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The Gameday post: Mississippi St.

Just like last week, Coach.
Just like last week, Coach.

We’re trying something new today here at WBE: a Gameday post. It won’t be a liveblog, exactly, and I won’t be updating during the Auburn game (except at halftime) but I’ll post whatever thoughts I happen to have about the day in college football right here. And of course I’ll keep an eye on the comments, so please feel free to reply there.

To start with, a handful of Gameday links to get you in the mood for the game tonight:

— Luke Brietzke has some questions he thinks might be answered tonight.

— Though I’d like to say no “Saturday Football Primer” is complete without the WBE Friday preview, Jay Coulter has everything you’ll want to read from the Auburn-centric mainstream media.

— TWER welcomed new writer Kevin Strickland this week, who compared the 2008 and 2009 openers and offers up reasons why Auburn is the deserving favorite tonight in J-Hare.


— 49 points. 589 yards. What team is this? Are we sure this is Auburn?

— Last week it was McCalebb who looked like the guy Auburn really needed to be feeding. I thought that guy was Tate this week–his arrival turned Auburn from a team that occaionally moved the ball to one that just mowed State over.

— 2-0 in the W column, 2-0 against the spread. This is a quality team.

— If Auburn continues to win the turnover battle 2-0, they will continue to win. Say this for Todd: still no picks yet this season.

— 6.6 yards a carry on 59 (!) attempts. Mind-boggling.

— For a second straight week, Auburn takes a competitive game at halftime and turns it into a laugher. I could get used to that.

— Consider: Auburn has yet to play a complete game. The defense has shown cracks they don’t have to show. The offense has made mistakes–fumbles vs. Tech, first-half sputters vs. State–they won’t always make. (At least, that’s what I’m dreaming about.)

— War Eagle.


— Much like last week at this time: it could be worse, it could be better. Auburn surpassed its number of punts for all of last week early in the second quarter, but 21 offensive points is 21 offensive points.

What can you say about Auburn’s two-minute offense? 2 weeks, 2 massive, game-turning drives to end the first half.

— Todd has been seriously feast-or-famine. When he’s been connecting downfield, Auburn’s been unstoppable. When he’s been missing, they’ve gone nowhere.

— OK, does Auburn even have a wide receiver besides Darvin Adams? The bomb towards Zachery was the only pass intended for  a different WR, much less completed.

— Mississippi State’s linebackers are outplaying Auburn’s. Stevens is not having a good game.

— It really was only a matter of time before McCalebb did that.

— I hate that bloody personal protection scheme on the punt. I hated in the offseason, and it takes all of two games to result in a block.

— Rush defense: 122 yards given up, 5.1 yards a carry. State’s got a good couple of backs, but that’s not good enough.

— Auburn is theoretically a second-half team. Let’s hope they are again.


T-minus 12 minutes to Auburn’s kickoff, and this’ll be the last update until halftime. Andy Bitter has a little update from Jordan-Hare with some encouraging info about The Toro; it’s echoed by Jay Tate.

Enjoy the game, and I’ll be back with some thoughts on the first two quarters when they’re complete. War Eagle.


2:40: Updating the Iowa St./Buffalo Items of Coaching Interest: Apparently the Buffalo defensive coordinating change didn’t take, as the Bulls gave up 54 to a seriously lo-fi Pitt team in a 27-point home loss. Paul Rhoads didn’t fare any better, seeing his Cyclones pounded 35-3 in Ames. The guess here is that the Hawkeye team that showed up this week is the real one–their o-line and defense is too good for them to play even games with I-AA teams.

2:49: Will be mostly watching the UM-ND game during this time slot. Ann Arbor connections and the same loathing for Charlie Weis everyone else shares mean I’ll be firmly in the Wolverines’ corner. Too bad their defense looked so, so gashable that first drive–middle linebacker Obi Ezeh looked every bit the weak link he’s supposed to be.

2:53: Louisiana Tech doing their best to make Auburn look good, up 14-0 on Navy after a Phillip Livas punt return for TD. Go, Bulldogs, go!

3:03: There have been a couple of studies that have shown that unless a penalty cancels out a score or erases/creates a first-down, they don’t really matter all that much. Michigan showing why, having come back from a block-in-the-back and a hold for first-and-goal.

3:14: This is kind of stunning: I can watch Richmond take on Delaware, but as far as I can tell ESPN360 is the only place to watch West Virginia host ECU. Thanks, GamePlan. ‘Eers just scored to cut an early 10-0 Pirate lead to 3.

3:23: This is why I talk about big plays and luck balancing out: last year, Michigan outgained Notre Dame by a wide margin and got routed when they fumbled a gazillion times. This year? Notre Dame’s got a slight yardage edge, but thanks to a missed chip-shot FG and that kickoff return, M’s up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.

3:27: I tune to the Tennessee game for one play, and it’s Crompton making a horrendous throw across his body into the end zone which UCLA could have easily, easily intercepted. I just don’t think the light’s coming on for that guy. And why is Tennessee putting the ball in Crompton’s hands down near the goal line instead of Hardesty’s or Brown’s?

3:52: I guess all that recruiting and all those years trying to get Notre Dame’s fundamentals back up to speed have paid off: Irish already have 280 yards of offense, and we’ve still got 6 minutes left in the second quarter. Wish I could say otherwise, but the Irish look like the vastly superior team at this point. If the Wolverines can’t get their running game going, they’re toast.

4:01: Houston now up 24-7. The Cougars did this offensively to the Pokes last season, but how has the Oklahoma St. offense collapsed so completely? It’s one thing to struggle against a quality SEC defense like Georgia, it’s another to put up 7 points in a half against a D that’s not even all that good by C-USA standards. Last year Houston stalled out badly in the second half; if they keep moving the ball this year, they’re going to win the game.

4:04: Wow, my old undergrad alma mater’s D-III football team just made the ESPN ticker: Birmingham-Southern 35, Campbell 28 in OT. Campbell has to be I-AA to get the attention, so that’s a bunch of non-scholarship kids beating a scholarship team. Go Panthers!

4:14: Is it time to start wondering about the Big 12? Okie St. down three scores to a C-USA team, Texas up just 3 on a bad Mountain West team, Oklahoma a giant question mark until Bradford gets back … and that’s before we get into Iowa St.’s beatdown today and Colorado’s Dead Coach Walking routine. Clearly, the SEC–the league where Tennessee can go in at the half tied at home with UCLA if they’re lucky–is where it’s at.

4:40: I’ve tried to defend Matt Millen this offseason–I don’t know why being bad at being an NFL general manager would make you bad at color commentary–but not knowing that you can’t decline a pre-snap penalty like a delay of game is pretty big thumbs-down. Michigan and Notre Dame now even in missed chippies–Wolverines can’t really complain about not being ahead when they’ve been outplayed so badly.

4:56: What a difference a half makes: Michigan rolling over ND on the ground and getting a pair of stops, while Okie St. pulls within three of Houston and Texas pulls away from Wyoming. Yay coaching adjustments!

5:30: I hate to pick on the guy, I really do, but the numbers defy description. Crompton through three quarters: 9-for-18, 58 yards, 3 INT. All so Tennessee could recruit Tyler Bray. Unbelievable.

5:35: The way they played in the first half, not surprised at all to see Houston and Notre Dame both fight back with big TD drives. Big endings in store for both these games, I think.


11:52: Currently watching Troy-Florida with occasional check-ins on the Big 10 slate, Stanford-Wake Forest, and UConn-UNC. Stay tuned.

11:57: Vaguely Auburn-related coaching watch: Iowa St. trails Iowa 7-3 at the end of 1 after Rhoads’s onside kick fails and the Hawkeyes drive the short field for the TD. Up in Buffalo, after pulling yet another “we got outgained, but we don’t care” rabbit out of his hat at UTEP last week, Turner Gill’s Bulls have given up 20 points in the first quarter and trail Pitt 20-7. I don’t know how to feel about those guys: on the one hand, I like both Rhoads and Gill a lot as coaches, but it would also be nice if they struggled and Auburn’s administration looked just that tiny bit smarter for going with Chizik.

12:05: After one quarter, the most impressive drive of the Troy-Florida game belongs to the Trojans. Though I doubt seriously that’ll last.

12:16: Troy field goal attempt going awry in the rain: heart attack and die from not surprise. Third down draw on 3rd-and-10 is way too safe a call if Troy wants to actually, you know, make a game of this.

12:23: Four years, and I still don’t really know what to think about Tebow as a passer. Funky delivery, the ball comes out of his hand with that weird non-spiral … and travels 40 yards right into his receiver’s hands, not more than six inches over the outstretched hands of the defenders. Go figure.

12:28: Not the fastest start to the Saturday for the ACC. Duke down at the half to Army, UNC down on the road at UConn (who lost a freaking ton off of last year’s team), Wake Forest losing at home for the second time in two weeks. The ACC’s woes are a little overstated–I’d guess that between Miami-FSU and the Clemson-Ga. Tech games, four of their five best teams have already played each other–but I think the league is finally getting some separation between its haves and its have-nothings.

12:36: 21-3, and that’s the end of Troy-Florida as a competitive contest. Not that it’s a surprise given the whopping egg Troy laid against Bowling Green in Week 1.

12:48: This sort of thing drives me crazy: UNC punt comes off the punter’s foot weirdly, but it stays in bounds just long enough to go out of play after 39 yards, no return. A 39-yard net is solid–whatever it looked like, this is a good punt. But the announcer, having already called it a “shank,” says the punter “didn’t catch all of that one” and then leaves it at that. Whatever.

1:03: Is there anything more frustrating than watching a big underdog outplay the Goliath and shoot itself in the foot anyway? A useless hold costs Central Michigan–who’s outgained Michigan St. by about 50 yards so far–a first down in Spartan territory, just as Fresno tosses a pick across the Wisconsin 40. Aaarrgggh.

1:11: Every time I see Fresno run the ball, they end up cramming it straight down Wisconsin’s throat. Which makes me wonder two things: 1. Why are they still throwing as often as they are? 2. What the hell has happened to Wisky’s defense on Bielema’s watch?

1:18: 4th-and-5 on Michigan St.’s 34, Central Mich.’s coach opts for a 51-yard field goal over going for it. as a huge underdog. On the road. For God’s sake, live a little. Naturally, the kick is nowhere close and CMU is still down 17-13 despite a 265-177 yardage advantage.

1:39: The Big 10 is living the Year of Living Dangerously: Wisky down to Fresno, Central Mich now tied w/ the Spartans, Northwestern just one score up on hapless Eastern Mich. At least Iowa is taking care of business.

1:50: Holy crap–Eastern ties it up against Northwestern, taking the ball and just driving smack down the field. This would be at least as embarrassing a loss as, say, Duke losing to Richmond. (Much less, really: Richmond was the I-AA national champion last year.)

2:06: Tons upon tons of tight games: Fresno-Wisky, EMU-NW, UNC-UConn, Wake-Stanford … all down to the final play or two.

2:08: Noticed lots of yawns out there about today’s early slate, but it’s been a terrific set of games. Now CMU is on the Mich. St. doorstep.

2:14: CMU scores and goes for 2 and the win. And for the second straight week, a big mid-major underdog decides to call a straight drop-back pass for their 2-point play. To which I say: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? The defense has just 12 yards of field to defend! There’s no room to throw the ball unless it’s play-action! Of course LeFevour’s pass was nowhere near being completed in bounds.

2:18: Wow, at least Central’s kicker sure can pull off an onsides kick.

2:28: Incredible ending to the Michigan St. game–after recovering the onsides kick, Central misses a 47-yarder, but Sparty’s offside. After a second icing timeout, he snakes the FG just inside the upright. All while the Fresno-Wisky overtime is going on and just before Notre Dame-Michigan kicks off. This just in: college football is awesome.

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