Against a hated, hated rival. I never thought I’d see the day an SEC coaching staff would just flat give up on a game still plausibly within reach, but here we are. Herm Edwards be damned, Lane Kiffin plays to cover the spread.

(What the hell, I’ll pile on some more: why should Kiffin receive credit for coming up with a game plan that accounts for his awful quarterback when it was his decision to bail on/run off his alternatives to his awful quarterback? So Kiffykins has mad skillz at lying in the terrible bed he made for himself. He’s quite the catch, I tell ya.)

I’ll give Kiffin the Elder and his band of marauders a tip of the hat for a fine effort. But until I see Crompton give an opposing defense some shred of reason not to pack nine into the box and the Vol’s offensive coaches come up with something to run other than the Buster Bluth bear defense, I don’t see how they keep up with Auburn.

(Now they’ll win 67-12, of course.)

Worry Level: Down

Week 6: Arkansas. After Stephen Garcia put up 37 points on the Dawgs in Athens, it didn’t surprise me in the least when Ryan Mallett, D.J. Williams, Michael Smith, etc. hung a 41-spot on Willie Martinez’s bunch in Fayetteville.

But damn, I’ll admit I didn’t see the Hog D giving up 530 freaking yards and 52 freaking points on their home turf, and after a bye week, no less. Auburn doesn’t have an A.J. Green, unfortunately, but if those same holes in the Razorback secondary are still there in three weeks, the Tigers do have an offensive coordinator who’ll be glad to take advantage of them. Hope you’re not tired of shootouts just yet, Auburn fans.

Worry Level: Down a bit

Week 7: Kentucky. I watched a big chunk of Kentucky’s 31-27 home victory over Louisville and I still don’t know whether I’m suppsoed to more or less afraid of the ‘Cats than I was before I started watching. On the one hand, Mike Hartline looks like a perfectly functional quarterback these days, and between Randall Cobb (a legit All-SEC player) and Derrick Locke, he’s even got some genuinely scary weapons alongside him. On the other, the Kentucky defense really struggled at times with a mediocre-looking Cardinal offense, and if not for a couple of stupendous special teams blunders on the ‘Ville’s part, the ‘Cats would have most certainly lost this game. (Also: whatever luster was still remaining from that opening-day drubbing of Miami OF OHIO has been completely lost by now, as the Redhawks trailed 48-6 at one point to previously winless Western Michigan.)

I guess the impression that I’m left with is that I’m not confident Kentucky’s going to have a good team or a winning season, but given Auburn’s troubles last week with shifty skill position players, the Tigers are still going to have to be on upset alert when UK comes to town.

Worry Level: Steady

Week 8: LSU. Phil Steele pointed out today that the Bayou Bengals’ win over UL-Lafayette wasn’t quite as dominant as the final score might have made it look, but with that win over Kansas St. under their belt, the Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t quite your typical Sun Belt walkover, either. That iffy win up in Seattle just went from a black mark against the Tigers’ name to a gold star, too.

In fact, the most worrying bit of data for LSU fans would have to be Vandy’s no-show against Miss. St. The Bulldogs were comprehensively better against the ‘Dores in Nashville than the Bayou Bengals were in Baton Rouge. Go figure.

Worry Level: Steady.

Week 9: Ole Miss. The Rebels’ 52-6 slaughter of I-AA Southeastern Louisiana tells us nothing.

Worry Level: Steady

Week 10: Furman. The Paladins traveled to Missouri for their first contest against I-A competition this season and trailed 42-0 at halftime.

Worry Level: Flatlined

Week 11: Georgia. It looks like the Dawgs’ offense is more explosive than we could have ever imagined with Joe Cox at the helm; it looks like the Dawgs’ defense is more porous than we ever would have imagined with the kind of talent they have on hand.

The bottom line, though, is that they picked off a double-digit road win over a talented, well-coached fellow SEC semi-contender. Not too shabby, Dawgs, not too shabby.

Worry Level: Up

Week 12: Alabama. When even the Coachbot is happy with the way his team has played against one of the world’s North Texases, you know it’s been one hell of an ass-kicking. McElroy went 13-of-15–those would be good numbers in 7-on-7–and Trent Richardson looked ready to challenge McCalebb for the honor of being the SEC’s finest freshman tailback … as if the Tide needed even more riches at that position.

The Worry Level would go up if it had any further up to go after ‘Bama’s first two dominant performances.

Worry Level: Steady.

The Conquered: Not that you can’t forgive them a bit of a letdown after trying to get themselves up for back-to-back big road games, but it’s still not the best of signs that La. Tech was tied with I-AA Nicholls St. 3-3 early in the second quarter of an eventual 48-13 Bulldog win; that’s the same Colonels team, you may recall, that lost to Air Force 72-0 in Week 1. Tech will open up their WAC schedule Sept. 30 in a Wednesday-night special against Hawaii.

As for those other Bulldogs, we mentioned already that Mississippi St. looked good on their trip to Vandy and boy howdy did they: Dixon and Ducre combined to average better than 6 a carry as MSU racked up 341 yards on the respectable Vandy defense. If not for a handful of stalls in the red zone this would have been a three-touchdown road victory, and if not for State’s ridiculously agressive remaining onconference schedule (vs. Georgia Tech, vs. Houston, at Middle Tenn. St.)  they would have an outside shot at a bowl.

Overall: Not a ton of change from last week, but Auburn’s offense now looks capable of giving the Tigers a puncher’s chance against both defense-deficient hosts in Fayetteville and Athens. With the huge WVU win already in the books and three likely home wins still on the schedule, even managing a split in the Tennessee-Arkansas swing would mean Auburn could start thinking seriously about eight wins. Who’dathunkit?

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