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Schedule Stockwatch, Week 8

Oh NOW you decide you're not going to suck.
Oh NOW you decide you're not going to suck.

I considered disbanding the Schedule Stockwatch this week, since we’re pretty much to the point where all non-Furman opponents are dwelling at about the same “yeah, I’m not seeing it” Worry Level. But weekly appointments are there to be kept, and it’s Monday, so let’s get to it:

Week 9: Ole Miss. Just as Auburn happened to catch the Hogs at the wrong time, just as they were hitting something of a groove, so the Rebels appeared to catch them at the right time–off of three straight solid-to-terrific performances, the Hogs never really showed up for an early kickoff in Oxford and got whipped, 30-17. The allegedly rejuvenated Hog defense gave up 553 yards while Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas receivers alternated horrible throws with horrible drops.

Unfortunately, the Rebels had a lot to do with all of that. Since their abomination of an offensive performance against the Tide, Ole Miss has racked up more than 1,000 yards of offense against UAB and Arkansas. Jevan Snead has hit better than 60 percent of his passes and collected 660 some-odd yards while Dexter McCluster went slap off against the Hogs, totaling 260 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches Saturday. Neither UAB’s nor Arkansas’s defenses are particularly intimidating, but the Rebel D has continued to be its steady self–they still haven’t allowed more than 22 points in a game this year–and with McCluster involved and Snead back to normal, they look like the team they were supposed to be back in August.

Worry Level: Why yes, Up

Week 10: Furman. The Paladins went to the Citadel and fell to the previous 2-4 Bulldogs 38-28 in an upset loss. Furman now sits at 4-3 on the year and has fallen two full games behind in the Southern Conference race.

Worry Level: Still “Flatlined.” I might have gone with something else had they won, but …. nah. (Plus, the D-I team that annihilated them, Missouri? Also not so looking so hot these days.)

Week 11: Georgia. Dawgs had a bye. Decimation at Tennessee looks a little more understandable, though.

Worry Level: Up, of course

Week 12: Alabama. Which team is better:

TEAM A: Played Tennessee on the road. Won by 4. Outgained Vols by 49 yards. Final play of game was Vol touchdown to make score appear closer.

TEAM B: Played Tennessee at home. Won by 2. Outgained by Vols by 85 yards. Final play of game was blocked potentially game-winning Vol field goal.

The answer is TEAM B, and it’s not even close, of course. College football is a weird game in some ways.

But for the first time in weeks and weeks and weeks, I don’t see the Tide as utterly invulnerable: McElroy is struggling so badly that the Tide are now one of these teams that has to pound the ball for nearly every yard they get and that simply won’t put many points on the board if the run game’s not dominant. Doesn’t mean much where the current edition of Auburn’s concerned, of course, but the lower the point total in a given game the higher the odds you get one of these fluke-ridden 17-14 games where the winner has 1/3rd of the loser’s yards but gets two TDs via pick-six and kick return and wins anyway.

Worry Level: Um … it’s actually a hair down from “Maximum Worry” now. Which means it’s technically Down, that single hair.Do not mistake this for “confidence,” please.

The Conquered and the Conquerees

Not that anyone really cares anymore, but Auburn’s run through their early-season schedule looks more impressive than ever. West Virginia put away a stubborn, emotional UConn team 28-24 despite an off-day from Jarrett Brown and climbed into the top 20 in both polls. Tennessee was the better team against Alabama Saturday; they just didn’t have the better field goal unit. Mississippi St. trailed by three entering the fourth quarter against Florida before falling 29-19; if you wanted to set up another “Team A vs. Team B” comparison using the Bulldogs, you could argue Original Auburn was better than both the current No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. (Sigh.)

Amongst the true cupcakes on Auburn’s slate, Louisiana Tech officially became the biggest disappointments in the WAC with a 23-21 loss to league punching bag Utah St. But at least Ball St. finally has something to smile about: the Cards downed Eastern Michigan 29-27 in a meeting of winless teams for their first victory of the year.

As for Auburn’s losses, Arkansas we’ve pretty well already covered; spin it however you want, at this point the Hogs are 1-4 in the SEC and will have to win out (which they are capable of doing, mind you) to make anything near the kind of splash they were hoping for this year. Kentucky finally got into the manageable portion of their schedule this week, and celebrated by smashing Sun Belt challengers UL-Monroe  36-13.

The overall picture

With each passing week, the Auburn that got to 5-0 looks retroactively stronger and stronger. Too bad that with Ole Miss suddenly formidable again, the Auburn that’s gone 0-3 since then doesn’t look particularly likely to get to even 7-5.

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