A handy, easy guide to where this week’s Worry Levels are headed:
Just so you’re warned.
Week 8: LSU. Los Otros Tigres were on a bye this week, which would normally be cause to keep the Worry Level steady. But since this bye week just so happens to come the week before Auburn travels to Baton Rouge …
Worry Level: Up +3 (+2 loss to Kentucky, +1 extra week of preparation)
Week 9: Ole Miss. The Rebels took their sweet time getting into their SEC schedule; no wonder that after taking some serious lumps against the ‘Cocks and Tide they celebrated backing out of it again in style, thumping UAB 48-13.
The defense that played so stoutly against the Tide wasn’t as impressive as you might have expected–the Blazers rushed for 5.8 yards a carry–but much of that damage was done with the game out of hand, and much more importantly, Jevan Snead looked as good as he has in weeks: 15-of-22, 240 yards, 10.9 YPA, 3 TDs, no picks. UAB’s hardly known for their defensive prowess, but after the Rebel offense’s three consecutive no-shows against SEC competition, Ole Miss topping 500 yards and Snead potentially taking a step towards getting his mojo back isn’t what Auburn wanted to see.
Worry Level: Up +3 (+2 did I mention it was a home loss to Kentucky?, +1 offensive awakening)
Week 10: Furman. The Paladins threatened to blow a 16-point fourth-quarter lead at home against Samford, but stopped a late two-point conversion to win 28-26. (Too bad; lower-rung in-state teams always have the WBE’s support.) Furman is now a healthy 4-2 overall and in a tie for third in the Southern Conference standings behind co-leaders Elon and Appalachian St.
Worry Level: Still flatlined
Week 11: Georgia. The game maybe wasn’t quite as lopsided as the 34-10 final score–Vandy gained only three fewer first downs and around 100 fewer total yards–but nevertheless the Dawgs can now claim to have dispatched the ‘Dores with much more ease than either LSU or Ole Miss managed. Mark Richt’s teams have made second-half charges before; getting a comprehensive road SEC victory could very well be the start of yet another one.
Worry Level: Up +3 (+2 seriously, 7 offensive points the entire game, +1 24-point road win)
Week 12: Alabama.
Worry Level: Bunny +2*.
The Conquered and the Conquerees
Well, at least Auburn’s got this section of the Stockwatch going for them. West Virginia broke into both mainstream polls after recovering from a 7-3 halftime deficit to see off Marshall 24-7. Before deciding that’s not impressive enough to warrant a jump into the top 25, consider that 1. Jarrett Brown missed nearly the entire game after suffering an early concussion 2. This is an in-state rivalry and the single biggest game of Marshall’s season. If Geno Smith can be even kind of steady in Brown’s absence, the ‘Eers will be fine. Their Big East schedule starts in earnest this week with a home date against UConn.
Mississippi St. finally got a break from playing top-25 teams and put it to good use, thumping a decent Middle Tennessee St. team 27-6 in Murfreesboro. Doubtful there’s a better 3-4 team in the country.
Tennessee enjoyed a bye week to get ready for a trip to Tuscaloosa. Louisiana Tech got back on track with a 45-7 home win over New Mexico St.; back-to-back road games to Utah St. and Idaho the next two weeks will likely determine if the Bulldogs go bowling or not. Ball St.‘s misery continued: the Cardinals dropped to 0-7 with a 31-17 home loss to Bowling Green.
For the first time we have to check in on a team that’s beaten Auburn rather than vice versa, and hey, Arkansas made the Tigers’ loss in Fayetteville look a little more explicable, didn’t they? It seems more likely than ever the Hogs will end up fulfilling at least some of that “this year’s Ole Miss” hype. Not that this helps Aburn all that much in the wake of, you know, losing to Kentucky at home, but it’s there.
The Overall Picture
Just last week in this space, I said that despite the loss to the Hogs, the offensive troubles in Athens, Baton Rouge, and Oxford meant that Auburn would be no worse than a toss-up in any of those games. After the probable win over Kentucky, I said, eight wins would be a downright likelihood (and nine a serious possibility).
Now? With the Kentucky game in the loss column and Auburn’s offensive struggles suddenly even more serious than the Dawgs’, Rebels’, or Bayou Bengals’? 6-6 is all Auburn’s guaranteed, and it’s going to take some serious revitalization for Auburn to get even a game better than that. Saturday was rough, man.
*HT on the video to commenter Sullivan013; if you’re confused, check last week’s edition.