This is the final edition of WBE’s 2009 Schedule Stockwatch. Thanks for reading these this season, even if they haven’t been able to provide much comfort in the way of Auburn’s chances in the biggest game of the year, which just so happens to be this week because this is …
Week 12: Alabama. If you really want to strain yourself–make sure you stretch ahead of time, otherwise you might pull your optimism muscles–you can look at the Tide’s 45-0 win over UT-Chattanooga last Saturday and take heart that Greg McElroy connected on only 6 of his 11 passes, for a pedestrian 7.3 yards-per-attempt. That falls far short of what many other SEC passers–Chris Todd obviously included here–managed against their respective I-AA cannon fodder. Maybe McElroy has already put his sharpest outings of the year behind him? Maybe? Please?
Other than that, there’s nothing to see here. And it’s highly, highly debatable whether even that is something worth seeing in the first place. I wish it were otherwise, but the Alabama Auburn will face this Friday will be every bit as strong–if not stronger–than the Alabama they faced in 2008.
Worry Level: Maximum.
The Conquered and the Conquering
Three different matchups this week pairing previous Auburn’s opponents. It was good news in two of them, as seeing Auburn’s long-ago victory over Mississippi St. devalued by the Bulldogs’ 42-21 loss to Arkansas was well worth another exhibition of how tough the Hogs can be at home. (At least, when they’re not playing Georgia.) (It’s worth noting that even in a 21-point defeat the Bulldogs are impressive: they rushed for 327 yards and were only outgained by the Hogs by 20 yards. That from a team that was outgained by an average of more than 100 yards per SEC game last year.)
The other positive result came in Oxford, where I’m sure you noticed homestanding Ole Miss hold off LSU 25-23. Maybe this makes Auburn’s blowout defeat in Baton Rouge a little less explicable, but I think the bigger takeaway is that Auburn will likely finish the year with a double-digit, fully-earned victory over the SEC’s clearcut third-best team and Capital One Bowl representative. That’s not shabby.
Now as for Kentucky stunning Georgia 34-27, there’s two ways to look at it. It’s helpful that there’s now no truly embarrassing loss on Auburn’s resume: losing at home to the Wildcats isn’t good, but it looks a lot better now than it did at the time or even after the ‘Cats home loss to Miss. St. But if you’re like me, you’d have still preferred to see the Dawgs pull it out: more and more it looks like this should have been the year to stop this agonizing streak against Richt and Co., and it feels like the gnawing regret we regarded the Kentucky loss with has now just been switched over to the Georgia game … and that, somehow, is even worse.
Elsewhere, Tennessee got past Vanderbilt 31-16 but gave up 296 yards to the utterly hapless ‘Dores in the process; that defense is starting to wilt under the weight of all the injuries.
Out-of-conference, West Virginia had the week off, Louisiana Tech‘s season of agony was prolonged by a 30-28 loss to Fresno St. on field goal as time expired, Ball St. fell to 1-10 with a drubbing at the hands of MAC power Central Michigan, and–because I know you care–Furman ended their season on a high note with a 58-21 win over bottom-dweller Wofford.
The overall picture
A year ago, Auburn beat only one team that would finish the season in a bowl game, and that was 6-6, New Orleans Bowl-bound Southern Miss. This year, Auburn has beaten three, including one that will likely play in the SEC’s most prestigious non-BCS bowl. Whereas last season Auburn lost once to a non-bowl team and beat two others by a combined three points, this year Auburn is a perfect 4-0 against non-qualifiers and hasn’t won by any fewer than 24 points.
In short: no matter what happens Friday, a look over Auburn’s schedule and results shows how huge a step forward this season has been for this program.